12 JULY 1908- 5 JULY 1975
Otto Skorzeny was born on 12th of July 1908 in Vienna as a son of a engineer. On his 18th birthday, in 1936, he began his engineers education. He joined one of the many so called fighting societies of Vienna. He fought 14 single combats and got his "scar of honor", a deliberate inflicted wound in his face with would become a certain scar. It was a good and useful practice. Skorzeny wrote: During the war I never felt that afraid than when I had to fought my first single combat in front of my classmates."
As the war broke out in 1939 Skorzeny, who had already graduated and had his own engineers office, volunteered with the Luftwaffe. He already had some flying experience because he flew with some small one-engine airplanes and he really wanted to become a pilot. After a five months training period he was told he was to old to become a pilot. He was transferred to the ground forces. This was absolutely nothing for Skorzeny. He soon volunteered with the 1st SS-division 'Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler', an elite unit. Soon he became a cornet and was transferred to the SS-division 'Das Reich'. In 1940 he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. He attended the campaign in the Balkans and the conquest of Romania and Hungary. In the summer of 1941 he advanced into Russia with the SS-division 'Das Reich'. In December 1941 he was wounded on his head and was transported to Germany. In the beginning of 1942 he was employed at the depot of the division 'Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler'. Skorzeny was very busy but he missed the action and the companionship at the front. In June 1942 he was summoned at the headquarters of the SS. He got the task to establish an elite fighting force. On April 18th 1943 Skorzeny, who had so far only been promoted as a reserve-Captain, became the commander of the first German elite forces, better know as the 'Friedenthäler Jagdverbände'. On June 25th 1943 Skorzeny was summoned to the 'Wolfsschanze', the headquarters of Adolf Hitler. Hitler gave him the task to find Mussolini, who was taken prisoner by the Italian government, and to liberate him. General Kurt Student would assist Skorzeny on his mission. The next day Skorzeny was in Rome. It would cost him several weeks to find out about the place where Mussolini was staying. Just at the moment that Skorzeny was about to free Mussolini off the island of Maddalena in the North of Sardinia Mussolini was moved to an unknown destination. A few days later Skorzeny's intelligence service found out that Mussolini was held on mount Gran Sasso in Winter sports hotel Campo Imperatore at an altitude of over 2000 meters. During a reconnaissance flight Skorzeny saw a small lawn just behind the hotel. This was the spot on which he decided to land. Normal paratroops could not land at this altitude because the air was to thin. This was the reason the operation would be performed by gliders. As the gliders floated down toward the hotel Skorzeny noticed the lawn he chose was covered with rocks and was very steep. "Dive! Try to make a forced landing as close to the hotel as possible!", he shouted. They landed at a distance of about 100 meters of the hotel. Skorzeny and the Italian General Soletti, who was pro-German, jumped out off the plane. Mussolini's faced appeared behind a window of the hotel. "Backup," Skorzeny was shouting, "get away of the window!" Soon the commander of the Italian guards surrendered. Skorzeny rescued Mussolini without a gun being fired.
The next questions was how to get Mussolini out. To go alongside the road was far too dangerous. The plane which had to transport Mussolini had been damaged during the previous landing. There was only one possibility left. Captain Gerlach, the personal pilot of General Student, flew directly above the hotel in his Fieseler Storch, a small one-engine reconnaissance plane. Skorzeny called Gerlach by radio. Gerlach made a perfect landing. In the beginning Gerlach refused to take both Mussolini and Skorzeny with him. However, Skorzeny felt personal responsible for Mussolini and insisted on flying together with Gerlach and Mussolini. Finally Gerlach conceded.
When Mussolini and Skorzeny had entered the plane 12 men held the plane on his place as Gerlach ran up the engine. Finally he raised his arm and the men let go of the plane. The plane speeded ahead, almost hitting a large rock, and finally disappeared over the edge. The plane landed in Rome. Mussolini and Skorzeny were flown to Vienna. In November and December 1944 Skorzeny had the command of Operation 'Greif' during the German Ardennes offensive. German elite forces wearing American uniforms and driving American vehicles penetrated the Allied lines. They caused a incredible confusion. They American did not trust each other anymore. On a certain moment people believed Skorzeny was planning to kill Eisenhower. Eisenhower was forced to stay inside his headquarter in Versailles for 2 weeks. This was one of the reasons Otto Skorzeny was prosecuted after the war. Thanks to his outstanding English defense he was acquitted. In 1948 on the 27 July he escaped out off a reform camp to Madrid.
He settled in Spain with a passport granted by Francisco Franco and resumed his prewar occupation as an engineer.
In 1952, he was finally cleared by the German government of any wrongdoing in the war, which enabled him to travel abroad.
Later on, he worked as a consultant to the Egypt President Gamel Abdel Nasser and the Argentine dictator Juan Peron, and is rumoured to have assisted several of his friends in the SS escape arrest in the years after the war.
Skorzeny died as a multi millionare in Madrid Spain in 1975.
Dipl.-Ing. Otto (RK m. EL; DKiG; EBdH[?)
(1908 - 1975)
SS-Standartenführer der Reserve:
Born: 12. Jun. 1908 in Wien/Österreich.
Died: 5. Jul. 1975 in Madrid, Spain.
NSDAP-Nr.: 1 083 671/SS-Nr.: 295 79
SS-Staf. d.R.: ; SS-OStubaf. d.R.: ; SS-Stubaf. d.R: 12. Sep. 1943; SS-HStuf. d.R.: ;
Decorations & Awards:
Ritterkreuz des E.K.: 13. Sep. 1943 as SS-HStuf. d.R. & Gruppenleiter in Reichssicherheitshauptamt Berlin & Kdr. des Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal;
- Eichenlaub (Nr. 826): 9. Apr. 1945 as SS-OStubaf. d.R. & Kdr. der SS-Jagdverbände;
Deutsches Kreuz in Gold: 16. Oct. 1944 (per Franz Thomas, Die Eichenlaubträger; Jost Schneider, in Verleihung Genemigt! gives 16. Jan. 1945);
[Ehrenblatt-Spange des Heeres?]: ;
1939 EK I: 12. Sep. 1943; 1939 EK II: 26. Aug. 1941;
Totenkopfring der SS.