The Strange Case of a Nazi Who Became an Israeli Hitman
Otto Skorzeny, one of the Mossad’s most valuable assets, was a former lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS and one of Adolf Hitler’s favorites.
On September 11, 1962, a German scientist vanished. The basic facts were simple:
Heinz Krug had been at his office, and he never came home.
The only other salient detail known to police in Munich was that Krug commuted to Cairo frequently. He was one of dozens of Nazi rocket experts who had been hired by Egypt to develop advanced weapons for that country.
HaBoker, a now defunct Israeli newspaper, surprisingly claimed to have the explanation: The Egyptians kidnapped Krug to prevent him from doing business with Israel.
But that somewhat clumsy leak was an attempt by Israel to divert investigators from digging too deeply into the case — not that they ever would have found the 49-year-old scientist.
We can now report — based on interviews with former Mossad officers and with Israelis who have access to the Mossad’s archived secrets from half a century ago — that Krug was murdered as part of an Israeli espionage plot to intimidate the German scientists working for Egypt.
Moreover, the most astounding revelation is the Mossad agent who fired the fatal gunshots: Otto Skorzeny, one of the Israeli spy agency’s most valuable assets, was a former lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS and one of Adolf Hitler’s personal favorites among the party’s commando leaders. The Führer, in fact, awarded Skorzeny the army’s most prestigious medal, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, for leading the rescue operation that plucked his friend Benito Mussolini out from the hands of his captors.
A fascinating story (if true!) – read the whole thing.
A colleague lent me Paul Fussell’s The Boys’ Crusade once. One anecdote that stayed with me: after D-Day, Skorzeny was tasked with training “Skorzeny’s men,” young Nazis recruited to mimic American soldiers and sow as much havoc as possible behind American lines. Eventually the Americans caught on, and would ask unfamiliar people trivia questions that only Americans would be likely to know, such as “Where does ‘Lil Abner’ live?” or “What’s the name of the Brooklyn baseball team?” (according to the Wikipedia article on Operation Greif, the American brigadier general Bruce Clarke was held at gunpoint for five hours after he said the Chicago Cubs were in the American League). Fussell goes on to say that:
there were more telling ways to catch Skorzeny’s men than facetious questioning. Every American soldier carried, in addition to the metal identity tags around his neck, a laminated card with his photo. These cards had one curious feature: an uncorrected typographical error. The top of the card read NOT A PASS. FOR INDENTIFICATION PURPOSES ONLY. Someone preparing the disguises of the Skorzeny spies couldn’t resist – some will say “in a German manner” – of pedantically correcting the spelling on the false cards issued to those masquerading as American officers.