Otto Skorzeny

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

If the real Otto Skorzeny hadn’t lived, pulp-fiction writers would have had to make him up:

Otto Skorzeny was born in Vienna into a middle-class Austrian family with Polish roots which had a long history of military service. In addition to his native German, he spoke excellent French.

In his teens, Otto once complained to his father of the austere lifestyle that his family was suffering from, by mentioning he had never tasted real butter in his life, because of the depression that plagued Austria after its defeat in World War I. His father prophetically replied, “There is no harm in doing without things. It might even be good for you not to get used to a soft life.”

He was a noted fencer as a university student in Vienna. He engaged in thirteen personal combats. The tenth resulted in a wound that left a dramatic dueling scar—known in academic fencing as a Schmiss (German for “smite” or “hit”)—on his cheek.

In 1931 Skorzeny joined the Austrian Nazi Party and soon became a member of the Nazi SA. A charismatic figure, Skorzeny played a minor role in the Anschluss on 12 March 1938, when he saved the Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas from being shot by Austrian Nazis.


Skorzeny went to war in the USSR with the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich and subsequently fought in several battles on the Eastern Front. In October 1941, he was in charge of a “technical section” of the German forces during the Battle of Moscow. His mission was to seize important buildings of the Communist Party, including the NKVD headquarters at Lubyanka, and the Central Telegraph and other high priority facilities, before they could be destroyed. He was also ordered to capture the sluices of the Moscow-Volga Canal because Hitler wanted them used to turn Moscow into a huge artificial lake by opening them. The missions were canceled as the German forces failed to capture the Soviet capital.

In December 1942, Skorzeny was hit in the back of the head by shrapnel from Soviet Katyusha artillery rockets. He refused all first aid except for a few aspirin, a bandage, and a glass of schnaps. A few hours later Skorzeny rejoined his unit but his health deteriorated, and continuous headaches and stomach pains forced him to evacuate for proper medical treatment. He was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery under fire and was hospitalized in Vienna. While recuperating from his injuries he was given a staff role in Berlin, where he read all the published literature he could find on commando warfare, and forwarded to higher command his ideas on unconventional commando warfare.


Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal’s first mission was in summer 1943. Operation François saw Skorzeny send a group by parachute into Iran to make contact with the dissident mountain tribes to encourage them to sabotage Allied supplies of material being sent to the Soviet Union via the Trans-Iranian Railway. However, commitment among the rebel tribes was suspect, and Operation François was deemed a failure.


In July 1943, he was personally selected by Hitler from among six German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) special agents to lead the operation to rescue Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who had been overthrown and imprisoned by the Italian government.

Almost two months of cat-and-mouse followed as the Italians moved Mussolini from place to place to frustrate any rescuers. There was a failed attempt to rescue Mussolini on 27 July 1943. The Ju 52 that the crew was aboard was shot down in the area of Pratica di Mare. Otto Skorzeny and all but one of his crew bailed out safely.

Mussolini was first held in a villa on La Maddalena, near Sardinia. Skorzeny was able to smuggle an Italian-speaking commando onto the island, and a few days later he confirmed Mussolini was in the villa. Skorzeny then flew over in a Heinkel He 111 to take aerial photos of the location. The bomber was shot down by Allied fighters and crash-landed at sea, but Skorzeny and the crew were rescued by an Italian destroyer. Mussolini was moved soon after.

Information on Mussolini’s new location and its topographical features were finally secured by Herbert Kappler. Kappler reported Mussolini was held in the Campo Imperatore Hotel at the top of the Gran Sasso mountain, and only accessible by cable car from the valley below. Skorzeny flew again over Gran Sasso and took pictures of the location with a handheld camera. An attack plan was formulated by General Kurt Student, Harald Mors (a paratrooper battalion commander), and Skorzeny.[contradictory]

On September 12, Gran Sasso raid (a.k.a. Operation Oak and Unternehmen Eiche), was carried out perfectly according to plan. Mussolini was rescued without firing a single shot. Flying out in a Storch airplane, Skorzeny escorted Mussolini to Rome and later to Berlin. The exploit earned Skorzeny fame, promotion to Sturmbannführer and the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

Keep reading. I mean, the guy goes on to lead the Werwölfe.


  1. Etype says:

    My god, Skorzeny’s family were Silesians. Where did you get this that they had Polish roots? Wikepedia?
    What in hell is this Polish thing?

  2. Baduin says:

    There are multiple versions of the origins of his family:

    • Grenzers from the Austrian Military
    • Border (it would correspond mostly to modern Croats)
      (apparently this origin was believed by Skorzeny himself)
    • Pomerania
    • Skorzecin/Scorzencin in Great Poland
    • Moravia (in Bohemia)

    Silesia seems to be a new idea of the previous commenter — unless he means the Bohemian Silesia which is near Moravia.

