Otto Skorzeny (12 June 1908 – 5 July 1975) was an Austrian-born SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) in the Waffen-SS during World War II. During the war, he was involved in a string of operations, including the removal of Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy from power and the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity. Skorzeny led Operation Greif, in which German soldiers infiltrated enemy lines using their opponents' languages, uniforms, and customs. For this he was charged at the Dachau Military Tribunal with breaching the 1907 Hague Convention, but was acquitted.
Skorzeny escaped from an internment camp in 1948, hiding out on a Bavarian farm for 18 months, then spent time in Paris and Salzburg before eventually settling in Francoist Spain. In 1953 he became a military advisor to Egyptian President Mohammed Naguib and recruited a staff of former SS and Wehrmacht officers to train the Egyptian Army, staying on to advise President Gamal Abdel Nasser. He spent time in Argentina, where he acted as an advisor to President Juan Perón and as a bodyguard for Eva Perón. In 1962, Skorzeny was allegedly recruited by the Mossad and conducted operations for the agency. Skorzeny died of lung cancer on 5 July 1975 in Madrid at the age of 67.
Skorzeny as commander of the SS unit "Friedenthal"
|Born||12 June 1908|
|Died||5 July 1975 (aged 67)|
|Years of service||1931–1945|
|Commands held||SS Panzer Brigade 150|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross|
Otto Skorzeny was born in Vienna into a middle-class Austrian family which had a long history of military service. His surname is of Polish origin, and Skorzeny's distant relatives came from a village called Skorzęcin in Greater Poland region.
In addition to his native German, he spoke excellent French and was proficient in English. In his teens, Skorzeny once complained to his father about the austere lifestyle the family was enduring; his father replied, "There is no harm in doing without things. It might even be good for you not to get used to a soft life."
He was a noted fencer as member of a German-national Burschenschaft as a university student in Vienna. He engaged in fifteen personal combats. The tenth resulted in a wound that left a dramatic dueling scar—known in academic fencing as a Schmiss (German for "smite" or "hit")—on his cheek.
In 1931 Skorzeny joined the Austrian Nazi organization and soon became a member of the Nazi SA. A charismatic figure, Skorzeny played a minor role in the Anschluss on 12 March 1938, when he saved the Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas from being shot by Austrian Nazis.
After the 1939 invasion of Poland, Skorzeny, then working as a civil engineer, volunteered for service in the German Air Force (the Luftwaffe), but was turned down because he was considered too tall at 1.92 metres (6 ft 4 in) and too old (31 years in 1939) for aircrew training. He then joined Hitler's bodyguard regiment, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH).
Skorzeny took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union with the SS Division Das Reich and subsequently fought in several battles on the Eastern Front. In October 1941, he was in charge of a "technical section" of the German forces during the Battle of Moscow. His mission was to seize important buildings of the Communist Party, including the NKVD headquarters at Lubyanka, and the central telegraph office and other high priority facilities, before they could be destroyed. He was also ordered to capture the sluices of the Moscow-Volga Canal because Hitler wanted to turn Moscow into a huge artificial lake by opening them. The missions were canceled as the German forces failed to capture the Soviet capital.
In December 1942, Skorzeny was hit in the back of the head by shrapnel; he was evacuated to the rear for treatment. He was awarded the Iron Cross. While recuperating from his injuries he was given a staff role in Berlin, where he developed his ideas on unconventional commando warfare. Skorzeny's proposals were to develop units specialized in such warfare, including partisan-like fighting deep behind enemy lines, fighting in enemy uniform, sabotage attacks, etc. In April 1943 Skorzeny's name was put forward by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the new head of the RSHA, and Skorzeny met with Walter Schellenberg, head of Amt VI, Ausland-SD (the SS foreign intelligence service department of the RSHA). Schellenberg charged Skorzeny with command of the schools organized to train operatives in sabotage, espionage, and paramilitary techniques. Skorzeny was appointed commander of the recently created Waffen Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal stationed near Berlin (the unit was later renamed SS Jagdverband 502, and in November 1944 again to SS Combat Unit "Center", expanding ultimately to five battalions).
The unit's first mission was in mid-1943, Operation François. Skorzeny sent a group by parachute into Iran to make contact with the dissident mountain tribes to encourage them to sabotage Allied supplies of material being sent to the Soviet Union via the Trans-Iranian Railway. However, commitment among the rebel tribes was suspect, and Operation François was deemed a failure.
In the late summer and autumn of 1944, FAK 203 sent several teams into Soviet-liberated area of Byelorussia, and these detachments were followed by a thirty-man paratroop unit codenamed the 'Black Cats' and led by Michael Vitushka. A number of groups with radio transmitters were also air-dropped into the area east of Vilna, where they operated so effectively that the Germans made plans for large-scale parachute drops in the region, although such operations were impossible to execute because of the shortage of aircraft. Other detachments filtered through the dense Bielavieza Forest, near Byalistok, and such squads had considerable success in rousing the 'forest fugitives' to greater levels of insurgency.
On the night between 24 and 25 July 1943, a few weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and bombing of Rome, the Italian Grand Council of Fascism voted a motion of no confidence (Ordine del Giorno Grandi) against Mussolini. On the same day, the king replaced him with Marshal Pietro Badoglio and had him arrested.
