Nazi Party

Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favorite commando

Born in Austria, Otto Skorzeny was brought up in a middle-class Viennese family. Foreign languages were one of his passions, and he spoke perfect French and passable English, besides his native German. Another passion of young Skorzeny was fencing. He was known as an excellent fencer and participated in 15 duels. One of them left him with a big scar on his cheek, something he was very proud of.

The political turmoil of the 1930s was an excellent opportunity for a young and charismatic man like Skorzeny. He joined the Nazi Party and was involved in Anschluss of Austria. He saved the life of Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas when a group of Nazis tried to kill him.

After the invasion of Poland, Skorzeny tried to join Luftwaffe, but was rejected because he was too tall (1.92 m, 6 ft 4 in) and too old (31 years) for pilot training. Instead, he joined the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler as an officer-cadet. LSSAH was an SS regiment tasked with the protection of Adolph Hitler.

Scorzeny was part of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. He was wounded in 1942 and after recovering was given a staff position in Berlin. He used the time to develop his idea of commando warfare deep behind the enemy lines and trying to sell the concept to German High Command. The plan worked and he was given the command of a newly created special forces unit Waffen Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal.

Their first mission came soon after. Operation François was aimed at sabotaging Allied supply routes to Soviets through Iran by using Qashqai people, who were in conflict with the Tehran government. Scokzeny sent his men on a parachute insertion in Iranian mountains, but the support of the native population was deemed insufficient, and the operation was canceled.

Skorzeny redeemed himself and his unit in Operation Eiche (“Oak”). The raid on the Gran Sasso, as it was also known, was an operation to rescue Benito Mussolini from his imprisonment, after his fall from power in Italy. It was a complete success and earned Skorzeny Hitler’s admiration.

After that, he was tasked with Operation Long Jump, a plan to assassinate Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt during the Tehran conference. The operation was discovered by the Soviets and Skorzeny was forced to abort.

His next mission was the attempted capture of Yugoslav partisan leader, Josip Broz Tito. His location near the town of Drvar was discovered, and Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal (renamed to SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502) was to parachute in the area and kill or capture him. During the preparation for the mission, Skorzeny visited Zagreb and discovered that the mission was compromised by Germany’s Croat allies. He proposed the operation to be canceled, but he was overruled. Just like he predicted, the operation was a disaster and a majority of German forces involved were destroyed. Tito easily escaped Drvar and continued his struggle against Germans.

In 1944, rumors that Mikos Horty, Hungarian dictator was secretly negotiating with the Allies and was making plans to sign a separate peace reached Berlin and Hitler sent Skorzeny to Operation Panzerfaust. Its aim was to kidnap Hungarian leader’s son, Mikos Norty Jr. and blackmail him into stepping down from his position in favor of Ferenc Szálasi, who was loyal to Hitler. The success of this operation led to Skorzeny being promoted to Obersturmbannführer (equivalent to lieutenant colonel).

As a part of the German offensive in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge, Otto Skorzeny devised Operation Greiff, a plan to infiltrate a group of commandos and capture two crucial bridges essential for the success of German assault. The attack failed and many of his commandos were caught and shot for breaching the laws of war by using enemy uniforms. Skorzeny spent the rest of the was commanding troops as acting General-Major. He was captured in May 1945 by the Americans.

It took almost two years before Skorzeny was brought to trial. He was acquitted of charges but remained in custody until 1948, when he escaped and after hiding in Bavaria for 18 months fled to Spain. In 1952 he started working as an advisor for the Egyptian army, helping to train them for war with Israel. Among others, he trained Yasser Arafat, the future Palestinian leader.

Skorzeny spent some time in Argentina, advising Juan Perón and acting as a bodyguard for his wife, Evita Peron. In 1970 he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a surgery that left him paralyzed from the waist down. In just six months, he regained the control of his legs and started walking again. Otto Skorzeny died from lung cancer in 1975.


Mussolini’s Favorite Torture: Castor Oil

Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime was often depicted as inept and ridiculed for its comic appearances. The illusions of the new Roman Empire and Mussolini’s ambition of creating a state that would encircle the Mediterranean, calling it Mare Nostrum, were shattered when poorly equipped and led Italian army started suffering defeat after defeat and was forced to call its German allies to help. These military humiliations certainly didn’t help Mussolini’s image in history books.

While it is true that compared to Hitler and the Nazi Party Mussolini and his cronies look like a watered down version of Nazism, that doesn’t mean they were harmless, especially to people opposing their politics. Murders and torture were everyday occurrences in Mussolini’s Italy, and there was nothing comical about that. Mussolini did have some peculiar way of torturing his opponents, though.

