Otto Skorzeny, the famous Nazi SS commando that owes most of his fame for leading the operation that rescued Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini from captivity, took part in an operation in which he was hired by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, recent facts revealed.
According to an article published in Israeli daily Haaretz, Skorzeny was hired by Mossad in 1962 to kill German rocket scientist Heinz Krug working for Egypt. Skorzeny’s involvement with Mossad was earlier rumored, however, the extent of this collaboration was unknown, and the article provided deep insights on the issue.
The article stated that Krug, one of the scientists working for the rocket program of Nazi Germany led by later-NASA-founder Wernher von Braun, was hired by Egypt to take part in the country’s strategic missile program, thus becoming a primary target for Mossad. At that period, pan-Arabist Egypt led by Gamal Abdel Nasser was the primary enemy of Israel, which fought four wars with the former in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973.
Skorzeny was also responsible for sending an Israeli bomb in a package to an Egyptian rocket factory where German engineers were working, killing five workers, the article said.
Former SS Obersturmbannführer (senior assault unit leader, a rank also held by Auschwitz camp commander Rudolf Höss or Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust) was invited to Israel, and even to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he was recognized as a “war criminal” by a war survivor.
The article said that Skorzeny may have collaborated with Mossad to avoid execution and to remove his name from famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal’s war criminal list. Several high-rank Nazi officers, most notably Eichmann, were either brought to Israel by Mossad operations to stand trial or executed abroad.
In 1943, when the tide was turning for Nazis in World War II, Skorzeny gained worldwide fame for rescuing Mussolini from detention, who was imprisoned after a coup that followed Allied landing in Sicily. Mussolini was made the leader of Nazi puppet state Italian Social Republic ran from the town of Salo on the outskirts of Italian Alps, although he did not make any significant contribution to German war efforts. Following the Allied landing in Normandy and subsequent advance in France in 1944, Skorzeny and his team carried out special operations behind Allied lines dressing as enemy soldiers. In 1944, he also led the operation kidnapping Nazi-ally Hungary’s leader and self-declared regent Admiral Miklos Horthy, who was negotiating for a separate peace with the Soviet Union to avoid total destruction. Nazis did not let Hungarians repeat what their previous allies Romania and Bulgaria did and installed hardline Arrow Cross fascists to power, which had deported some 600,000 Hungarian Jews to extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz while only 30 percent of the pre-war population managed to survive.
His operations boosted German morale and inflicted fear on Allied soldiers, however, these had insignificant military effects over the general course of the war. Nevertheless, Skorzeny’s exploits made him a war hero and he was awarded by highest military decorations at the time personally by Adolf Hitler. Conscripted by the SS since the beginning of the war, he was also an acclaimed soldier for Nazis, who were not in good terms with Wehrmacht officers regarding due conduct of the war and massive war crimes.
Following the war, former German commanders who escaped Allied persecution due to relatively limited participation in the Holocaust and other war crimes were largely recruited by anti-communist paramilitary organizations in links with the Office of Special Services (OSS), the predecessor of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Skorzeny was tried for three years under arrest but managed to escape prison in 1948, although he later claimed that the U.S. helped him to do so.
Skorzeny moved to Franco’s authoritarian Spain – neutral during World War II and at the time a haven for former Nazis – in 1950, and reportedly took part in the operations of Organization of Former SS Members (ODESSA), a claimed organization that provided former Nazis with jobs and living in South America and Middle East. He was also hired by Egyptians in 1950’s, where he allegedly gave training to special units and Arab volunteers including Palestinian refugees.
According to allegations, former SS commando leader’s services were also used in counter-guerrilla operations worldwide, notably in Spain, Greece and South America.
Along with this cooperation, Haaretz article also pointed out to many operations carried out by Mossad in which laws of many countries were breached, along with many people executed without trial.