How did Hitler’s scar-faced SS soldier become an Irish farmer?

Otto Skorzeny pictured in his Nazi uniform, and working on his farm in County Kildare.
Otto Skorzeny pictured in his Nazi uniform, and working on his farm in County Kildare.

Credit to  Peter Crutchley, BBC

He was Hitler’s favourite Nazi commando, famously rescuing Mussolini from an Italian hilltop fortress, and was known as “the most dangerous man in Europe”.

After World War Two, he landed in Argentina and became a bodyguard for Eva Perón, with whom he was rumoured to have had an affair.

So when Otto Skorzeny arrived in Ireland in 1959, having bought a rural farmhouse in County Kildare, it caused much intrigue.

At 6ft 4in and 18 stone, known as ‘scarface’ due to a distinctive scar on his left cheek, Skorzeny was an easily recognisable figure as he popped into the local post office.

In Irish press reports at the time Skorzeny was portrayed as a glamorous cloak and dagger figure, as Dublin-based journalist Kim Bielenberg recalls.

_79974257_skorzeny_hitler624x351
Adolf Hitler shakes hands with his top commando, Otto Skorzeny.
‘Military prowess’

“Skorzeny was depicted as the Third Reich’s Scarlet Pimpernel. The tone in newspaper articles was one of admiration rather than repulsion.

“He seemed to be admired for his military prowess,” he said.

But concerns about why this pin-up boy of the Nazi party had come to the country led to questions in the Irish parliament. What was Skorzeny doing there? Did he intend to start Nazi activities in Ireland?

Born in Vienna in 1908, Otto Skorzeny joined the Austrian Nazi party in the early 1930s. At the outbreak of WW2 he was initially involved in fighting on the Eastern Front, taking part in the German invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

Otto Skorzeny with Benito Mussolini after the dictator's dramatic rescue in 1943.
Otto Skorzeny with Benito Mussolini after the dictator’s dramatic rescue in 1943.
‘Most dangerous man in Europe’

By April 1943, he had been made head of German special forces, in charge of a unit of elite SS commandos.

When Hitler’s ally Benito Mussolini was overthrown and imprisoned in Italy, Skorzeny was chosen by Hitler to lead the rescue mission.

Skorzeny and his men descended in gliders upon the remote Italian mountain-top hotel where Mussolini was held captive, overwhelming the Italian guards with the surprise attack and freeing the deposed dictator.

With this success, Skorzeny further enhanced his reputation with Hitler and was promoted to major.

He gained international renown when Mussolini was paraded in front of the media with Skorzeny at his side. Winston Churchill even described the mission as “one of great daring”.

He became the Nazis’ go-to man for such operations. Another occurred in 1944 when Skorzeny and his men captured the son of the Hungarian regent, Admiral Horthy. Securing Miklós Horthy Jr after a brief fire fight, Skorzeny’s team then rolled him up in a carpet and put him on a plane to Berlin.

On trial at Dachau.
On trial at Dachau.
War crimes trial

Skorzeny’s last major mission in WW2 was during the Ardennes offensive (more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge), in December 1944.

Skorzeny commanded Operation Greif, where English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms used disguised tanks to get behind Allied lines.

The plan caused confusion and panic among the Allies.

Rumours spread that Skorzeny’s men were planning to assassinate General Eisenhower, with the increased security leaving Eisenhower temporarily confined to his Versailles headquarters during Christmas week.

Ten days after Hitler took his own life in May 1945, Skorzeny surrendered to the Americans.

At Dachau in 1947 he stood trial for war crimes, but the case collapsed and Skorzeny was acquitted.

Skorzeny still had to answer charges from other countries and remained held as a prisoner of war. Typically, he escaped – with the help of former SS comrades.

He ended up in Madrid and set up an import/export agency. Although much of its business was legitimate, this was said to have been a front for Skorzeny’s involvement in organising the escape of wanted Nazis from Europe to South America.

Indisputably, Skorzeny made many trips to Argentina, where he met Argentinean President Juan Perón and even became a bodyguard to Perón’s wife Eva, reportedly foiling an attempt on her life.

