Otto Skorzeny Went From One Of Hitler's Most Trusted Commanders To Living On A Farm In Ireland

Nazi Otto Skorzeny was once described as "the most dangerous man in Europe" (per the BBC). The Jewish Virtual Library writes that under the Third Reich during World War II, he was a Waffen SS commander and one of Adolf Hitler's favorite henchmen. Skorzeny, an Austrian native, first joined the Nazi party in 1930 (per Jewish Virtual Library). He quickly climbed the ranks and earned the nickname "Scarface" due to his sizable facial scar (via BBC). In 1943, Hitler personally asked Skorzeny to rescue a captive, Benito Mussolini, from a hotel located in Italy's Abruzzi Apennines. The mission transpired without a hitch, and Skorzeny was promoted to lieutenant colonel and received a Knight's Cross (via Jewish Virtual Library).

Britannica adds that in 1944, Skorzeny captured Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy. That same year, he sent English-speaking Germans in American uniforms to infiltrate Allied-held territory. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Skorzeny was arrested by American troops in May 1945. While many of his fellow Nazis faced justice at the Dachau Trials, this was not the case for Skorzeny. The Daily Mail reports that Skorzeny was tried at Dachau for misusing American uniforms. The BBC states that he was later acquitted. Despite this, Skorzeny remained incarcerated at the Darmstadt prison camp until he escaped in 1948. In the years after the war, Skorzeny lived in various places around the world, including Spain and Ireland.

Otto Skorzeny's life as a free man

Upon his escape from prison, the Daily Mail claims that Otto Skorzeny ended up in Madrid, Spain. There, he and other Nazis remained protected under Fascist leader Francisco Franco. The BBC writes that during this time, Skorzeny may have been helping fellow Nazis flee to South America using his import-export business as a guise. By 1952, Skorzeny was no longer a wanted man. He later became involved with the Egyptian military before spending time in Argentina, where he worked as a bodyguard for first lady Eva Perón (via BBC). In 1957, Skorzeny traveled from Madrid to Dublin, Ireland, to attend a reception at the Portmarnock Country Club hotel.

Despite Skorzeny's nefarious past, the BBC reports that he was treated as a guest of honor and as a celebrity. Journalist Kim Bielenberg states, "According to the Evening Press account, 'the ballroom was packed with representatives of various societies, professional men and, of course, several TDs [parliamentary representatives].'" Bielenberg believes this engagement may have led Skorzeny to purchase a property in Ireland. The Daily Mail notes that in 1959, he acquired a 160-acre farm in the Curragh, County Kildare, known as the Martinstown House. The Irish Times states that he also applied to become a permanent resident in the country.

He was denied a permanent visa in Ireland

Per the BBC, Otto Skorzeny's warm welcome in Ireland was short-lived. Local historian Reggie Darling reportedly stated that he "wasn't particularly friendly and he didn't really mix with local people." Although he was allowed to stay in Ireland several times, the government became wary of Skorzeny permanently living in their country. According to The Irish Times, there were rumors that he was an arms dealer. Moreover, there was talk that Skorzeny had perhaps purchased a home in Ireland to help hide fellow Nazis that were still on the run (per BBC). The Dáil, Ireland's parliament, had fears that Skorzeny was still involved in "anti-Semitic activities" (via BBC).

When Skorzeny was questioned about his interest in Ireland, the BBC writes that he explained that he wanted to buy horses and retire. In the end, he was denied permanent residence (via The Irish Times). The notes that Skorzeny may have purchased the property in the first place to hide from Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency.

The Jewish Virtual Library reports that Skorzeny believed he was a target. However, Mossad opted to recruit Skorzeny instead. In 1962, he became an assassin for the agency. He was ordered to kill German scientists that were working for Egypt and posed a potential threat to Israel. The reports that he stopped visiting Ireland in 1963 and sold Martinstown House in 1971. Otto Skorzeny died of cancer in 1975 (via BBC). Martinstown House still stands today.