Skorzeny - Dancing With The Devil

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Otto Skorzeny’s astounding and outrageous life is the subject of Hugo N. Gerstl’s new novel, SKORZENY–-DANCING WITH THE DEVIL. The Austrian-born Skorzeny, a six-foot-four ramrod with a jagged dueling scar, was a life-long Nazi, one who joined the SS and fought in France and Russia, then headed the commando unit which, in 1943, used gliders and paratroopers to free Benito Mussolini from his mountaintop prison. Skorzeny’s daring plan succeeded and Il Duce was spirited off to Rome, giving a huge propaganda boost to the Reich–-and earning a medal for himself.

Yugoslavia, Hungary and France were the next battlefields for Skorzeny and his panzer brigade, but the Allied armies were too powerful and the German war machine began to splutter. On May 20, 1945 Skorzeny surrendered voluntarily to the Americans. He was imprisoned for a year, then put on trial for war crimes, a rap he managed to beat with his sly, crafty self-defense.

Over the next five years Skorzeny helped hundreds of top-level Nazis to escape to South America. Then he became an arms dealer in Argentina (where he bedded Evita Peron) and was persuaded by Richard Gehlen, Hitler’s former intelligence chief, to relocate to Egypt and retool Nasser’s army. While in Cairo he befriended the youthful Yassar Arafat, who confessed that, as a boy, he’d frequently visited the Jewish quarter and attended religious services. “I wanted to study the Jewish mentality,” Arafat said. “How was this small remnant of a people, a third of whom had been killed in Hitler’s ovens, somehow able to occupy land-–our land–-and defeat the Arabs against such overwhelming odds?”

Skorzeny’s opinion of the Jewish people–-and of the State of Israel–-began to change. Even though he had previously sworn that he had never “directly killed a single Jew,” his conscience began to trouble him. “Why had I not raised so much as a weak protest against the Holocaust?” he asked himself. To assuage his guilt, he accepted an offer–-a shocking offer!-–to change sides and work for Israel’s secret service, the Mossad. Using the very skills that had impressed his Nazi overlords, he went undercover in Egypt and compiled a list of the German scientists who were working on a missile program aimed at destroying Israel. Skorzeny even mailed bombs to five Egyptian scientists at the missile site, killing them all.

It’s no wonder why Otto Skorzeny was once called “the most dangerous man in Europe”-–or why Hugo N. Gerstl has chosen to write a book about him. As the author said, “Skorzeny has lived more lives than a dozen James Bonds.”

(Dekel Publishing House, visit