Hitler's common procedure was to give similar orders to competing organisations within the German military. So he ordered Skorzeny to track Mussolini, and simultaneously ordered the paratroop General Kurt Student to execute the liberation.
Mussolini was being transported around Italy by his captors (first to Ponza, then to La Maddalena, both small islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea). Intercepting a coded Italian radio message, Skorzeny used the reconnaissance provided by the agents and informants (counterfeit notes with a face value of £100,000 forged under Operation Bernhard were used to help obtain information) of SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler to determine that Mussolini was being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore in Italy's Gran Sasso massif, high in the Apennine Mountains.
On 12 September 1943, Skorzeny and 16 SS troopers joined the Fallschirmjäger to rescue Mussolini in a high-risk glider mission. Ten DFS 230 gliders, each carrying nine soldiers and a pilot, towed by Henschel Hs 126 planes started between 13:05 and 13:10 from the Pratica di Mare Air Base near Rome. The leader of the airborne operation, paratrooper-Oberleutnant Georg Freiherr von Berlepsch entered the first glider, Skorzeny and his SS troopers sat in the fourth and fifth glider. To gain height before crossing the close-by Alban Hills the leading three glider-towing plane units flew an additional loop. All following units considered this manoeuvre unnecessary and preferred not to endanger the given time of arrival at the target. This led to the situation that Skozeny's two units arrived first over the target.  Meanwhile the valley station of the funicular railway leading to the Campo Imperatore was captured at 14:00 in a ground attack by two paratrooper companies led by Major Otto-Harald Mors, who was commander-in-chief of the whole raid. They also cut all telephone lines. At 14:05 the airborne commandos landed their ten DFS 230 gliders on the mountain near the hotel; only one crashed, causing injuries. The Fallschirmjäger and Skorzeny's special troopers overwhelmed Mussolini's captors (200 well-equipped Carabinieri guards) without a single shot being fired; this was also due to the fact that General Fernando Soleti of the Polizia dell' Africa Italiana, who flew in with Skorzeny, told them to stand down. Skorzeny attacked the radio operator and his equipment and stormed into the hotel, being followed by his SS troopers and the paratroopers. Ten minutes after the beginning of the raid, Mussolini left the hotel, accompanied by the German soldiers. At 14:45 Major Mors accessed the Hotel via the funicular railway and introduced himself to Mussolini.
Subsequently Mussolini was to be flown out by a meanwhile arrived Fieseler Fi 156 STOL plane. Although under the given circumstances the small plane was overloaded, Skorzeny insisted to accompany Mussolini, thus endangering the success of the mission. After a extremely dangerous but successful lift-off, they flew to Pratica di Mare. There they continued immediately, flying in a Heinkel He 111 to Vienna, where Mussolini stayed overnight at the Hotel Imperial. The next day he was flown to Munich and on September 14 he met Hitler at the Wolf's Lair Führer Headquarters near Rastenburg.
The landing at Campo Imperatore was in fact led by First Lieutenant Georg Freiherr von Berlepsch, commanded by Major Otto-Harald Mors and under orders from General Kurt Student, all Fallschirmjäger (German air force paratroop) officers; but Skorzeny stewarded the Italian leader right in front of the cameras. After a pro-SS propaganda coup at the behest of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Skorzeny and his Special Forces (SS-Sonderverband z. b. V. "Friedenthal") of the Waffen-SS were granted the majority of the credit for the operation.
"Operation Long Jump" was the alleged codename given to a plot to assassinate the "Big Three" (Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt) at the 1943 Tehran Conference. Hitler supposedly gave the command of the operation to Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the RSHA, who, in turn, ceded the mission to Skorzeny. Knowledge of the whole scheme was presented to the Western Allies by Stalin's NKVD at the Tehran conference. The Soviets said they had learned about its existence from counter espionage activities against German intelligence. Their agents had found out the Nazis knew the time and place of this meeting because they had cracked a US naval code. According to the NKVD the assassination plot was foiled after they identified the German spies in Iran forcing Skorzeny to call off the mission due to inadequate intelligence.
Following Tehran, the story was treated with incredulity by the British and Americans who dismissed it as Soviet propaganda. Skorzeny supported this view by stating in his post-war memoirs that no such operation ever existed. He said the story about the plans being leaked to Soviet spy Nikolai Kuznetsov by an SS Sturmbannführer named Hans Ulrich von Ortel was a complete Soviet invention; Hans Ulrich von Ortel never existed. Skorzeny claimed his name was used only to add credibility to the story because the NKVD knew his renowned record as an SS commando would make the existence of such an operation more plausible.:193
In early 1944, Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal was re-designated SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 with Skorzeny staying on as commander. They were assigned to Operation Rösselsprung, known subsequently as the Raid on Drvar. Rösselsprung was a commando operation meant to capture the Yugoslav commander-in-chief, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, who had also recently been recognized by the Allies as the Yugoslav prime minister. Marshal Tito led the Yugoslav Partisan resistance army from his headquarters near the Bosnian town of Drvar, in the center of a large area held by the Partisans.
