The Nazi Who Became a Mossad Agent

April 6, 2016 | Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
About the author:

As an officer in the Waffen-SS, Otto Skorzeny conducted a variety of clandestine operations, including sneaking Nazi troops wearing American uniforms behind enemy lines. After the war, his career took an unexpected turn: he was recruited by the Mossad to help locate (and sometimes assassinate) German scientists who had worked for Hitler and were now helping Egypt develop advanced rockets and other military technologies. Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman tell his story:

The Israelis would never find a Nazi they could trust, but they saw a Nazi they could count on: someone thorough and determined, with a record of success in executing innovative plans and skilled at keeping secrets. The seemingly bizarre decision to recruit Skorzeny came with some personal pain, because the task was entrusted to Joe Raanan, who, [like Skorzeny, was] born in Vienna and who had barely escaped the Holocaust. . . . After the Nazis took over in 1938, [Joe] was sent—at age sixteen—to British-ruled Palestine. His mother and younger brother stayed in Europe and perished. . . .

As requested by the Israelis, [Skorzeny] flew to Egypt and compiled a detailed list of German scientists and their addresses. Skorzeny also provided the names of many front companies in Europe that were procuring and shipping components for Egypt’s military projects. . . .

Skorzeny . . . surprise[d] the Israelis with his level of cooperation. During a trip to Egypt, he even mailed exploding packages; one Israeli-made bomb killed five Egyptians in [a] military rocket site . . . where German scientists worked. The campaign of intimidation was largely successful, with most of the Germans leaving Egypt.

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