SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny and his Paladin Group are legends of the 20th century. A former special operations officer of the SS, Otto Skorzeny was involved in many adventures including the liberation of Mussonlini, described as “the Bond villain that never was”.
The British called him the most dangerous man in Europe – the man with the fearsome scar earned as an accomplished master of fencing. Both the man and his unit are used as inspiration in the creation of a fiction series set in the conflicts of the 20th century. Like a character from a book by Ian Flemming and a legend even in his own lifetime, Skorzeny’s exploits were larger than life, daring, extreme and in mostly successful, leading to a reputation like no other becoming a hero of his own adventure story.
The Wolf Brigade is the name in The Elements given to a group of ex-SS – men who had served under the SS-leader Dieter ‘Valentian’ Leutner, commander of the brigade on the Eastern Front – who later commanded the SD in Copenhagen during the closing years of the Second World War. The brigade takes its inspiration from the Paladin Group – a far-right organization founded in 1970 in Spain by former SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny.
While the Brigade is formed of loosely-associated members of the SS Nordland
regiments composes of Scandinavians who fought during the war, the Paladin Group operated as a so-called ‘security consultancy group’ – described as a “small international squad of commandos” – the military arm of the anti-Communist struggle during the Cold War.
Here lie the differences:
The Wolf Brigade is involved in post-war black operations, some members used for black ops for the intelligence community – all of them ex-SS. The Brigade was part of the Viking division serving on the Eastern front, later to be part of a larger military cell initiative run under the auspices of the ‘Stay Behind’ NATO early cold-war armies set up in the event of a Communist expansion into the West.
The Paladin Group on the other hand, was on the outside a legitimate security consultancy. However, the group’s real purpose was to recruit and operate mercenaries for right-wing regimes and dictatorships external top political worldwide, as well as serve the role of political subversion in Europe.
Paladin Group Background
The Paladin Group was created in 1970 in the Albufereta neighborhood of Alicante, Spain, by Otto Skorzeny and former US Colonel James Sanders
. The Paladin Group operated out of Zurich, Switzerland, recruiting many former SS members, as well as from the rank and file of various right-wing and nationalist organizations, including the French Nationalist OAS, the SAC, and from the French Foreign Legion. It was envisioned by Skorzeny as:
“an international directorship of strategic assault personnel [that would] straddle the watershed between paramilitary operations carried out by troops in uniforms and the political warfare which is conducted by civilian agents”.
A strategic paramiliitary organisation operating for the purposes of special operations and political subversion – working for anyone who paid their fee. The outfit was run by Dr. Gerhard Hartmut von Schubert, formerly of Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry, who had trained security personnel in Argentina and Egypt after the war. Under his guidance, Paladin provided support to the PFLP – EO led by Wadie Haddad. The Group’s other clients included the South African Bureau of State Security and Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. They also worked for the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and the Spanish Dirección General de Seguridad, who recruited some Paladin operatives to wage clandestine war against Basque separatists. The Group is also reputed to have provided personnel for José López Rega’s notorious Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance death squad.
The Paladin Group was also allegedly allied with a number of other right-wing governments, including Salazar’s Portugal, and some of the Italian neo-fascists involved in the strategy of tension attacks of the 1970s and 80s. Von Schubert became the head of the Paladin Group after Otto Skorzeny’s death in 1975.
Otto Skorzeny – declared the most dangerous man in Europe
Otto Skorzeny was everything a true villain of the cold war era should be. Did I say Cold War era? Make it the James Bond era.
A giant of a man at a staggering 6’4”, Otto Skorzeny was Hitler’s favourite commando who was then elite soldier. After fighting on the Eastern Front, accompanied the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity before his countrymen could hand Il Duce over to the Allies. And he did all of this from a glider on a mountaintop. And that was just the start of an infamous if not outright illustrious career, all of which makes him read like a story that is simply larger than life – another example that real life outdoes fiction.
To cap it all Otto Skorzeny was also the leader of Operation Greif of the Battle of the Bulge, in which German soldiers were to infiltrate through enemy lines, using their opponents’ language, uniforms, and customs. At the end of the war, Skorzeny was involved with the Werwolf guerrilla movement that fought against the Allied occupation of Germany, the diehard SS man who became a legend.
Otto Skorzeny became one of the members of the ODESSA
network after the war, helping to smuggle Nazi war criminals out of Allied Europe to Spain, South America and other friendly destinations to avoid prosecution for war crimes. Skorzeny himself resided after the war in Spain, protected by Franco.