Reshaping the SS Network

By 1944, Otto Skorzeny was head of Office VI S ("S" for sabotage) of the RSHA, and head of the SD Jagdkommando, the SS's "special operations" unit.

In the post-war period, Skorzeny played a central role in the web of right-wing financial interests, neo-fascist organizations, paramilitary groups, and secret intelligence networks—the true "grandmother" of modern terrorism.

Less prominent members of the SS leadership were spirited out of Germany via the "Rat Line." They first reached Italy, often aided by corrupt Vatican networks, and thence went to Spain, where they either settled, or slipped into Latin American countries. These "Rat Line" escape routes were run by a secret organization of former SS members known as "Odessa." But Odessa could never have been able to smuggle these people out, if it had been acting alone; on the contrary, its operations were, at the very least, protected, and more likely directed, by factions within Anglo-American intelligence circles. Neither the U.S., British, nor the French governments ever put any serious pressure on Franco's Spain, which had become the hub of SS structures worldwide, to curtail or prohibit activities of former Nazis on Spanish territory.

From 1948 through 1950, Skorzeny lived incognito in Paris. His former superior in the SD, Walter Schellenberg, lived first in Switzerland, and then slipped into Italy, where he died in 1952. Skorzeny's postwar career only began in earnest after he resettled in Madrid in 1950. There he married Hjalmar Schacht's niece, Ilse von Finkenstein; Schacht himself also made frequent visits to Madrid. It is estimated that all told, by 1950, about 16,000 Nazi emigrants were living in Spain.

After 1948, Schacht became the main "trustee" of SS assets and other financial transfers out of Nazi Germany, proving beyond doubt that he had been intimately involved in the implementation of the 1944 Strasbourg Conference's decisions. In his post-1948 work to consolidate the scattered SS assets, Schacht was assisted by Skorzeny, who, in turn, brought the Belgian Waffen-SS leader Leon Degrelle to Madrid, and made him into his chief aide. In the early 1950s, Schacht and Skorzeny made frequent "business trips," criss-crossing Europe and Latin America, and extending into the Arab countries, Iran, and Indonesia.

A portion of the SS money sent abroad, was used to build up the international "Odessa" organization of former SS personnel. Around it, there formed a large number of neo-fascist organizations in Europe and in Latin America.

But Skorzeny's "Odessa" also maintained extensive networks of members and supporters in "bourgeois" parties, government administrations, religious organizations, intelligence services, police organizations, and in the militaries of many European, Latin American, and Arab countries. "Odessa" was also active in the international arms trade, mercenary operations, and a vast array of organized crime.

Over the following decades, connections to Skorzeny's SS structures frequently turned up as part of military coups, police-state "sanitizing operations" against opponents of sitting governments, rebel and low-intensity warfare operations, and spectacular assassinations, such as the "Permindex" organization's involvement in the killing of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Typical is their role both in the Algerian opposition movement FLN, as well as in the Organisation Armeé Secrète (OAS), which sought to topple and murder France's General de Gaulle.

With the outbreak of the Cold War, American and British intelligence services' interest in Skorzeny's SS structure grew even more intense. The mentality and war experience of these former SS personnel suited them perfectly for the "covert operations" which Allen Dulles had defined as a major focus of U.S. intelligence-service activity. Many thousands of former German Waffen-SS members, along with Eastern Europeans who had been part of the Waffen-SS and who had later settled in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, or Australia, were recruited for deployment in low-intensity warfare and destabilization operations in the Soviet sphere of influence.

The SS, which, up until 1942, believed that its members' "Nordic" racial characteristics qualified them to be members of the elite, became quite "internationalized" later on. Not only were there Western European and Scandinavian Waffen-SS units, but also Baltic, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, and Caucasian ones.

Former Waffen-SS members who had managed to survive inside Soviet-occupied countries following 1945 by going underground, and others who had emigrated into the West, suddenly became immensely valuable to Anglo-American intelligence services. They were to be utilized, in connection with "covert operations," to build up a secret military and political underground infrastructure capable of destabilizing communist regimes in Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

During the first half of the 1950s, thanks to Kim Philby's defection to the Russian side, among other things, Communist intelligence services were able to break up most of these military and political underground cells. This, in turn, further increased the value of Eastern European emigrants' organizations which had been established in the West, and which harbored no small contingent of former Waffen-SS members.

On Allen Dulles's initiative, funds from SS assets and elsewhere were used to form the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE). Nominally a private organization, it was in fact an Anglo-American intelligence operation, assigned to back the activities of Eastern European emigrant groups.

No less important was the Islamic-Arab component of this SS structure. The Albanian Waffen-SS "Skanderbeg" division, and the Bosnian "Handschar" division, had been set up with the active participation of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Mohamed Al Husseini.

After the war, Al Husseini, with the help of Anglo-American intelligence circles, was able to settle in Cairo, where he resumed his collaboration with Skorzeny, Swiss financier and Nazi activist François Genoud, and SS structures throughout the Arab world.

Emblem of "Gladio"
Italian branch of the NATO "stay-behind" paramilitaryorganizations.
The motto means
"Silently, I serve freedom"

At the same time, certain factions within the Anglo-American intelligence establishment set up Skorzeny's network of former SS members in Western Europe itself, as deeply covert partisan groups which could be activated in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The existence of this network, code-named "Gladio," was first revealed in 1991, in a public statement issued by Italian Prime Minister Guilio Andreotti.


The Grand Mufti
and the Nazi Protectorate of Bosnia-Hercegovina 1941-1945