The Gran Sasso raid: The Liberation of Mussolini

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PMJH
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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by PMJH » 07 Oct 2009 11:57

Hi Bob,

from various books I have obtained over the years the list of participants on the raid I have is very similiar with a few minor variations:

8. Glarner (surname)
14. Benzer (surname)
15. Anton Gfoller Oberscharführer DK in Gold 14.11.1944

Other names I have read were involved are Werner Holzer (brother of Hans Holzer) and a Wagner (surname) not to be confused with Robert Warger.

My sources are:

Otto Skorzeny - My commando operations and
For Germany - The Otto Skorzeny memoirs.

Concerning awards for the operation, Skorzeny (awarded the RK) put in recommendations for all participants and there a numerous photos taken afterwards showing EK I and II's were awarded and I think Otto Schwerdt received the DK in Gold. Of the participants on the raid two others eventually received the DK in Gold - Hans Holzer and Anton Gfoller.

Regards,

Pete Hasse

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Bob Forczyk
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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bob Forczyk » 08 Oct 2009 20:52

Thanks
Already had this info. Skorzeny's memoirs - including spelling of names - is often suspect. I found several documents at NARA on the raid and was able to deduce the names of all the SS men, but not all the Fallschirmjäger.

My book on the subject is due out next spring.

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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Helly Angel » 10 Oct 2009 01:08


PMJH
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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by PMJH » 10 Oct 2009 08:34

Hello again,

I have been trying for a very long time, to get confirmation of the positive ID of a member of the Jagdverbande who was a SS-Junke (SS-Untersharfuhrer) at the time of the rescue mission, landing in glider number 3.

He is pictured squatting (or seated) on the left of Karl Radl in the group photo taken afterwards in Avezzano and appears to be the youngest (and would also have been the shortest at only 163cm tall).
After Rescue Sep 1943.jpg
He is also seen in the “inner circle” photo (at the very back) at Friedenthal, in My Commando Operations.

Here is another photo taken at around the same time as the raid. The other person was a SS-Hauptscharfuhrer of SS-Sturmscharfuhrer also at Friedenthal.
In shirt-sleeves 1943 cropped.jpg
If you are able to confirm the ID and have any further photos or documentation, I would be extremely interested in obtaining copies of them, as it would resolve a long-standing family argument about whether this close relative was who he claimed to be.

Regards,
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Marcus
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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Marcus » 10 Oct 2009 09:06

I'm moving this to the Waffen-SS section as it deals not only with the biographical discussions.

/Marcus

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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by PMJH » 14 Oct 2009 09:59

Hi again Bob,

Is it correct that you have not been able to find a positive ID on Gfoller? This would be rather strange, as he is a confirmed DK Gold recipient !

As per the naming in photos of participants by Skorzeny in his books, my member is identified a few times as Anton Gfoller who is stated as having achieved the rank of SS-Untersturmfuhrer before the end. As you have found though, his (Skorzeny) names of members are often changing and rather unreliable.

However, I pursued this possibility with Deutsche Dienststelle Berlin by sending them copies of many photos and documents I have, for an opinion on the identity of my member. I was subsequently assured by them that my member is not Anton Gfoller.

The information they gave me on Gfoller was born 02.11.1922 in House B. Schladming Bez. Grobming/Steiermark and confirmation of his DK Gold award details on 14.11.1944. They also confirmed that official records show that he went into American captivity on 05.05.1945, out of which he escaped on 10.03.1947. There is also mention of an Adam or Toni Gfoller wanted for war-crimes in Denmark.

My member said he also fought on the Oder Front (with Skorzeny) and achieved the rank of SS-Untersturmfuhrer. He fought in the Battle of Berlin and was at the Schultheiss Brewery on 2nd May 1945 and witnessed Ambassador Walter Hewel commit suicide.

My member has a Wehrpass issued 23.01.1945 which has been confirmed by the official records in the Deutsche Dienststelle (record dated 21.08.1944) that he was a Luftwaffenhelfer born 24.01.1928. That makes him 15 years old at the time of the rescue. The Germans being sticklers for records won’t communicate any further with me concerning anything that challenges their official records.