    His name is written in the Polish orthography, which is different from the other Slavic orthographies (“rz” combination is only found in Polish, other Slavic languages use “z” or “r” with diacritic marks), but it is possible this way of writing was more widespread before the XIX century.

    (“Skorzeny” can mean “made of leather” in Polish, although it may not be the original meaning of the name).

  3. Etype says:

    There are mulitple versions of the origins of his family? Hardly.

    Why would there be multiple versions of a family history in a domain (Hapsburg Empire) where genealogical history is precisely recorded for every soul per diocese going back many centuries?

    The answer is obvious: you feel a ‘carte blanche’ to make up whatever lies you think of (ie: ‘there are multiple versions of his family history…’) in any manner whatsoever regarding Europe pre WWII and WWI.

    I have read more than a few biographies on Skorzeny in German (I am Austrian German) and in none of these is Skorzeny’s genealogy a question. Furthermore, as a member of the Waffen SS Skorzeny’s genealogy was established beyond doubt without investigation (all records were extant). Further as an Austrian I can tell you geneological records dating back a millennium are common due to the offices of the Catholic church.

    Skorzeny’s family were Germans invited to immigrate to Silesia under the Piast Princes, later subsumed by Bohemia Crown, then subsumed by the Hapsburg empire.

    I like Isegoria’s blog very much, however it is noticable how posts concerning European history here seem to indulge themselves in disinformation loops – such as a previous poster who attributes the battle strength which Germany mustered to attack Russia, to attacking Poland when they actually had a front to the west – (unlikely, ridiculous, except as hollywood script) then the fable about Polish cracking of enigma – ( a ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc’ posthumous fantasy worthy of Spielburg or Tarantino…) and now the claim Skorzeny is a Pole because apparently there are multiple versions of his family history…as proof you fiddle with the etymology of his name, and cite ‘multiple versions of his family history’ to guess at other possible origins as proof of the multiple versions you mention previously….

    As a European I find these ‘multiple world projections’ or fabulations to be pathetic and ignoble on a site that recommends itself by investigating underlying currents of thought and concept. In this mode I do not see how or why truth becomes dispensable… is it not the idea to burrow beneath the lies and propaganda to the truth?

    If you want to underline Polish heroism, why not investigate how mighty Poland attacked every country on it’s frontier from 1919 to 1932 slaughtering untold numbers of civilians, facts recorded by the Red Cross, and the major non-English international journals of the day; (an english publication covering these issues would be the ‘Internation Herald Tribune’ located in Paris… most major city libraries have micro fiche records of the actual print publications of the ‘International Herald Tribune’ from the entire 20th century, if you can speak German or French the Swiss Tages-Anzeiger is neutral and will open your eyes )…

    Heroic Poland conducted pogroms and massacres on indigenous populations while seizing territory from Russia, Germany, Romania, Czechoslavakia and Lithuania during this time of chaos…(which was the tit for tat cause of the Katyn massacre ). Of course Wikipedia omits such history. Wikipedia is democratic history, an encyclopaedic oxymoron for morons.

    Why? Because Britain bankrolled Poland’s military with an eye to a casus belli for another economic blockade war against central Europe.

    Or would that be too deep? No world beyond Wikipedia? Is the democratic made-up history of Wikepedia and the logical fallacies of stating ‘there are multiple versions of Skorzeny’s family history…’ and then citing multiple versions from various internet sources who all draw from the same fantasy sources…thus combing an ‘argument from omniscience’ with an ‘appeal to ignorance’, is this just too convenient?

  4. Kent says:

    Just curious. What would be the motive of those who seek to misrepresent Skorzeny’s lineage? What do they hope to achieve?

  5. Etype says:

    There are many German family names which sound Polish. I’ve heard of Nietzche as well many others described as Polish… who were yet in no way Polish. Before the partition of Poland in the 18 century, many Germans, such as the Prussians and other Baltic people who were Germanic, settled and took their names from towns or localities once within the Polish Kingdom, as they were invited to settle there. Prior to the 18th century partition Poland was a great kingdom in Europe. In particular their role in defeating the Moslems at Vienna and saving Europe from further encroachments from the Turks. Also they had a great culture that was innovative politically and socially . However since the partition, it has been one disaster after another. During WWII they were used as dupes by the British as well as French, who had no serious intention of saving them, while they unwisely and opportunistically attacked every country on their periphery, often savagely oppressing and dispossessing the populations in the areas they annexed.

    Then they were defeated in three weeks by the Germans, which was not due to a vastly superior army ( it was superior but people don’t want to admit how ramshackle the German forces were in 39) but due to a endless string of complete blunders by the Polish high command.

