Thursday January 11 2007
I found Kim Bielenberg's portrayal of Colonel Skorzeny ('the Shamrock and the Swastika', Irish Independent, January 6) most unfair and factually inaccurate. It was a highly emotional piece and laced with terms that suggest the man was a war criminal.
Otto Skorzeny was an elite and highly decorated soldier who fought bravely for his country, Austria being part of Germany at the time, and who earned the respect of his foe. Churchill called his rescue of Mussolini "a mission of great daring."
His membership of the Waffen SS, an elite fighting force that had nothing to do with the concentration camps, does not make him a criminal.
The late Simon Wiesenthal pointed out that only two per cent of the 450,000 strong force had engaged in war crimes.
Skorzeny was tried as a war criminal, but the only thing the Americans could charge him with was having his men wear American uniforms during the Battle of the Bulge. The trial soon fell apart when it was pointed out that the Americans had also worn German uniforms to infiltrate enemy lines.
Kim Bielenberg conveniently omits the fact that Skorzeny was "denazified", meaning that he was innocent of any wrongdoing, long before he came to Ireland, and that he worked as an agent for Mossad.
His article becomes farcical when he claims that Skorzeny tortured the July conspirators in 1944. There is absolutely no evidence to support this. RONAN-GEAROID O DOMHNAILL, GAILLIMH * Kim Bielenberg writes: I made clear in my piece that Skorzeny was acquitted of war crimes by a US military court.
However, as the best known commando in the SS, an organisation guilty of countless atrocities, he was not just an innocent cog in the Nazi machine. The Waffen SS, in toto, was declared a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg trials.
There is no doubt that Skorzeny played a key role in rounding up the July 20 plotters, demonstrating his Nazi zeal in the way he ripped off their badges. In the days that followed, plotters were tortured.