Otto Skorzeny's presence in Ireland caused much intrigue in the Irish and English press.
Otto Skorzeny’s presence in Ireland caused much intrigue in the Irish and English press.
Feted in Ireland

Skorzeny travelled from Madrid to Ireland in June 1957, where he had been invited to Portmarnock Country Club hotel in County Dublin.

Kim Bielenberg reflects on the welcome Skorzeny received at the reception held in his honour.

“He was feted by the Dublin social glitterati, including a young politician, Charles Haughey, who was later to become Ireland’s most controversial prime minister.”

“According to the Evening Press account, ‘the ballroom was packed with representatives of various societies, professional men and, of course, several TDs [parliamentary representatives]’,” the journalist said.

Bielenberg believes this warm welcome may have encouraged him to buy Martinstown House, a 160 acre farm and mansion in the Curragh, County Kildare, in 1959 and assesses the impression Skorzeny created with the locals.

“He could be seen driving across the Curragh in a white Mercedes and would visit the local post office for groceries.

“Reggie Darling, a local historian, told me he remembered coming across Skorzeny on the Curragh.

“He recalled him as a big man who stood out because of the scar across his face (which was the result of a duelling contest as a student), but that he wasn’t particularly friendly and he didn’t really mix with local people,” he said.

‘Escape route’

Rumours and conjecture surrounded Skorzeny’s regular visits to Ireland over the coming years.

Documents at the Irish National Archives in Dublin reveal that he was granted temporary visas to stay in Ireland, on the undertaking that he would not enter Britain.

State records from 1958 mention his indignation at the continual refusal of the British authorities to allow him entry.

Newspaper reports in the 1960s alleged that Skorzeny had opened up an escape route for ex-Nazis in Spain and that his farm in Ireland was a place where fleeing Nazis could hide, but no evidence was found to substantiate this claim.

Skorzeny's residency issue was a matter of considerable debate Skorzeny's residency issue was a matter of considerable debate.
Skorzeny’s residency issue was a matter of considerable debate.
Questions in the Dáil

In the post-war period, Europe was still haunted by the spectre of Nazism and there were concerns that it would return as a political force.

With that in mind, the former Irish minister for health Noel Browne was very concerned about Skorzeny’s presence in Ireland and raised the matter in the Irish parliament (Dáil), in 1959.

The minister expressed concern that Skorzeny was engaging in “anti-Semitic activities”.

On another occasion Browne told the Dáil: “It is generally understood that this man plays some part (in neo-Nazi activities) and, if so, he should not be allowed to use Ireland for that purpose.”

There were a number of memos and letters involving Irish government departments, such as the Department of Justice and the Department of External Affairs, addressing concerns about Skorzeny’s presence in Ireland.

When interviewed, Skorzeny denied that he was involved in Nazi activities or politics.

He said that he would like to buy horses and that one day he wished to retire to Ireland. But that did not happen and he was never granted a permanent Irish visa.

He lived out his remaining years in Madrid, where he died of cancer in 1975.

Skorzeny never denounced Nazism and was buried by his former comrades with his coffin draped in the Nazi colours.

Skorzeny's visa application.
Skorzeny’s visa application.
Nazis in Ireland

In addition to Skorzeny, a number of high-profile Nazis, including Albert Folens and Helmut Clissman, came to Ireland in the aftermath of WW2.

In Hidden History: Ireland’s Nazis, a 2007 documentary by Irish state broadcaster RTÉ, presenter Cathal O’Shannon estimated that between 100 and 200 Nazis moved to Ireland.

O’Shannon, who was an Irish-born Royal Air Force (RAF) veteran, described how he felt that anti-British sentiment in Ireland led to Nazis receiving a warmer welcome than he did when he came home after the war.

Kim Bielenberg believes it is important to consider the context of the time.

“They must have felt reasonably welcome, and were probably left alone, or even feted, as Skorzeny was. I am not sure that the full horror of Nazi atrocities had sunk in in Ireland,” he said.

“There also may have been an attitude among certain nationalists that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Irish attitudes to Nazis changed from the 1970s on, as issues such as the Holocaust entered public consciousness.”

Hitler assassination attempt

For Bielenberg there is also a personal link to Skorzeny, as he explains.

“Skorzeny was involved in rounding up and torturing members of the German resistance after their attempt on Hitler’s life. One of these plotters was my own grandfather, Fritz von der Schulenburg”, he said.