    Maybe everyone secretly wants to be a Nazi, without having to shoulder the opprobrium. Certainly the Poles, who generally hate Germans, envy the mystique… as they are always claiming such and such is Polish, such as Nietzsche and a host of others, who are in no ways Polish.

    Poland was once a large and sophisticated Kingdom, and many Germanic people lived there within that expanding Kingdom, as they were annexed or invited to settle, and took their names from Polish principalities. So Poles often claim someone who comes from an ethnic German area, that has only been Polish since 1945, or perhaps for a time before the 18th century when Poland rapidly expanded and incorporated much of the Baltic for the period after the decline of the Teutonic Knights, as Polish – when they are in no way Polish.

    The consciousness of central Europe is different than Anglo-America. However the Anglo-American trait of ‘nth’ dimension disinformation… where television shows are starting to be considered time travelling cameras on the past, and online encyclopedias are freely edited by anonymous committees. means anyone is entitled to falsify, as long as it’s morally appropriate, and democratically sanctioned.

  6. Baduin says:

    I see Etype is a fellow reader of Junge Freiheit.

    As to various truths, half-truths and “mistakes” about Polish history I do not feel any need to explain it here. There are many books on the topic, freely accessible to all interested. Correcting errors, and especially wilful errors, on the Internet is best left to the very young and naive.

    I found it interesting, however, to research and rectify one misapprehension.

    It seems to me that progressive Germans dislike Poland since they consider it too conservative. The minority of traditional Germans and, apparently, traditional Austrians, hate Poland — traditionally.

    On the other hand, very few Poles hate Germany. Most look up to it as an exemplary well-organized country. That does not mean they like it.

    In general, Western countries have a good opinion of Poland, and Eastern bad. Germany is generally liked, although less than its level of development would suggest. Austria, perhaps surprisingly for Etype, is very liked in Poland.

    As to Skorzeny, anyone who has read his biography is certainly better qualified to write on this topic than me; although it would be helpful to give the author and title. “Multiple versions” are found on the Internet. I must confess I did no genealogical research in the original baptism registers.

    If he indeed came from Silesia, it would explain his name. Silesia was originally part of Poland and used the Polish language. Later, the elite, including Piast princes, Germanized, and common people continued to use Polish, which slowly diverged from the language of Poland. Polish in Silesia was originally written using orthography similar to Polish in Poland.

    I have no idea about the true etymology of the name of Skorzeny, except that it is without any doubt Slavic. The orthography of his name resembles Polish, which is easy to understand if he indeed came from Silesia, and much less easy to understand in all competitive versions.

    To avoid misapprehension, the above does not mean that Silesians have ever considered themselves a part of the Polish nation. In fact, Silesia separated from Poland before the national feeling in Poland appeared in XIII century.

    At present, there are some movements in Polish Silesia, which consider (Polish) Silesian a separate dialect or even language and created a few competing orthographies for it.

    And, indeed, Poland has no need for additional heroes. In fact, the one thing of which Poland has an overabundance are dead heroes. Many progressive people would like to forget them as quickly as possible.

    As for Nietzsche, he was, of course, German, but being insane, consider himself a Polish nobleman, a ridiculous presumption.

    Ecce Homo
    Warum ich so weise bin (Why I am so wise) N 3

    Ich bin ein polnischer Edelmann pur sang, dem auch nicht ein Tropfen schlechtes Blut beigemischt ist, am wenigsten deutsches.


    Aber auch als Pole bin ich ein ungeheurer Atavismus. Man würde Jahrhunderte zurückzugehn haben, um diese vornehmste Rasse, die es auf Erden gab, in dem Masse instinktrein zu finden, wie ich sie darstelle. Ich habe gegen Alles, was heute noblesse heisst, ein souveraines Gefühl von Distinktion, — ich würde dem jungen deutschen Kaiser nicht die Ehre zugestehn, mein Kutscher zu sein.

  7. Etype says:


    What newspaper poll suggests who hates or likes whom… I don’t care. Speculation concerning the orthography of a name… irrelevant, even if supported by a newspaper polls… (especially if supported by newspaper polls.) You seem unaware Baduin, that newspapers polls are conducted in order to sell washing machines and dryers sets… so are newspapers, so are elections, among other mercantilist ends.

    Is ‘Krosigk’ a Polish name? Count Schwerin von Krosigk may not be amused. Blaskowitz? Johannes Blaskowitz would probably not be interested in your speculations. Lewinski? Sheirtovski? Polish Jewish orthographically? Russian? Neither….speculations that ignore facts are ill formed and ignorant.
    Patrinomes, or family names do not determine ethnicity in a dart-board manner as you think. History and ethnicity is not a conceptual salad buffet, you take whatever stimulates your Parietal lobes. Deliberations based on what you think is intuitive intelligence is superficial and based on ignorance.