Hitler knew Tito was receiving Allied support and was aware that either British or American troops might land in Dalmatia along the Adriatic coastline with support from the Partisans. Killing or capturing Tito would not only hinder this, it would give a badly needed boost to the morale of Axis forces engaged in occupied Yugoslavia. Skorzeny was involved in planning Rösselsprung and was intended to command it. However, he argued against implementation after he visited Zagreb and discovered that the operation had been compromised through the carelessness of German agents in the Nazi-affiliated Independent State of Croatia in occupied Yugoslav territory.
Rösselsprung was put into action nonetheless, but it was a complete disaster. The first wave of paratroopers, following heavy bombardment by the Luftwaffe, jumped between Tito's hideout in a cave and the town of Drvar; they landed on open ground and many were promptly shot by members of the Tito Escort Battalion, a unit numbering fewer than a hundred soldiers. The second wave of paratroopers missed their target and landed several miles out of town. Tito was gone long before paratroopers reached the cave; a trail at the back of the cave led to the railway tracks where Tito boarded a train that took him safely to Jajce. In the meantime, the Partisan 1st Brigade, from the 6th Lika Partisan Division, arrived after a twelve-mile (nineteen-kilometer) forced march and attacked the Waffen-SS paratroopers, inflicting heavy casualties.
In October 1944, Hitler sent Skorzeny to Hungary after receiving word that Hungary's Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, was secretly negotiating with the Red Army. The surrender of Hungary would have cut off the million German troops still fighting in the Balkan peninsula.
Skorzeny, in a daring "snatch" codenamed Operation Panzerfaust (known as Operation Eisenfaust in Germany), kidnapped Horthy's son Miklós Horthy Jr. and forced his father to resign as head of state. A pro-Nazi government under dictator Ferenc Szálasi was then installed in Hungary. In April 1945, after German and Hungarian forces had already been driven out of Hungary, Szálasi and his Arrow Cross Party-based forces continued the fight in Austria and Slovakia. The success of the operation earned Skorzeny promotion to Obersturmbannführer.
As part of the German Ardennes offensive in late 1944 (Battle of the Bulge), Skorzeny's English-speaking troops were charged with infiltrating American lines disguised in American uniforms in order to produce confusion to support the German attack. For the campaign, Skorzeny was the commander of a composite unit, the 150th SS Panzer Brigade. As planned by Skorzeny, Operation Greif involved about two dozen German soldiers, most of them in captured American Jeeps and disguised in American uniforms, who would penetrate American lines in the early hours of the Battle of the Bulge to cause disorder and confusion. Skorzeny was well aware that under the Hague Convention of 1907, any of his men captured while wearing U.S. uniforms would be executed as spies and this possibility caused much discussion with Generaloberst Jodl and Field Marshal von Rundstedt.
A handful of his men were captured and spread a rumour that Skorzeny personally was leading a raid on Paris to kill or capture General Eisenhower, who was not amused by having to spend Christmas 1944 isolated for security reasons. Eisenhower retaliated by ordering an all-out manhunt for Skorzeny, with "Wanted" posters distributed throughout Allied-controlled territories featuring a detailed description and a photograph. In all, twenty-three of Skorzeny's men were captured behind American lines and eighteen were executed as spies for contravening the rules of war by wearing enemy uniforms.
Skorzeny spent January and February 1945 commanding regular troops as an acting major general, taking part in the defence of the German provinces of East Prussia and Pomerania, and at the Defence of Schwedt Bridgehead. On 17 March, he received orders to sabotage the last remaining intact bridge across the Rhine at Remagen following its capture by the Allies, but the bridge collapsed that same day, and the naval demolitions squad prepared instead unsuccessfully attacked a nearby Allied pontoon bridge between Kripp and Linz. Hitler awarded him one of Germany's highest military honours, the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross.
Skorzeny was interned for two years before being tried as a war criminal at the Dachau trials in 1947 for allegedly violating the laws of war during the Battle of the Bulge. He and nine officers of the Panzerbrigade 150 were tried before a U.S. Military Tribunal in Dachau on 18 August 1947. They faced charges of improper use of U.S. military insignia, theft of U.S. uniforms, and theft of Red Cross parcels from U.S. POWs. The trial lasted over three weeks. The charge of stealing Red Cross parcels was dropped for lack of evidence. Skorzeny admitted to ordering his men to wear U.S. uniforms; but his defence argued that, as long as enemy uniforms were discarded before combat started, such a tactic was a legitimate ruse de guerre.
On the final day of the trial, 9 September, F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas, a former British SOE agent, testified that he and his operatives wore German uniforms behind enemy lines; the Tribunal acquitted the ten defendants. The Tribunal drew a distinction between using enemy uniforms during combat and for other purposes including deception and were unable to prove that Skorzeny had given any orders to actually fight in U.S. uniforms.
Skorzeny was detained in an internment camp at Darmstadt awaiting the decision of a denazification court. On 27 July 1948 he escaped from the camp with the help of three former SS officers dressed in US Military Police uniforms who entered the camp and claimed that they had been ordered to take Skorzeny to Nuremberg for a legal hearing. Skorzeny afterwards maintained that the US authorities had aided his escape, and had supplied the uniforms.
