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A notorious former SS officer known as “Hitler’s commando” reportedly worked as an assassin for Israeli intelligence.
Lt-Col Otto Skorzeny, once described by British and American intelligence as “the most dangerous man in Europe”, was secretly recruited by Mossad after the Second World War, according to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.
In 1962 he assassinated a former Nazi rocket scientist, the newspaper claimed. Heinz Krug, who worked under Wernher von Braun on the programme to develop the V2 rockets that were used to devastating effect against London in the final stages of the war, disappeared without trace from Munich. He was working on a missile programme for the Egyptian government at the time.
It has long been suspected he was targeted by Israel, nervous of its then-enemy Egypt’s intentions.
Ha’aretz claims he was murdered by Skorzeny on Mossad’s orders.
Fearing for his life after several other scientists on the programme received threatening letters and calls from Israel, Krug hired the former SS officer as a bodyguard.
But he was unaware the man he had hired to protect him was a double agent working for the Israelis.
Photo: Walter Frentz
Skorzeny and Krug drove into the woods north of Munich with two bodyguards to talk undisturbed.
But once they arrived Skorzeny shot the scientist dead and he and his accomplices destroyed his body with acid, leaving no trace.
Skorzeny, personally decorated by Hitler with the highest rank of the Iron Cross, was a highly unlikely Mossad recruit.
He was most famous as part of the Nazi commando team that rescued thedeposed Italian leader Benito Mussolini from captivity in 1942.
But he was also involved in the operation to seize control of Hungary in 1944 when the Nazi puppet regime of Miklos Horthy was on the verge of suing for peace with Russia.
That operation resulted in tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews who had survived until then being sent to their deaths in the concentration camps.
At the end of the war Skorzeny was captured by US forces but dramatically escaped with the help of three former SS officers disguised in American uniforms.
Skorzeny claimed in his memoirs the US authorities had let him escape.
He fled to Spain where he was allowed to settle under the fascist Franco regime.
According to Ha’aretz, Mossad tracked him down but instead of assassinating him, the intelligence service decided to recruit him.
“I met and ran Skorzeny,” Rafael Eitan, the former Mossad officer who successfully abducted Adolf Eichmann and brought for him for trial in Israel, told Ha’aretz.
He refused to give any further details, but according to the newspaper Skorzeny told Mossad he was not interested in money.
Instead demanded his name be taken off the list of war criminals kept by Simon Wiesenthal, the Austrian Nazi hunter.
Even Mossad was unable to persuade Wiesenthal to delete Skorzeny’s name. So the intelligence service forged a letter from Wiesenthal “confirming” that his name had been removed.
Skorzeny lived the rest of his life in Spain, dying of cancer in 1975.
At his funeral former SS colleagues openly gave the Hitler salute and sang Nazi songs, unaware the man they were mourning was also an Israeli agent.