There was a saying stating that Mussolini’s power was reinforced by “the bludgeon and castor oil.” The bludgeon is self-explanatory, but the castor oil seems a bit confusing. Castor oil was used as cover-all medicine for any kinds of stomach troubles in Italy, due to it being a mild laxative. For instance, if some poor kid decided he wanted to skip school because his tummy hurts, he or she would be force-fed a tablespoon of it and would spend the afternoon on the toilet contemplating the value of education. Almost every ailment of the digestive tract was treated with a tablespoon of castor oil. It also doubled as a form of punishment for disobeying children and mentally-ill patients. Mussolini’s thugs had a brilliant idea to feed a whole bottle of castor oil to their victims and watch as diarrhea strikes.

The torture was very humiliating, and that was its main goal. It allowed the torturers to ridicule their victim and show them that they have full control of their body. However, lasting diarrhea could easily dehydrate the victims, and there were instances of their death. The fact that castor oil was often administered together with the bludgeon complicated their recovery from dehydration and reduced their chances of survival at the hands of the fascists.

Even today, the castor oil is used in Italian political discourse. It is often used as a means to ridicule politicians, especially right-wing ones. The phrase “Usare l’olio di ricino,” (“to use castor oil”) means to force someone to do something against their will, just like “usare il manganello” (“to use the bludgeon”). It took decades to purge the myth of castor oil usefulness from minds of Italians.


Amon Leopold Goeth, The Butcher of Płaszów

Born in Vienna in an affluent family, Amon Goeth was a son of a successful publisher Amon Franz Göth who owned Verlagsanstalt Amon Franz Göth (Amon Franz Göth Publishing House). Young Amon, or Mony as his friends used to call him, became involved with right-wing policies during his student years in Waidhofen an der Thaya, where he studied agriculture, before abandoning his studies and becoming a member of Austrian Nazi Party. Shortly after, he joined two paramilitary organizations, Styrian Home Protection Organization in Vienna and Heimwehr (Home Guard). These memberships paved Goeth’s wat to the real thing, membership in Nazi Party and the SS.

His activities on preparing the unification of Germany and Austria by violent means earned him a status of a fugitive, and he was forced to flee to Germany when he was caught smuggling explosives. He set up a camp in Munich and continued to supply Nazi members in Austria with weapons and equipment, running errands on behalf of the SS. Young Goeth quickly rose through ranks, and despite a short pause in his activities due to a spat he had with his commanding officer in the SS, he was considered an Alter Kampfer, A Nazi old guard, a designation for their oldest members.

His real career started in 1941 when he was promoted to Einsatzführer and set to work on isolating and relocating the Jewish population in Western Poland. He played a big role in setting up infamous Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka death camps, as an aide to SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globočnik.

In 1943, Amon Goeth was assigned to oversee the construction of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, which he managed to build in just one month, using forced labor. After an interview with Heinrich Himmler, he was appointed at a position of a commander of the new camp, and he was tasked with the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto. Thousands of Jews not fit for work were killed on the streets of the city, while the remaining ones were transferred to Płaszów camp. Goethe himself killed at least 60 women and children. He was also tasked with the liquidation of Szebnie concentration camp and Bochnia Ghetto.

Goeth was mostly known to Płaszów inmates by the random killings he performed almost daily on his routine walks through the camp. When informed that some 10,000 Hungarian Jews are to be transferred to Płaszów, he created space for them by sending all children to Auschwitz to be killed.

In 1944, Płaszów was operating at peak efficiency, with 636 guards overseeing some 25,000 prisoners. Goeth’s cruelty was becoming legendary. He used to snipe prisoners form his villa’s window overlooking the camp if he thought they moved too slowly. He personally shot a cook because his soup was too hot. All these scenes were depicted in Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, Schindler’s List.

In September 1944, Goeth was dismissed from his post and charged with theft of Jewish possessions, that according to the Nazi laws belonged to the state. As Germany collapsed on all fronts, the charges were dropped, and instead of prison, he was sent to a mental institution in Bad Tölz. This is where American forces arrested him in 1945. He was extradited to Poland and sentenced to death for his crimes. Amon Goeth was hanged on September 13th, 1956 in Krakow.


The death of Hermann Fegelein, Eva Braun’s brother-in-law

Born on October 30th, 1906, in Ansbach, Hermann Fegelein spent his childhood working in his father’s riding school. He became an excellent equestrian, something that allowed him to rise quickly through the ranks of the Nazi Party.

He joined the party in 1930 and became a member of the SS in 1933. His father’s Reitinstitut Fegelein (Riding Institute Fegelein) became the meeting place for the local SS and young Fegelein was appointed the leader of SS-Reitersturm, SS cavalry unit that was based at the Institute.