Skorzeny hid out at a farm in Bavaria which had been rented by Countess Ilse Lüthje, the niece of Hjalmar Schacht (Hitler's former finance minister), for around 18 months, during which time he was in contact with Reinhard Gehlen, and together with Hartmann Lauterbacher (former deputy head of the Hitler Youth) recruited for the Gehlen Organization. Skorzeny was photographed at a café on the Champs Elysées in Paris on 13 February 1950. The photo appeared in the French press the next day, causing him to move to Salzburg, where he met up with German veterans and also filed for divorce so that he could marry Ilse Lüthje.
Shortly afterwards, with the help of a Nansen passport issued by the Spanish government, he moved to Madrid, where he set up a small engineering business. On April 1950 the publication of Skorzeny's memoirs by the French newspaper Le Figaro caused 1500 communists to riot outside the journal's headquarters.
In 1952 Egypt was taken over by General Mohammed Naguib. Skorzeny was sent to Egypt the following year by former General Reinhard Gehlen (who was now working for the CIA) to act as Naguib's military advisor. Skorzeny recruited a staff made up of former SS and Wehrmacht officers to train the Egyptian army. Among these officers were former Wehrmacht generals Wilhelm Fahrmbacher and Oskar Munzel; the head of the Gestapo Department for Jewish Affairs in Poland Leopold Gleim; and Joachim Daemling, former chief of the Gestapo in Düsseldorf. In addition to training the army, Skorzeny also trained Arab volunteers in commando tactics for possible use against British troops stationed in the Suez Canal zone. Several Palestinian refugees also received commando training, and Skorzeny planned their raids into Israel via the Gaza Strip in 1953-1954. One of these Palestinians was Yasser Arafat.
He stayed on to serve as an adviser to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. According to some authors, he traveled between Spain and Argentina, where he acted as an advisor to President Juan Perón and as a bodyguard for Eva Perón, while fostering an ambition for the "Fourth Reich" to be centered in Latin America. Other studies maintain that these statements lack all basis and are the product of post war propaganda maneuvers
The Israeli security and intelligence magazine Matara published an article in 1989 claiming that Skorzeny had been recruited by Mossad in 1963, to obtain information on German scientists who were working on an Egyptian project to develop rockets to be used against Israel. Reporting on the Matara story, the major Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot said that they had confirmed the story from their own senior Mossad source. Former Mossad head Isser Harel confirmed the story that former Nazis were recruited to provide intelligence on Arab countries.
Ian Black and Benny Morris wrote in 1991 that Skorzeny may not have known who he was working for, but in 2010 Tom Segev published in his biography of Simon Wiesenthal that Skorzeny had offered to help only if Wiesenthal removed him from his list of wanted war criminals. Wiesenthal refused, but Skorzeny finally agreed to help anyway. Segev gave as his main source the senior Mossad agent Rafi Meidan, to whom Segev attributes the primary role in the recruitment of Skorzeny.
Further details of the story were published by Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv in 2016. According to their information, a Mossad team had started to develop a plan to kill Skorzeny, but chief Isser Harel decided to attempt to recruit him instead, as a man on the inside would greatly enhance their ability to target Nazis who were providing military assistance to Egypt. He allegedly was recruited and conducted operations for Mossad from 1962, working with Avraham Ahituv and Rafi Eitan. Other unnamed sources asserted Skorzeny was recruited after Mossad visited his home in Spain, where he expected he would be assassinated. After undergoing instruction and training in the Mossad's facilities in Israel, the rumoured work for Mossad included assassinating German rocket scientist Heinz Krug who was working for the Egyptian government and mailing a letter bomb which killed five Egyptians at the Egyptian military rocket site Factory 333. He also allegedly supplied the names and addresses of German scientists working for Egypt and the names of European front companies supplying military hardware to Egypt.
No confirmed source can explain Skorzeny's motives for working with Israel but he may have craved adventure and intrigue, as well as fearing assassination by Mossad. An article featured in Der Spiegel on 22 January 2018 raised doubts as to the involvement of Skorzeny in Krug's death, stating that Mossad boss Isser Harel ordered the murder.
Like thousands of other former Nazis, Skorzeny was declared entnazifiziert (denazified) in absentia in 1952 by a West German government arbitration board, which now meant he could travel from Spain into other Western countries, on a special Nansen passport for stateless persons with which he visited Ireland in 1957 and 1958. In late 1958 he qualified for an Austrian passport and in 1959 he purchased Martinstown House, a 165-acre (67 ha) farm in County Kildare. Although Skorzeny could not be refused entry without due cause, he was refused a residency visa by the Irish government and had to limit his stays to six weeks at a time, during which he was monitored by G2. He rarely visited after 1963 and sold Martinstown House in 1971. At 6 foot 4 and weighing 18 stone (110 kg; 250 lb), along with his scar, he was easily recognizable, and caused speculation among the English and Irish press as to why he was in Ireland. One Kildare resident recalled Scorzeny as someone who "wasn't particularly friendly and [who] didn't really mix with local people". Skorzeny also owned property on Majorca.