“After he was arrested with other resistance leaders, Skorzeny arrived and pulled off their military badges. The plotters were then forced to listen to a speech given by Hitler on the radio, confirming that the fuhrer was indeed still alive and well.

“My grandfather was executed in Berlin in August 1944.”

“My mother came to live in Ireland and married the son of Peter and Christabel Bielenberg, associates of senior resistance figures. She lived in the same county as Skorzeny.

“I only discovered the house’s past and the Skorzeny link when I went to dinner there with my German family just after her death.”

0Shares

Update 1-12 : New Pictures Added to the Website

12

New Pictures have been added to the Website:

• For Sale:
• Replica Uniforms made for Reenacting or Collecting
• My Collection of Memorabilia
• German Heer (Army) Photos
• Eastern Front
• Battle of the Bulge
• Other World War 2 Battles/ Major Events
• Panther
• Self-Propelled Tank Destroyers
• Sd.Kfz. 3-4, 6-9, 11, 222, 231-232, 234, 252-254, and 261
• Battleship Bismarck
• World War 2 Propaganda
• World War 2 Field Marshalls
• Kriegsmarine Officers
• War Medals and Decorations
• Bundeswehr
• Fuhrer Adolf Hitler
• Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring
• Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler
• Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels
• Leading Figures of Nazi Germany
• Nazi German Organizations

New Pages have been added to the Website:

• Last Will and Testament of Adolf Hitler
• Entwicklung series Panzers
• Bastogne War Museum
• Then & Now Malmedy – Belgium – Ardennes – 1944 / 2014

Enjoy!

0Shares

Possible Nazi Atomic Underground Research Complex is Discovered in Austria

244BCE0D00000578-2888975-image-m-32_1419772385876
Vast: The facility, which covers an area of up to 75 acres, was discovered near the town of St Georgen an der Gusen, Austria last week. It is believed to be connected to Nazi weapons facility B8 Bergkristall (Above).
  • Facility was discovered near the town of St Georgen an der Gusen, Austria
  • Understood that it could be connected to another Nazi weapons facility
  • Experts believe that it was used to conduct research into atomic bombs
  • Supported by heightened radiation readings and witness testimonies  

A labyrinth of secret underground tunnels believed to have been used by the Nazis to develop a nuclear bomb has been uncovered.
The facility, which covers an area of up to 75 acres, was discovered near the town of St Georgen an der Gusen, Austria last week, it has been reported. Excavations began on the site after researchers detected heightened levels of radiation in the area – supporting claims that the Nazis were developing nuclear weapons.

B8 Bergkristall (a Nazi weapons facility)_00004.jpg
Military centre: The newly-discovered site is believed to be connected to the B8 Bergkristall underground factory, pictured above, where the Messerschmitt Me 262 – the first operational jet fighter – was built.

Documentary maker Andreas Sulzer, who is leading the excavations, told the Sunday Times that the site is ‘most likely the biggest secret weapons production facility of the Third Reich’.It is believed to be connected to the B8 Bergkristall underground factory, where the Messerschmitt Me 262 – the first operational jet fighter – was built. There are also suggestions that the complex is connected to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Slave labour from the camp was used to build both complexes – with as many as 320,000 inmates in the harsh underground conditions. But while the Bergkristall site was explored by Allied and Russia after the war, the Nazis appeared to have gone through greater lengths to conceal the newly-discovered tunnels.Its entrance was only uncovered after the excavation team, which includes historians and scientists, pieced together information in declassified intelligence documents and testimonies from witnesses.

Military centre: The newly-discovered site is believed to be connected to the B8 Bergkristall underground factory, pictured above, where the Messerschmitt Me 262 - the first operational jet fighter - was built.
Military centre: The newly-discovered site is believed to be connected to the B8 Bergkristall underground factory, pictured above, where the Messerschmitt Me 262 – the first operational jet fighter – was built.

The team is now in the process of removing layers of soil and concrete packed into the tunnels and heavy granite plates that were used to cover the entrance. Helmets belonging to SS troops and other Nazi relics are among the items that have been uncovered so far. The excavation was halted last week by police, who demanded the group produce a permit for conducting research on historic sites. But Mr Sulzer is confident that work will resume next month.