He was heavily involved in the preparation of the equestrian disciplines of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He even tried to compete but never made it past the qualifying round.

When the war started, Fegelein found himself at the head of SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death’s-Head Horse Regiment), with the rank of SS-Standartenführer (SS equivalent of colonel). His unit was involved in several massacres in Poland committed against civilians. After Poland, Fegelein saw action in Belgium and France.


In June 1941, Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Soviet Union, started and Fegelein was again in charge of the SS cavalry regiment. He and his units were the forerunners of the Holocaust and in charge of exterminating entire Jewish communities in Byelorussia. His promotions were often marred with accusations of improper behavior and even theft of military supplies. Himmler himself had to intervene on several occasions to stop investigations that threatened to send Fegelein to prison or even in front of the firing squad.

In 1943, Hermann Fegelein was severely wounded in action while commanding the SS cavalry division. He decided that he had enough of the front and accepted a position in the SS headquarters in Berlin. Himmler also secured him the position of the SS representative in Hitler’s entourage. It was there that he came in contact with Gretl Braun, Eva Braun’s sister. Both Hitler and Eva were eager to find a husband for Gretl, whose promiscuous behavior was becoming damaging to the Nazi leader. Sensing another opportunity, Fegelein volunteered, disregarding the fact that Gretl was pregnant with another man’s baby at the moment of their wedding in June 1944, which was witnessed by Hitler, Himmler, and Martin Borman, Hitler’s powerful secretary.

Unfortunately for Hermann Fegelein, he didn’t get to enjoy his new position too long, as Third Reich was collapsing. Soon, Soviet troops were at the Berlin’s gates and he quickly realized that if he wanted to survive the war, he needed to leave the city. He told his friends he had no desire of joining the suicide pact, referring to Hitler and Eva’s promise to kill each other rather than fall into the hands of the Soviets. His attempt to escape to Sweden, laden with cash and gold, was discovered by his former comrades from the SS and he was brought back to enraged Hitler, who ordered a military tribunal to be convened. The trial was swift and Hermann Fegelein was taken outside the Hitler’s bunker and shot in the head.


Ernst Rohm – One Of The Closest Friends Of Hitler

A hero of the World War One, Ernst Rohm was a highly decorated soldier who was wounded twice during his years in the trenches. He was awarded Iron Cross First Class and ended the war as a captain. His first wound left him a large scar on his face, something he was extremely proud of.

Just before the war ended, Rohm contracted Spanish Influenza, a virus that killed millions around the globe. Remarkably, against all odds, Rohm survived the illness. After the war, he remained in German Army and helped extinguish the Munich Soviet Republic as well as several other communist uprisings.

In 1919, he joined German Workers’ Party, which would become National Socialist German Workers Party or the Nazi Party the following year. It was then he met Adolph Hitler and the two became very close friends and political allies. On November 9th, 1923, Hitler and Rohm were among the main organizers of the Beer Hall Putsch, which failed and they were arrested, together with other conspiracy leaders. Rohm only got a suspended sentence, while Hitler spent nine months in prison.

In 1925, they had a falling out over the future shape of Rohm’s infamous SA or Sturmabteilung. Rohm, angered by his friend, resigned all his party and public positions and spent the next three years living in seclusion. Tired of waiting for the revolution to come, he left Germany and went to South America. He took a position of an adviser in the Bolivian Army in 1928.

In 1930, Hitler called Ernst back to Germany, in preparation for his ascent to power. Rohm accepted and became SA’s new chief of staff, a position he used to reorganize the organization and fill it with his close friends. His relationship with Hitler was mended, and they continued to be close friends, with Rohm being the only person in Germany allowed to call the leader Adolph or even Adi, instead of Mein Fuhrer.

Even after 1933 and Hitler’s appointment as the Reich Chancellor, Rohm continued to push for National Socialist revolution. Soon, he clashed with Hitler again, but this time he had a full might of SA behind him. Among the senior Nazi party leadership, he was considered a grave threat and Hitler was forced to deal with him. Even the German president Hindenburg was pressuring him to resolve “the Rohm situation.”

In the series of events that would later become known as The Night of the Long Knives, on June 30th, 1934, Hitler used SS (until then a detachment of SA), German police and even some army units to eliminate the entire SA leadership and kill a majority of its senior leaders. Rohm was arrested and placed in prison. Hitler was reluctant to order his death, but finally caved in under pressure and offered him a suicide. Rohm refused and was killed in his cell by Theodor Eicke and Michael Lippert. Lippert was trialed for his part in Rohm assassination in 1957 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.