In the 1960s Skorzeny set up the Paladin Group, which he envisioned as "an international directorship of strategic assault personnel [that would] straddle the watershed between paramilitary operations carried out by troops in uniform and the political warfare which is conducted by civilian agents". Based near Alicante, Spain, the Paladin Group specialized in arming and training guerrillas. Some of its operatives were recruited by the Spanish Interior Ministry to wage a clandestine war against the terrorist group ETA.
It is rumored that under the cover names Robert Steinbacher and Otto Steinbauer, and supported by either Nazi funds or (according to some sources) by Austrian intelligence, Skorzeny set up a secret organization named Die Spinne (English: "The Spider") which helped as many as 600 former SS men escape from Germany to Spain, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, and other countries. Over the years, Skorzeny, Gehlen, and their network of collaborators supposedly gained enormous influence in Europe and Latin America.
In 1970, a cancerous tumour was discovered on Skorzeny's spine. Two tumours were later removed while he was staying at a hospital in Hamburg, but the surgery left him paralyzed from the waist down. Vowing to walk again, Skorzeny spent long hours with a physical therapist; and, within six months, he was back on his feet. Skorzeny died of lung cancer on 5 July 1975 in Madrid. He was 67 years old. At no point in his life did Skorzeny ever denounce Nazism.
He was given a Roman Catholic funeral Mass in Madrid on 7 August 1975. His body was cremated afterwards, and his ashes were later taken to Vienna to be interred in the Skorzeny family plot at Döblinger Friedhof. His funeral "was attended by dozens of German military veterans and wives, who did not hesitate to give the one-armed Nazi salute", according to former Mossad agents who attended the funeral.
Like many other prominent World War II figures, Skorzeny has been portrayed in several works of fiction, such as the Worldwar tetralogy by Harry Turtledove, 1945 by Newt Gingrich, and other novels. In The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins, the rescue of Mussolini inspires a plan to kidnap Winston Churchill.
SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 (502nd SS Light Infantry Battalion) was a special forces unit of Nazi Germany from 1943-1944.
Formed in June 1943, the unit was commanded by Otto Skorzeny and was based at Schloß (chateau) Friedenthal just north of Berlin in Sachsenhausen by Oranienburg, consisting originally of the three hundred members of the former (Provisional Special Unit Friedenthal) SS-Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal (this was their official name until April 1944, then it was SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 ) and Sonderlehrgang z.b.V. Oranienburg. After an unsuccessful attempt to train members of an SS penal facility, Skorzeny obtained permission to recruit volunteers from the Wehrmacht, and 100 SS personnel, 50 Luftwaffe and 150 Army personnel were admitted, allowing the formation of a headquarters company and two line companies. An intensive training programme was instituted.
In September 1943, sixteen members of this unit took part in the Gran Sasso raid, which resulted in the rescue of deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
They were later placed on standby for several operations that never took place, including a proposed kidnapping of Philippe Pétain.
In February 1944, a third company was formed from mainly Flemish and Dutch personnel with Hauptsturmführer Hoyer as its commanding officer. In the same month, No. 1 and 2 companies of the battalion went to the Kurmark troop training area for four weeks intensive training, after which they saw combat on the Eastern Front for over a month.
On 20 July 1944, No. 1 Company was deployed in Berlin, briefly occupying the Bendlerblock after the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.
In August 1944, fifty members of the unit carried out Operation Landfried in Romania, destroying road and railway bridges in an attempt to delay the Soviet advance. This mission was commanded by Walter Girg.
In September 1944, SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 was dissolved and its personnel absorbed into a new battalion, SS-Jagdverband Mitte.Charles Foley (journalist)
Charles Foley (1908 – 1995) was an Indian-born British journalist.Defense of Schwedt Bridgehead
The defense of the Schwedt bridgehead was a German 3rd Panzer Army operation on the Eastern Front during the final months of World War II. German forces, commanded by Otto Skorzeny, were ordered to prepare to conduct a counter-offensive. However they were forced to hold a bridgehead against expected numerically superior forces of the Soviet 2nd Belorussian Front (Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky) for 31 days. Their position was largely ignored during the Red Army's Cottbus-Potsdam Offensive Operation which breached German defenses at Gartz to the north of Schwedt. This was unexpected because it required the Red Army to cross the Randowbruch Swamp that lay between the Oder and Randow rivers.Die Spinne
Die Spinne (German for "The Spider") was a post-World War II organisation thought to have helped certain Nazi war criminals escape justice. Its existence is still debated today. It is believed by some historians to be a different name (or a branch) of the Nazi German ODESSA organization established during the collapse of the Third Reich, similar to Kameradenwerk, and der Bruderschaft, devoted to helping German war criminals flee Europe. It was led in part by Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's commando chief, as well as Nazi intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen. Die Spinne helped as many as 600 former SS men escape from Germany to Francoist Spain, Juan Peron's Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, the Middle East, and other countries.