244BCA9600000578-2888975-image-a-19_1419768525799
Hidden: While the nearby Bergkristall site was explored by Allied and Russian forces after the war, the Nazis appeared to have gone through greater lengths to conceal the newly-discovered tunnels near St Georgen.

The probe was triggered by a research documentary by Mr Sulzer on Hitler’s quest to build an atomic bomb. In it, he referenced diary entries from a physicist called up to work for the Nazis. There is other evidence of scientists working for a secret project managed by SS General Hans Kammler. Kammler, who signed off the plans for the gas chambers and crematorium at Auschwitz, was in charge of Hitler’s missile programmes. Mr Sulzer searched archives in Germany, Moscow and America for evidence of the nuclear weapons-building project led by the SS.He discovered that on January 2, 1944, some 272 inmates of Mauthausen were taken from the camp to St Georgen to begin the construction of secret galleries.After the war, Austria spent some £10million in pouring concrete into most of the tunnels. But Sulzer and his backers believe they missed a secret section where the atomic research was conducted.

SS-General-Hans-Kammler
SS General Hans Kammler

The Soviets were stationed in St Georgen until 1955, and they took all of the files on the site back with them to Moscow. Experts are trying to discover if there is a link between St Georgen and sites in Germany proper where scientists were assembled during the Third Reich in a bid to match American efforts to build the ultimate weapon. In June 2011, atomic waste from Hitler’s secret nuclear programme was believed to have been found in an old mine near Hanover. More than 126,000 barrels of nuclear material lie rotting over 2,000 feet below ground in an old salt mine.
Rumour has it that the remains of nuclear scientists who worked on the Nazi programme are also there, their irradiated bodies burned in secret by S.S. men sworn to secrecy.

207Shares

Update 1-3 : New Pictures Added to the Website

10

New Pictures have been added to the Website:

  • Re-Enacting and Events
  • My Collection of Memorabilia
  • German Heer (Army) Photos
  • Specialized Soldiers of World War II
  • Battle of Crete
  • Eastern Front
  • Operation Barbarossa – Invasion of the Soviet Union
  • Battle of Normandy
  • Falaise Pocket
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • Battle of Berlin
  • Other World War 2 Battles/ Major Events
  • Panzer IV
  • Kfz. 251
  • Kfz. 3-4, 6-9, 11, 222, 231-232, 234, and 252-254
  • Weapons of WW2
  • Deutsches Panzermuseum – German Tank Museum
  • Bundeswehr Military History Museum
  • Other Museums, Artifacts, and Vehicles
  • General Alfred Jodl
  • Kreigsmarine (Navy)
  • Kriegsmarine Officers
  • War Medals and Decorations
  • Bundeswehr
  • Leopard 2 – Modern Main Battle Tank
  • Order of Battle – Waffen-SS Divisions

 

New Pages have been added to the Website:

  • Hummel – Self-propelled Artillery
  • German Vehicle Numbering

 Enjoy!

80Shares

Germans Bomb London

710px-Heinkel_He_111_during_the_Battle_of_Britain

Dec 29, 1940:

Germans Bomb London

On this day, German aircraft blanket incendiary bombs over London, setting both banks of the Thames ablaze and killing almost 3,600 British civilians.

The German targeting of the English capital had begun back in August, payback for British attacks on Berlin. In September, a horrendous firestorm broke out in London’s poorest districts as German aircraft dropped 337 tons of bombs on docks, tenements, and teeming streets. The “London Blitz” killed thousands of civilians.

December 29 saw the widespread destruction not just of civilians, but of great portions of London’s cultural relics. Historic buildings were severely damaged or destroyed as relentless bombing set 15,000 separate fires. Among the architectural treasures that proved casualties of the German assault were the Guildhall (the administrative center of the city, dating back to 1673 but also containing a 15th-century vault) and eight Christopher Wren churches. St. Paul’s Cathedral also caught fire but was saved from being burned to the ground by brave, tenacious firefighters. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the Chamber of the House of Commons were also hit but suffered less extensive damage.

Fighting the blazes was made all the more difficult by an unfortunate low tide, which made drawing water a problem.

99Shares

Largest Collection of Photos and Images of German History in the World with a focus on World War II.

%d bloggers like this: