How SS Commando Otto ‘Scarface’ Skorzeny Became an Assassin for Israel After WW2

Skorzeny in Pomerania visiting the 500th SS Parachute Battalion, February 1945. Bundesarchiv - CC BY-SA 3.0

German scientist Heinz Krug vanished on September 11, 1962. Krug was at his office, and then he was gone without ever returning home.

The only other detail known to the Munich police was that Krug often went to Cairo. Like dozens of other Nazi rocket scientists, he had been hired by Egypt to help them develop advanced weapons.

The Israeli newspaper HaBoker (now defunct) claimed that the Egyptians had kidnapped Heinz to keep him from doing business with Israel. The “leak” was an attempt by the Israeli government to keep investigators from looking too closely at the case. Although the 49-year-old scientist wasn’t going to be found either way.

Based on interviews with former Mossad officers and with Israelis who have access to Mossad archives from the last 50 years, it is now known that Krug was murdered by Israel to intimidate German scientists working for Egypt, Forward News reported.

Skorzeny as commander of the SS unit "Friedenthal". Photo Credit.

Skorzeny as commander of the SS unit “Friedenthal”. Photo Credit.

More amazing is the discovery of who committed the murder. Otto Skorzeny turned out to be one of the Mossad’s most valuable agents. He was also a former lieutenant colonel in the Nazis’ Waffen-SS, one of Hitler’s favorite among their commando leaders. The Führer gave Skorzeny the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, the most prestigious medal in the German army, for leading the operation that saved Benito Mussolini from his captors in 1943.

By 1962, Skorzeny was working for the Mossad, which translates from Hebrew to “The Institute for Intelligence and Special Missions.”

One of the Mossad’s top priorities had been stopping German scientists from working on Egypt’s rocket program. Krug and other German scientists had received threatening messages for several months before his death. In Germany, they received phone calls in the middle of the night to quit the Egyptian program. In Egypt, some received letter bombs.

Krug was near the top of the Mossad’s list of targets. During World War II, Krug was a member of a team of superstar scientists at Peenemünde, a test range on the Baltic Sea coast. The top German scientists worked there under Wernher von Braun. There they engineered the rockets used in the Baby Blitz that had a massive impact on England in the second half of 1944. They had larger goals of building rockets with longer range, better accuracy, and more power.

Skorzeny with the liberated Mussolini, 12 September 1943. Photo Credit.

Skorzeny with the liberated Mussolini, 12 September 1943. Photo Credit.

According to the Mossad files, von Braun invited Krug and other scientists to join him in America 10 years after the end of the war. Von Braun, nearly cleared of charges from the war, was leading a missile development program in the U.S. He became one of the fathers of the NASA space program. Krug, instead, chose a more lucrative option: working in Egypt for the German professor Wolfgang Pilz with other scientists from Peenemünde. There, they set up a secret missile program.

In Israel’s opinion, Krug must have known that Israel would be the target for the Egyptians’ new missiles. As a committed Nazi, they believed he would take the opportunity to continue working toward the Final Solution.

The phone calls and notes were driving Krug crazy. He and his coworkers knew that they were coming from the Israelis. In 1960, Israeli agents kidnapped Adolf Eichmann, one of the Holocaust’s chief administrators, in Argentina. They managed to smuggle him to Jerusalem, where he was tried and executed.

Krug knew the Israelis were coming for him, too. That is why he turned to Skorzeny, the Nazi hero. The one man able to save him.

On the day he vanished, sources say that Krug left work to meet with Skorzeny.

Skorzeny (2nd from left), 3 October 1943. Photo Credit.

Skorzeny (2nd from left), 3 October 1943. Photo Credit.

Skorzeny was 54 years old at the time. By this point, he was a legend. He was a dashing, innovative military man. He grew up in Austria. The trademark scar on the left side of his face came from an over-zealous fencing match as a youth. He rose through the ranks to lieutenant colonel in the Waffen-SS. Because of his success as a guerilla commander, Hitler recognized him as a man who would go above and beyond, stopping at nothing to complete his mission.