Die Spinne was established by Skorzeny using the aliases Robert Steinbacher and Otto Steinbauer, and supported by either Nazi funds or, according to some sources, Austrian Intelligence. Later, Skorzeny, Gehlen, and their network of collaborators had gained significant influence in parts of Europe and Latin America. Skorzeny travelled between Francoist Spain and Argentina, where he acted as an adviser to President Juan Perón and bodyguard of Eva Perón, while fostering an ambition for the "Fourth Reich" centred in Latin America.According to Infield, the idea for the Spinne network began in 1944 as Hitler's chief intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen foresaw a possible downfall of the Third Reich due to Nazi military failures in Russia. T.H. Tetens, expert on German geopolitics and member of the US War Crimes Commission in 1946-47, referred to a group overlapping with die Spinne as the Führungsring ("a kind of political Mafia, with headquarters in Madrid... serving various purposes.") The Madrid office built up what was referred to as a sort of Fascist International, per Tetens. According to Tetens the German leadership also included Dr Hans Globke, who had written the official commentary on the Nuremberg Laws. Globke held the important position of Director of the German Chancellery from 1953–63, serving as adviser to Konrad Adenauer.Gevork Vartanian
Gevork Andreevich Vartanian (Armenian: Գևորգ Վարդանյան, Russian: Гево́рк Андре́евич Вартаня́н; February 1924 – 10 January 2012) was a Soviet intelligence officer.He was primarily responsible for thwarting Operation Long Jump, concocted by Adolf Hitler, headed by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and led by Otto Skorzeny, which was an attempt to assassinate Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt at the Tehran conference in 1943.H. Keith Thompson
Harold Keith Thompson (September 17, 1922 – March 3, 2002) was a New York City-based corporate executive and a figure within American far right and fascist circles. Thompson was a graduate of Yale University.James Brady (SS)
James Brady (born 20 May 1920, date of death unknown) was one of two Irishmen known to have served in the Waffen-SS during World War II.
Brady originally volunteered for the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an Irish Regiment in the British Army, in late 1938. After basic training in Hampshire, he was posted to the Channel Islands in May 1939. In that month he and another man, Frank Stringer, were imprisoned after attacking and injuring a local policeman and were captured by the Germans when they invaded the islands in June 1940.
The Germans transferred the pair to a POW camp but soon transferred them to the special Abwehr facility at Friesack Camp to recruit them as saboteurs. Stringer proved willing to co-operate; and, in September 1941, he and John Codd were transferred to Berlin to begin explosives training at the Abwehr training camp at Quentzgut. That December, Brady and a group of other Irishmen were also transferred to Berlin to begin similar training. This latter group, however, would seem to have been secretly working on the orders of the Senior British Officer at Friesack to sabotage the German scheme; by September 1942, all the Irishmen involved were imprisoned by the Germans, some in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
In early 1943, Brady and Stringer were released by the Germans and kept in readiness for Operation Osprey. Subsequently, they volunteered for the Waffen-SS and underwent training at Cernay in occupied Alsace-Lorraine. In January 1944, they were recruited to SS-Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal (later: SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 and later still SS-Jagdverband Mitte), a special forces unit under the command of Otto Skorzeny.
In late 1944, Brady was involved in Operation Landfried (behind the lines operations in Romania) and in Operation Panzerfaust, the raid on Budapest to prevent Admiral Miklós Horthy from making a separate peace with the Soviets. He also fought at Schwedt an Oder with Skorzeny's ad hoc division in January 1945 and was wounded at the Zehden bridgehead in March. He later fought in the Battle of Berlin.
He surrendered to the British Army in 1946 and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, of which the General Officer Commanding London District remitted three years. He was released in 1950 and returned to Ireland.Lavinium
Lavinium was a port city of Latium, 53 km (33 mi) to the south of Rome, midway between the Tiber river at Ostia and Anzio. The coastline then, as now, was a long strip of beach. Lavinium was on a hill at the southernmost edge of the Silva Laurentina, a dense laurel forest, and the northernmost edge of the Pontine Marshes, a vast malarial tract of wetlands. The basis for the port, the only one between Ostia and Anzio, was evidently the mouth of the Numicus river.
The location of Lavinium has never been lost to historians nor does there appear to have been any significant break in its habitation. Today's settlement remains a walled village of medieval design, Pratica di Mare, in the comune of Pomezia. The latter is a city constructed in 1939 and settled according to a plan of Benito Mussolini, whose engineers completed the millennia-long task of draining and filling the marsh, now the Pontine fields. A brief strip of field separates the large and flourishing city from the village. One Roman gate allows entry into the narrow streets of the village past the Castello Borghese, originally a fortification, purchased along with the village in 1617 by Marcantonio Borghese. The castle and the village were periodically renovated. All that remains of the river that once partly surrounded the village is a small stream, the Fosso di Pratica.
