Otto Skorzeny Biography

Otto Skorzeny, an Austrian-born Waffen-SS commander, gained notoriety during World War II for his daring and risky operations. He is best known for liberating Benito Mussolini from his confinement in the Abruzzi Apennines. Skorzeny, who started his career as a civil engineer, joined the Nazi Party and rose to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer. Throughout the war, he led various perilous missions, including the kidnapping of the Hungarian regent’s son and participating in Operation Greif. Skorzeny was considered Europe’s most dangerous man and Germany’s most notorious commander. After the war, he faced the Dachau War Trials but managed to escape and settle in Spain. He later worked as an advisor to the Egyptian army and reportedly had ties to Israel’s Mossad. Skorzeny passed away in Madrid in 1975 at the age of 67.

Quick Facts

  • Nick Name: The Long Jumper, Scarface
  • Also Known As: Otto Johann Anton Skorzeny
  • Died At Age: 67
  • Spouse/Ex-: Ilse Lüthje, Emmi Linhart (m. 1939–1950)
  • Father: Anton Skorzeny
  • Mother: Flora Sieber
  • Children: Waltraut Skorzeny
  • Born Country: Austria
  • Died on: July 5, 1975
  • Place of Death: Madrid, Spain
  • Ancestry: Polish Austrian
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Lung Cancer
  • Cause of Death: Lung Cancer
  • City: Vienna, Austria
  • Awards: German Cross in Gold, Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Childhood & Early Life

Skorzeny was born on June 12, 1908, in Vienna, Austria, into a middle-class family. After completing high school, he joined the ‘Technical University of Vienna’ in 1926, to study engineering. His father and brother were engineers, too. During his university days, he was a noted fencer and had participated in 15 ritual sabre duels, one of which had left a permanent scar on his cheek. In 1931, he graduated as a civil engineer. He then worked as the manager of a building business for a while.

Joining the Nazi Party and Military Career

Inspired by German ‘Nazi Party’ leader Josef Goebbels’s speech, Skorzeny joined the Austrian ‘Nazi Party’ in 1932. In 1935, he joined the German paramilitary organization known as the ‘German Gymnastic Association.’ On March 12, 1938, at the time of the ‘Anschluss,’ or the German annexation of Austria, he led a small group of his paramilitary organization to protect the Austrian president, Wilhelm Miklas, from Austrian ‘Nazis.’ At the beginning of World War II, Skorzeny applied for the ‘German Air Force,’ the ‘Luftwaffe,’ but was not accepted. He then joined Hitler’s bodyguard regiment, the ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler,’ as an officer-cadet.

The Eastern Front

In September 1940, Skorzeny was transferred to the ‘SS Division Das Reich’ and fought battles against Holland, France, and the Eastern Front. He participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, or the ‘Battle of Moscow.’ While on the Eastern Front, Skorzeny was injured but continued to fight until he was evacuated and hospitalized. He received his first ‘Iron Cross’ for his bravery. During his recovery, he studied commando operations and unconventional guerrilla warfare.

Operation Eiche/Oak

Skorzeny led a risky airborne glider mission to rescue Benito Mussolini, who had been arrested after a no-confidence motion in the ‘Italian Grand Council of Fascism.’ Skorzeny successfully located Mussolini at a ski resort and freed him. This mission earned Skorzeny and his forces significant recognition.

Operation Long Jump

Skorzeny’s next mission was ‘Operation Long Jump,’ a plan to infiltrate the ‘Tehran Conference’ and assassinate Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. However, the mission was intercepted by the Soviets, and Skorzeny and his team never reached Iran.

The Raid on Drvar

Skorzeny was entrusted with planning ‘Operation Rösselsprung,’ a plan to capture Yugoslav commander-in-chief Marshal Josip Broz Tito. However, Skorzeny realized the plan was weakened due to the carelessness of German agents and was not in favor of implementing it. The operation was a failure.

Post-War Activities

After being detained by the Allies, Skorzeny was tried for violating laws during the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ but was later acquitted. He escaped from a detention camp and moved to Madrid, where he started an engineering business. Skorzeny acted as a military advisor to Egypt and trained the Egyptian army. He also worked as an advisor to Egypt’s President Nasser. In 1962, Skorzeny was approached by Mossad agents and agreed to work for them, carrying out assassinations and sabotage operations. He died in 1975 at the age of 67.

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