His exploits made him an inspiration to Germans and gained him the grudging respect of Germany’s enemies. He was labeled by American and British intelligence as the “most dangerous man in Europe.”

Krug drove Skorzeny in his white Mercedes north out of Munich. Skorzeny said that he had arranged for three bodyguards, who were following behind. They would stop in the forest at a safe location to chat. When they arrived there, Krug was executed – without a trial, without even a formal indictment. The executioner was Germany’s hero. Israel had managed to turn him into a secret agent for the Jewish state.

After Krug was shot, the three Israelis poured acid on his body. After waiting for the acid to work, they buried the remains in a previously dug hole. They covered the grave with lime to keep search dogs and wild creatures from finding the remains.

Skorzeny (left) and Adrian von Fölkersam (right) in Budapest, 16 October 1944. Photo Credit.

Skorzeny (left) and Adrian von Fölkersam (right) in Budapest, 16 October 1944. Photo Credit.

The trio that arranged for this execution was led by future Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. At the time, he was the head of Mossad’s special operations unit. One of the others was Zvi “Peter” Malkin, who had tackled Eichmann in Argentina and later would become a painter. Supervising was Yosef “Joe” Raanan, the agency’s senior officer in Germany. All three had lost many relatives to the Holocaust.

The Israelis used Skorzeny to get as close as possible to the Nazis helping Egypt begin a new Holocaust.

The Mossad followed no rules and knew no limits in its efforts to protect Israel and the Jewish people. Its spies went around the legal systems of many countries to execute enemies of Israel, including Palestinian terrorists, Iranian scientists and even a Canadian arms dealer named Gerald Bull, who worked for Saddam Hussein until he was shot to death in Brussels in 1990.

Mossad agents once killed a Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, thinking that he was the leader of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by the Black September group. Ahmed Bouchikhi was gunned down as he left a movie theater in 1973 with his pregnant wife. She eventually received compensation from the Israeli government, which did not admit fault. That mission delayed further assassinations, but it didn’t stop them completely.

To get to the enemies of Israel, the Mossad worked with unexpected partners. For short-term results, the Israelis were willing to work with anyone.

Reuven Shiloah - first director of the "Mossad".

Reuven Shiloah – first director of the “Mossad.”

But what made Skorzeny want to work with the Mossad?

Born in Vienna in June of 1908 to a middle-class family proud of its military service for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Skorzeny was fearless and bold and able to put together deceptive tales that fooled many people, even at a young age. These were the qualities that the Mossad desired.

He joined the Nazi party in 1931 when he was 23. He was a huge supporter of Hitler. After World War II broke out, Skorzeny left his construction firm and volunteered for the Leibstandarte SS Panzer Division that served as Hitler’s personal bodyguard.

In his memoirs written after the war, Skorzeny talks about his years in the SS as if they were nearly bloodless travels through Europe. His travels couldn’t have been as innocent as he tries to make them seem. He was involved in the battles in Russia and Poland and the Israelis believed he was involved in the extermination of the Jews. The Waffen-SS was not part of the Wehrmacht, or regular army; it was the military force of the Nazi party and its genocidal plans.

His most famous mission occurred in September 1943. He led commandos in engineless gliders to land at an Italian mountain resort. There, they rescued Hitler’s friend, Benito Mussolini, who had been kidnapped, and smuggled him out of the country.


Mossad seal.

This operation earned Skorzeny the promotion to lieutenant colonel, operational control of Hitler’s SS forces, several hours of face-to-face conversation with the Führer, and the Knight’s Cross. But he wasn’t done yet.

In September 1944, Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Regent of Hungary and an ally of Germany, was close to surrendering to the Russians. Skorzeny led a team of Special Forces into Budapest to kidnap Horthy and replace his government with the hardline Fascist Arrow Cross regime. That regime then killed or deported tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews in the short months before the war’s end.

Also in 1944, Skorzeny handpicked 150 soldiers, including some who spoke English, dressed them in stolen U.S. uniforms, and put them in captured American tanks. They then attacked the Allies from behind after at the battle of the bulge.