Pratica di Mare is about 6 km (3.7 mi) from the Tyrrhenian Sea near the top of a slope descending to an alluvial shelf on which the Pratica di Mare Air Force Base has been placed. It has the historical distinction of being the airfield from which Otto Skorzeny flew Mussolini to safety in Germany after his rescue from imprisonment in a mountain villa. Today the base is both a secure airport for the protection of distinguished visitors to the Rome region and a home for air shows of advanced aircraft. The Fosso di Pratica was re-routed around the end of a runway; however, today's small brook is in no way compatible with the concept of a port. The sea may well have formerly extended up to the base of the hill, as sites further north, such as Ostia, appear to have retreated one or two miles inland. Ancient Roman seaside villas are no longer on the beach.ODESSA
The ODESSA is an American codename (from the German: Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning: Organization of Former SS Members) coined in 1946 for a possible Nazi underground escape plan at the end of World War II by a group of SS officers with the aim of facilitating secret escape routes. The idea has been widely circulated in fictional spy novels and movies, notably Frederick Forsyth's best-selling 1972 thriller The Odessa File. The routes are also called ratlines. The goal was to allow the SS members to escape to Argentina, Brazil, or the Middle East under false passports. This goal was in fact achieved by 300 Nazis with support from Juan Perón after he came to power in Argentina in 1946.Though an unknown number of wanted Nazis and war criminals did in fact escape Europe, the existence of an organisation called ODESSA is rejected by most experts. However it is widely accepted that there were escape organisations for Nazis. Uki Goñi maintains that archival evidence paints a picture that "does not even include an organization actually named Odessa, but it is sinister nonetheless, and weighted in favour of an actual organized escape network." Guy Walters, in his 2009 book Hunting Evil, stated he was unable to find any evidence of the existence of the ODESSA network as such, although numerous other organisations such as Konsul, Scharnhorst, Sechsgestirn, Leibwache, and Lustige Brüder have been named, including Die Spinne ("The Spider") run in part by Hitler's commando chief Otto Skorzeny. Historian Daniel Stahl in his 2011 essay stated that the consensus among historians is that an organisation called ODESSA did not actually exist. Uki Goñi's book "The Real Odessa" describes the role of Juan Peron in providing cover for Nazi war criminals with cooperation from the Vatican, the Argentinean government and the Swiss authorities through a secret office set up by Peron's agents in Bern. Heinrich Himmler's secret service had prepared an escape route in Madrid in 1944. In 1946, this operation moved to the Presidential palace in Buenos Aires. Goñi states that the operation stretched from Scandinavia to Italy, aiding war criminals and bringing in gold that the Croatian treasury had stolen.Operation François
Operation François was an attempt made by the German Army's Abwehr to use the dissident Qashqai people in Iran to sabotage British and American supplies bound for the Soviet Union.Operation François was led by Otto Skorzeny, who sent the 502nd SS Jäger Battalion to parachute into Iran during the summer of 1943, the first mission carried out by the unit. Skorzeny, who remained behind to train more recruits, characterized Operation François as "a failure" due mainly to inadequate reinforcements and supplies needed for the mission.Michael Bar-Zohar, in his biography of Paul Ernst Fackenheim, states that during Fackenheim's captivity in Latrun, where the British also kept Nazi-sympathizer General Fazlollah Zahedi, he saw "six or seven SS prisoners who parachuted into southern Iran, loaded with explosives and gold, and tried to bribe the Qashqai into rebelling against the British ... once they ran out of gold, the Qashqai turned them to the British"Operation Greif
Operation Greif (German: Unternehmen Greif [ɡʁaɪf], meaning "Griffin") was a special operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed. German soldiers, wearing captured British and U.S. Army uniforms and using captured Allied vehicles, were to cause confusion in the rear of the Allied lines. A lack of vehicles, uniforms, and equipment limited the operation and it never achieved its original aim of securing the Meuse bridges. Skorzeny's postwar trial set a precedent clarifying article 4 of the Geneva Convention: as the German soldiers removed the Allied uniforms before engaging in combat, they were not to be considered francs-tireurs.
There was an earlier military operation that used this name; an anti-partisan operation conducted by the German Army, begun on August 14, 1944, in the vicinity of Orsha and Vitebsk, Soviet Union.Operation Long Jump
Operation Long Jump (German: Unternehmen Weitsprung) was an alleged German plan to simultaneously assassinate Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt, the "Big Three" Allied leaders, at the 1943 Tehran Conference during World War II. The operation in Iran was to be led by SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny of the Waffen SS. A group of agents from the Soviet Union, led by Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian, uncovered the plot before its inception and the mission was never launched. The assassination plan and its disruption has been popularized by the Russian media with appearances in films and novels.Operation Panzerfaust
Operation Panzerfaust (Unternehmen Panzerfaust) was a military operation to keep the Kingdom of Hungary at Germany's side in the war, conducted in October 1944 by the German Wehrmacht. When German dictator Adolf Hitler received word that Hungary's Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, was secretly negotiating his country's surrender to the advancing Red Army, he sent commando leader Otto Skorzeny of the Waffen-SS and former special forces commander Adrian von Fölkersam to Hungary. Hitler feared that Hungary's surrender would expose his southern flank, where the Kingdom of Romania had just joined with the Soviets and cut off a million German troops still fighting the Soviet advance in the Balkan peninsula. The operation was preceded by Operation Margarethe in March 1944, which was the occupation of Hungary by German forces, which Hitler had hoped would secure Hungary's place in the Axis powers.Paladin Group (fascist organization)
The Paladin Group was a far-right organization founded in 1970 in Spain by former Waffen-SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny. It conceived itself as the military arm of the anti-Communist struggle during and after the Cold War. It was a private security contractor, the group's purpose was to recruit and operate security contractors to prevent the spread of communism worldwide.
