Friday, 21 August 2015

One Mans Hero ...

One man's hero is another man's villain ..... take German soldier Otto Skorzeny. He was a hero to Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and apparently Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey (as well as many in Irish Society), while an enemy to many others, especially in the Russian East.

Skorzeny Was Famous For His Exploits Such As Saving Mussolini.

Skorzeny was one of those strange Nazis or Germans (Erwin Rommel was the other who springs to mind in this context, but there were undoubtedly others), who the allies were forced to respect for their military prowess. His exploits were never proven to have an ideological basis, and he was found not guilty of war crimes, in the only trial he faced at Dachau in 1947, (this was in relation to 'Operation Greif', where German troops led by Skorzeny, dressed as Americans during the battle of the bulge in late 1944). The case collapsed and Skorzeny was acquitted by the allied Military Tribunal, when he argued successfully, that it was a legitimate ruse de guerre (trick of war), and had also been used by British and American troops for operations behind enemy lines.

However, some other countries were not satisfied with this, and he remained held as a prisoner of war pending extradition to the Russian East, but in the manner of his previous exploits (such as the famous rescue of Mussolini), he escaped from prison in 1948 with the aid of his former SS Commando colleagues (three former SS officers dressed in US Military Police uniforms ~ that same trick again). Skorzeny fled from his holding prison, first to France, and then later to Spain, where he set up an import/export agency. Although its business was legitimate, it was also suspected as a front for Skorzeny's involvement in organising the escape of wanted Nazis from Europe to South America, for the secret organization named Die Spinne.

He continued to work in shady organisations including for the American financed the Gehlen Organization (before he went to Madrid), and later in Egypt for that organisation to act as Military Dictator Naguib's military advisor (he also later performed the same role for Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser). Leaving Egypt he acted as an advisor to President Juan Perón and as the bodyguard of Eva Perón in Argentina.

He Remained Famous After The War

He was then, like thousands of other former Nazis, declared entnazifiziert (de-nazified) in absentia in 1952 by a West German government arbitration board, which now meant he could travel from Spain into other Western countries (on a special Nansen passport for stateless persons), he visited Ireland in 1957 and 1958. So when he qualified for an Austrian passport, he purchased Martinstown House in Eire in1959, a 165-acre farm in County Kildare.

This after the warmth of a reception he had received at Portmarnock Country Club hotel in County Dublin in 1957. Amongst those present were the Dublin social glitterati, including a young politician named Charles Haughey, who was later to become Ireland's prime minister, as well as several other Teachta Dála (Parliamentary representatives).

Skorzeny was eventually refused a residency visa by the Irish government, and had to limit his stays to six weeks at a time, during which, he was monitored by Irish intelligence (G2). He rarely visited after 1963 and sold Martinstown House in 1971 ... if he had hung on until 1979, when Haughey got to power, he may have got that residency visa. He lived out his remaining years in Madrid, where he died of cancer in 1975 having never denounced Nazism, and he was buried by his former comrades with his coffin draped in the Nazi colours.

As I said, one man's hero is another man's villain .... Irish Republican sentiments in the late 1950's (and indeed until fairly recently) were very anti-british so Fianna Fáil TD's like Haughey, were happy to associate with Hitler's Commando leader ....

.... Politics is a funny business, where 'my enemies enemy is my friend' is a rule that often makes for very strange bed fellows.


  1. Proverbs 24:17 'Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles'. So a good background for respecting ones enemies.

    1. Very erudite and appropriate comment Al. I had never heard that one before. Thanks for posting it.

  2. How about Manfred von Richthofen aka The Red Baron He was buried with full military honours by the allies in the first world war.

    1. Yep. Good one. That's exactly the sort of example I was thinking of. Another might be Hannibal of Carthage to the Romans.

  3. The Romans used to 'respect' opponents such as Hannibal, but then ritually strangle them in the arena if they caught them. That's why so many committed suicide rather than be captured e.g. Boedicea and Hannibal

    1. Sort of 'Loved to death' you might say. Thanks for the comment.


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