    PS: Nietzsche’s “Ecce homo: Wie man wird, was man ist.” is filled with goading, outrageous statements, as most of Nietzsche’s work tends to be. The Polish prince claim, is directed at Wagner, and his romantic nationalism, as Nietzsche is tying up loose ends in this, his last book. ‘Why I am so Wise’ is a commentary on ‘The Birth of Tragedy’, and the break with Wagner. Reading the book, one would be hard pressed to make a claim Nietzsche was insane when he wrote it. And I agree with him, that modern philosophy is nothing but pious fraud, and to state this is a sign of unrelenting sanity.

  8. Baduin says:

    You are again quite right.

    I have only a small correction. “Edelmann” does not mean “prince”, only a nobleman. In Poland the difference was stark, since there were millions of noblemen, and only a few princes (Czartoryski, Radziwill, Wisniowiecki) — none of whom was of Polish origin. Since Nietzsche claimed specifically to be Polish, it is rather important.

    I see, by the way, that you are the right man to answer a question which has interested me since I started reading the comment section of Junge Freiheit.

    Namely, they seem to be somewhat fixated on Poland. They of course mention various things they dislike about Poland and Polishmen, and those things seem to me mostly quite true, but of rather limited importance. Anyway, today nearly nobody is stealing cars — you cannot sell them.

    I can of course surmise why they dislike Poland so much — the fact that Polishmen live in a lot of land that used to be German certainly has something to do with that. I can also surmise why they have no corresponding obsession about Russia, although that country had a more active role in the border change.

    However, surmises are infinitely worse than direct knowledge. Since you seem to like writing about Poland anyway, perhaps you would like to explain the problem further?

  9. Etype says:

    Baduin, I believe that once. In the eastern slavic countries such as Poland, before the partition, any young nobleman that has not invested or inherited is referred to as a ‘Prince’ — unlike western royalty, where the title is reserved for those in the direct line of succession.

    Also, it is an Anglo trait to just ‘suppose’ every other nation is a reflection of their own, like American xenophobia, which is really just dimness, in order to overlook societies that are older, with richer traditions and great achievements, so they cultivate ignorance so their blinkered conceptions are not foreshadowed.

    I think this is Nietzsche’s intention, as the book is called Ecce Homo, (ref; Prince of Peace.) referring to himself.

    What people in the Anglo-sphere do not realize is that Nietzsche’s writings are filled with satire, puns, insider allusions, bad jokes, twisted proverbs, rude pranks, and hidden insults disguised as philosophical reflection. Nietzsche had a punk attitude in the tradition of John Lydon. I’ve heard so many western pseudo-philosophers stammering with outrage about some line of Nietzsche, and I try to explain to them, ‘look, it was a joke, an allusion! He often wrote things specifically to insult those he knew were stupid enough to read it literally.’ Usually to no avail. Nietzsche points this out in several works, such as his poetry and in Die Götzen-Dämmerung – Twilight of the Idols, Sprüche und Pfeile, ‘Maxims and Arrows.’

    The tension concerning Poland has everything to do with our ancestral cities and Prussia, but it would remain in the background unsaid if the Polish politicians did not feel the need of goading. Everyone in Europe who possesses the least amount of intuition knows eventually there will be a reckoning.

  10. Baduin says:

    Thanks for your precise answer.

  11. etype says:


    Thank you. I wish my replies had been precise, but the issue is emotional and one struggles (vainly) to be unemotional. In fact the Poles have been claiming Germans as Poles since they suddenly appeared in Europe. Despite newspaper polls, Polish hatred of Germans is a mainstay of traditional Polish culture, and their literary tradition hinges on it. Most Polish history was not written by historians, but by Polish novelists and poets, who are not subdued by records but freed by patriotic imagination and do not hesitate to present the Germans as monsters and the Poles as the finest, most courageous people in the world. The historic reality is far from this.

    Even the lifting of the siege of Vienna tells another story if you reference a pre-WWI encyclopaedia such as Encyclopedia Britannica. And now contemporary history comes straight from Hollywood.

  12. Etype,

    You state that Skorzeny family of German origin brought into Silesia under Piast dynasty.

    Were not people of East Prussia i.e. Pomorze, German-speaking at that time, having been assimilated by the Teutonic Knights? I have not been able to locate a town of similar name in the Pomorze or East Prussian area. Skorz?cin is quite a bit further south in Poland.

    Could be that they got their Polish appellation because their ancestor was in the leather making trade?

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