The French Nouvel Observateur magazine, of 23 September 1974, qualifies the group as a "strange temporary work agency of mercenaries" (étrange agence d’interim-barbouzes); in The Great Heroin Coup (1976), Henrik Krüger calls it a "fascist group" or "neo-fascist group", while Stuart Christie speaks of it as a "security consultancy group" in Granny Made me an Anarchist. Lobster Magazine describes it as a "small international squad of commandos".Panzer Brigade 150
Panzer Brigade 150 or SS Panzer Brigade 150 (German: 150. SS-Panzer-Brigade) was a formation of the German Army during World War II that was formed to take part in the Ardennes offensive, it was unusual in that it was formed from all parts of the German Armed Forces, the 2,500 men in the brigade were formed from; 1,000 from the Heer, 500 from the Waffen SS, 800 from the Luftwaffe and 200 from the Kriegsmarine. It was tasked with the capture of the bridges at Amay, Engis and Huy. The Brigade is known for including English-speaking members wearing American Army uniforms to cause disruption and disinformation behind the American lines. The Brigade was also issued captured Allied equipment and had two Sherman tanks (which never saw action due to mechanical problems) and German vehicles were modified to resemble Allied armoured vehicles.Perfidy
In the context of war, perfidy is a form of deception in which one side promises to act in good faith (such as by raising a flag of truce) with the intention of breaking that promise once the unsuspecting enemy is exposed (such as by coming out of cover to attack the enemy coming to take the "surrendering" prisoners into custody). Perfidy constitutes a breach of the laws of war and so is a war crime, as it degrades the protections and mutual restraints developed in the interest of all parties, combatants and civilians.Savitri Devi
Savitri Devi Mukherji (30 September 1905 – 22 October 1982) was the pseudonym of the Greek-French-Italian writer Maximiani Portas (pronounced [mak.si.mja.ni pɔʁ.tɑ]; also spelled Maximine Portaz), a prominent proponent of deep ecology and Nazism, who served the Axis powers by committing espionage on the forces of the Allies of World War II in India. She wrote about animal rights movements and was a leading member of the Nazi underground during the 1960s.Devi authored the animal rights manifesto The Impeachment of Man in 1959 and was a proponent of Hinduism and Nazism, synthesizing the two, proclaiming Adolf Hitler to have been sent by Providence, much like an avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. She believed Hitler was a sacrifice for humanity which would lead to the end of the Kali Yuga induced by those who she felt were the powers of evil: the Jews. Her writings have influenced neo-Nazism and Nazi occultism. Among Savitri Devi's ideas was the classifications of "men above time", "men in time", and "men against time". Rejecting Judeo-Christianity, she believed in a form of pantheistic monism; a single cosmos of nature composed of divine energy-matter.She is credited with pioneering neo-Nazi interest in occultism, deep ecology, and the New Age movement, and more contemporaneously has influenced the alt-right. She also influenced the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano. In 1982, Franco Freda published a German translation of her work Gold in the Furnace, and the fourth volume of his annual review, Risguardo (1980–), was devoted to Savitri Devi as the "missionary of Aryan Paganism".Savitri was an associate in the post-war years of Françoise Dior, Otto Skorzeny, Johannes von Leers, and Hans-Ulrich Rudel. She was also one of the founding members of the World Union of National Socialists.Sonder Lehrgang Oranienburg
Sonderlehrgang z.b.V. "Oranienburg" (Special training course for special assignments "Oranienburg") was a special forces unit of Germany's Schutzstaffel. It was activated in early 1942 on the order of SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Jüttner as an obvious rival to the Heer's Brandenburg Regiment.
Originally based at Oranienburg in Brandenburg, the unit consisted of 100 experienced volunteers from the Waffen-SS under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Pieter van Vessem.
Their first operational mission (Operation Osprey) was a proposed deployment to Ireland but this never transpired. In early 1943, five members of the unit were parachuted into Iran to assist guerilla opposition to the Allied occupation.
Early in the summer of 1943, SS Sonderlehrgang Oranienburg moved to a purpose-built facility in nearby Friedenthal and was re-designated SS Sonderlehrgang zbV Friedenthal - the ‘zbV’ in the unit’s title stood for "zur besonderen Verwendung", i.e. it indicated special duties. At this time, the unit consisted of one full company under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer van Vessem, as well as part of another company and a transport element. Comprising a total of 300 men, all personnel were members of the Waffen-SS, which included fifty Dutchmen and Flemings, with a few ethnic Germans from Hungary.
Shortly after this, the unit came under the command of Otto Skorzeny and was absorbed into SS-Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal in June 1943. In October/November the unit was renamed 502nd SS Jäger Battalion.The Beast Reawakens
The Beast Reawakens (later prints carried the subtitle Fascism's Resurgence from Hitler's Spymasters to Today's Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists) is a 1997 book by investigative journalist Martin A. Lee, in which the author discusses old-guard fascists' strategy for survival and the revival of fascism since 1944. Special attention is given to ODESSA actions during the Cold War, international fascist networks, and political inroads to the right-wing mainstream. The book opens with a quotation from T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922), a favorite of Hitler's favorite commando, SS-Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny.
Post-war flight of Axis fugitives
|Disputed / dubious|