Otto Skorzeny at his arrest record after being taken prisoner by the Allies in 1945. | Ultima Hora


He was 1.92 metres tall and had a huge scar running down the left side of his face, from his ear to his lip. With such a calling card, it is not surprising that in Alcudia, in 1965, the Nazi Otto Skorzeny did not exactly go unnoticed. At the time, very few people knew that the Austrian giant had been Hitler's favourite colonel for special operations during the Second World War.

Otto Skorzeny with Mussolini after freeing him in 1943 in the Gran Sasso.

Otto Skorzeny was born in Vienna in 1908, and his portentous physique reinforced his quarrelsome character. During his university years, a fencing bout left him with a scarred face and a nickname that would stay with him for the rest of his life: Scarface. Seduced by National Socialism, in the early stages of the war he stood out as an expert in special operations and rose through the ranks of the SS until 1943, when his great deed came. Mussolini, the Italian dictator allied with Hitler, had been arrested by his compatriots and was being held in a hotel in the Gran Sasso mountains in the Apennines. The Führer desperately needed his transalpine partner at a critical moment in the war when the Allies were cornering the German armies. And he turned to his favourite to free the Duce. He commissioned Otto Skorzeny to free him in an almost impossible mission and Caracortada, with a commando of General Student's paratroopers and gliders, stormed the compound where Mussolini was being held. The chances of success were slim, but the Italians were disastrous as soldiers, so Otto Skorzeny pulled off his most legendary feat and safely carried off the Italian dictator, who is pictured in photographs of the time with the giant still looking frightened. The shock of the Allies was such that Churchill then dubbed him "the most dangerous man in Europe".

Photo of the liberation of Mussolini, with the German paratroopers and Skorzeny.

This was not the SS colonel's only exploit. In 1944, at the height of German military decay, Hitler tasked him with kidnapping Josip Tito, the elusive Yugoslav communist whose partisans were a nightmare for the Germans. Outnumbered, he almost succeeded. Shortly afterwards, the Führer confessed to him that Marshal Horthy, regent of Hungary, intended to surrender to the Soviets, who were at the gates of Budapest. Skorzeny again managed to kidnap the leader's son and dissuade his father from breaking with the Axis.

Scarface's last mission came shortly before Christmas 1944, in the Ardennes counteroffensive. It was the last German bullet before Hitler's armies fell back to Berlin. Skorzeny infiltrated behind enemy lines, dressed as an American, and with his commandos spread panic. In May 1945, as the war drew to a close, he was captured by the US, but was acquitted of war crimes. The Czechs also wanted to try him, so he decided to flee Germany and took refuge in Europe. He arrived in Madrid in 1950, under the protection of Franco's dictatorship. He became a successful businessman and arms dealer, and the Spanish regime let him amass a fortune. Some point to him as the head of the Odessa organisation in Spain, the SS group that helped Mengele or Eichman escape. He was close to Klaus Barbie, the head of the Gestapo in France, and his contacts were prodigious, so Egyptian President Nasser recruited him to train his spies. The Americans and Jews understood that he was a key player in the Cold War, and the CIA and Mossad never lost track of him. He even collaborated with them. The latest declassified documents suggest that the SS colonel had something to do with the assassins of Kennedy, the American president.

Skorzeny with Hitler.

He also became Argentine President Perón's confidant and was linked to Evita, his wife. For the German giant was a born seducer, who married three times and is said to have had numerous mistresses. Skorzeny lived a Dolce Vita in Spain. He was almost a demi-God, idolised by many and feared by others. His passion, however, was the sea, so in 1965 he bought a house in Es Barcarés, in Alcudia. He always spent his summers next to a small beach, which he even privatised to the scandal of his Mallorcan neighbours. Always with a cigarette in his mouth, next to that horrible scar, he would go to the bars in the village, where he consumed huge quantities of beer. And he would tell the locals about his legendary operations during the war, although many did not understand him or thought he was fantasising. On his wrist was a watch that Mussolini had given him as a gift for rescuing him from his Gran Sasso prison.

The house Es Barcarés (Alcudia).

In 1975, shortly before Franco's death, Skorzeny died in Madrid. "I don't regret anything I have done," he repeated in his last years, the colossal figure who used to dive into the Mallorcan beach of Es Morer Vermell, two kilometres from Alcudia. And who returned to the sand with the gait of a cyclops. Perhaps recalling the times when he was Hitler's favourite. And the most dangerous man in Europe.