Few people have lived or will ever live a life as interesting as Lieutenant Colonel Otto Skorzeny.

To simply call him an outstanding military man would be a disservice to his valor – he was much more than that.

Otto made his name in the military because of his special commando and guerrilla warfare style raids, especially during the First World War.

Most of the operations that he led or was a part of had different degrees of success. These cases involved the assassination, kidnapping, defense, and rescue of a variety of Europe’s wartime leaders.

It is safe to say that Otto Skorzeny was more than familiar with life and death situations than the average man. Because of his unique yet calm approach for every mission and his excellent results, he soon got noticed by Hitler and eventually became his favorite commando.

European Allies even dubbed Otto Skorzeny as Europe’s most dangerous man. Skorzeny certainly appeared like he was made for a life of fight and war.

If his 6’4 height and tank like build was not intimidating enough, he had a deep scar present on his cheek which he got during a deadly fencing duel.

Military Career

Born in a middle class family in Austria in 1908, Skorzeny always had the fight in him since he was young. This was evident by the fact that he joined the Austrian branch and became a Nazi in 1931.

Surprisingly, Skorzeny’s military career did not start out as you would imagine – when the Second World War came about, he sent an application for joining the Luftwaffe and it got rejected.

The reason behind the rejection was that he was too old and too tall despite being just 31 years of age.

Otto did not let that rejection dishearten him, which is why he decided to join the SS as an officer cadet which was in Liebstandarte.

This was a special designation as Liebstandarte was the bodyguard regiment for Hitler. Between 1940 and 1942, Otto fought on various battlefields which included the Eastern Front, France, and Holland.

Things to a turn for the worse in December 1942 as Skorzeny was hit with shrapnel on the head while fighting.

He continued battling despite his deep wounds until the wounds became even deeper and incapacitated him.

This act of immense courage almost cost Otto his life, but he was found on time and hospitalized immediately and nursed back to good health after some time.

His death defying bravery earned him his first ever Iron Cross.



Joining The Commando Operations

While recovering from his wounds in Berlin, Otto started to gain interest in commando operations. He began to read and research about unconventional guerilla and warfare tactics.

The knowledge that he gained from his research allowed him to formulate unique ideas that got noticed by the foreign intelligence service’s head, Walter Schellenberg.

He appointed Skorzeny as the head of WaffenSonderverband in Friedenthal and also gave him a team of experienced commandos. This allowed Otto to test his unconventional warfare ideas.

The first mission that he was in charge of was not successful, however, the next one proved to be a massive success.

On warm July in 1943, higher ups in the Italian government overthrew Benito Mussolini. This outraged Hitler quite a bit and motivated him to rescue Mussolini. This led to operation Eiche.

Hitler got together a team of some of the best German operatives which also included Skorzeny.

Although Hitler and Otto never met before this encounter, it was clear as day that Skorzeny was considered to be the most competent person to carry out this job.

The first thing Otto had to do was, find where Mussolini was. This was quite difficult as the Italians were shifting him to different secret locations.

This cat and mouse game ensued for weeks, but Skorzeny was finally able to track Mussolini in the Campo Imperatore Hotel.

Mussolini was located quite high (almost 6500 feet over sea level). What made things even tougher for Otto was the fact that the hotel was only accessible through funicular.

Despite the difficulties, Skorzeny conducted an airborne raid with the help of gliders. However, things took an interesting turn.

As the gliders got close to the hotel, Otto relied on a grass patch that he saw in reconnaissance photographs as a landing space. To his surprise, the patch was not actually grass but an inclined rock.

Skorzeny received orders to abort the mission but he did not heed the commands and told the pilot to land anyway. The risk paid off and the pilot did manage to land awkwardly thirty feet away from where Mussolini was residing.

Otto found Mussolini in a matter of minutes without killing anybody in the process.

This plan, as audacious as it was, paid off and more importantly impressed Hitler very much and he awarded Otto for a Knights Cross for his efforts.

Even Winston Churchill showed appreciation for Otto’s plan, which added more intrigue to Otto’s lore.

Siding With Israel

Success in the Eiche mission was just one of the many successes that Otto Skorzeny experienced during his career.

He continued to serve Hitler for a long period but this is where things get really interesting about Otto – although he developed a strong and loyal relationship with Hitler and was a staunch Nazi from Austria, he later on became a hitman who worked for Israel once the war ended.

Ultimately Otto turned his back on former compatriots which was something out of left field for everyone.

Otto relocated to Spain in order to receive asylum during 1950. He was befriended by Mossad agents who pretended to be a couple.

Otto sensed something strange about them and lured the “couple” to his home where he put them on gunpoint and told them that he knew they were there to kill him.

They claimed that they didn’t want to kill him but wanted to use his expertise to stop Egypt’s missile attack.

The negotiations were quite tense but Skorzeny finally agreed to work for them as long as they remove his name from the extensive Nazi hit list that Mossad created.

Mossad tried his best to convince Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter to take the name off but he did not listed.

Being desperate to get Skorzeny’s services, Mossad forged a letter that claimed to agree to Otto’s terms. The letter convinced him and he was finally on board.

Not only did Otto prevent the attack from happening, he also assassinated a Nazi scientist while working as an Israeli hitman.

The reasons for Otto’s actions are still unclear but some claim that he had some sympathy for the Jews and the treatment they received from Nazis in the Second World War.

Two Funerals

Otto died from lung cancer at the age of 67. There were two funerals held for him – one was in Madrid, Spain, while the other one at his plot in Austria.

He got a complete Nazi send off where fellow Nazis sang and saluted in his remembrance.

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