The Most Dangerous Man in Europe

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Oct 11 2007 14 mins   4

"The Most Dangerous Man in Europe" was how Eisenhower described Otto Skorzeny, Nazi Germany's most famous commando and special operations leader. Before he became the leader of Jagdverbande 502 (a special operations unit), Skorzeny fought on the Eastern Front and even won an Iron Cross for bravery.

His most famous mission was Operation Oak, the search and rescue of Benito Mussolini, who had been captured and imprisoned by his rivals in the Italy. Skorzeny led a glider assault on Gran Sasso Mountain, where Mussolini was being held, and captured him without having to fire a single shot. Skorzeny brought Mussolini back to Hitler. Hitler was overjoyed.

Skorzeny was tasked to lead many other commando missions including:
  • Operation Rosselsprung: Kidnap Josip Tito (the future leader of communist Yugoslavia)
  • Operation Panzerfaust: Kidnap the son of Miklos Horthy (king of Hungary) to persuade him to stay in the Axis
  • Operation Greif: Infiltrate behind allied lines at the battle of the bulge and spread chaos and confusion
After the war, Skorzeny was imprisoned in Darmstadt prison. From the prison, he operated the ODESSA network to smuggle Nazis (out of Germany) to safety. He was put before a war crimes tribunal at one point, but he was acquitted. On July 27th, 1948, he escaped from the prison thanks to the help of several SS colleagues (disguised in American uniforms). He then fled to Franco's Spain, Nasser's Egypt, and Peron's Argentina. In Argentina, he fell in love with Eva Peron. At the same time, he managed to secure large portions of the Bormann treasure, named after Martin Bormann (Hitler's secretary) who smuggled Nazi wealth out of Germany just before the Third Reich's collapse. He died in 1975 of cancer.

For more information, read:
Armchair General Magazine (October 2007): The Devil’s Commando
Skorzeny’s Special Missions by Otto Skorzeny

Military History Podcast is sponsored by Armchair General Magazine