My member has a document card dated 04.12.1950, for Bund der Opfer der Sowjet. KZ. / Berlin, which indicates imprisonment 14.05.1946 (Sachsenhausen) and escape 10.03.1950. There is also what seems to be a prison pass photo with B.V. 15/2/85 written on the bottom of it (and I don’t know the significance of that).

In the book For Germany The Otto Skorzeny memoirs on page 190, my member is pictured during the rescue, walking on the right hand side of Skorzeny, turning around and looking backwards (and as you can see is very short in statue).

Anyway, it looks like another dead-end for me. If you would be kind enough to provide anything further, I would be most appreciative.

Regards,

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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bob Forczyk » 14 Oct 2009 14:54

Yes, I had Gfoller. In fact, I have all of Skorzeny's team now, although a few are just last names. Quite a few of the Gran Sasso raiders were sent to Denmark in 1944, where they added arson and assasination to their reportoire, incl. Leutnant Schwerdt. A couple were killed on the Oder front, too.

Actually, it's not that unusual to be unable to find records on RK on DKiG recipients - I run into that quite often at NARA. I did find Skorzeny's records, which although sparse, point out a few inconsistencies in his memoirs. Most people are unaware that he began the war as a junior enlisted man in the Luftwaffe and certain details about his pre-war life are very murky, particularly his involvement with Austrian SA units. He even claimed that he honeymooned near the Gran Sasso in the 1930s (a premonition?), but I was unable to validate that.

Bob

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Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Mikedc » 09 Oct 2010 11:57

Bob wrote:
1. SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny
2. SS-Obersturmführer Ulrich Menzel
3. SS- Obersturmführer Karl Radl
4. SS-Untersturmführer Otto Schwerdt
5. SS-Untersturmführer Robert Warger
6. SS-Untersturmführer Andreas Friedrich
7. SS-Hauptscharführer Manns
8. SS-Oberscharführer Walther Gläsner
9. SS-Oberscharführer Paul Spitt*
10. SS Unterscharführer Hans Holzer
11. SS-Unterscharführer Bernhard Cieslewitz
12. SS Unterscharführer Robert Neitzel
13. SS-Rottenführer Herbert (?) Himmel
14. SS-Rottenführer Albert (?) Benz
15. Sfaeller or Gföller
16. Max Pföller
Hello Bob, I maybe did find some extra information for you. SS-Hstuf Otto Alexander Friedrich Schwerdt, SS-Oschaf Walther Gläsner, SS-Uschaf Hans Holzer, SS-Uschaf Robert Neitzel, SS-Oschaf Fritz Himmel and SS-Oschaf Adam Gföller all served with the so called Petergruppen in Denmark(execution-units that killed important Danes in reaction to actions from the Danish resistance). Schwerdt was also the Petergruppenleader in Kopenhagen(before and after A. Naujocks and before H.P. Issel). And Himmel was the Petergruppenleader in Odense. Please take a look at the following site: http://ditt.almanet.dk/Petergruppen.html

Greetings, Mike

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The most dangerous man in europe

Post by Wagjvlsj » 18 May 2011 09:17

I wonder why no one has ever made a big budget film about Otto Skorzeny ..... his life is like a fiction novel .... unbelieveable !

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Re: The most dangerous man in europe

Post by Sid Guttridge » 18 May 2011 10:17

"Fiction" and "unbelievable" are certainly two words that spring to mind about parts of Skorzeny's autobiography!

Skorzeny's story is full of half truths and stolen credit. Did you know that this "kommando" never once went behind enemy lines? Check where the front was when Mussolini was rescued or Horthy was captured. Check who really planned the Mussolini operation. Check who really supplied almost all the English-speakers used in the Ardennes. Why did Skorzeny take ten hours to get his fully motorized unit the twenty kilometers from their base into Berlin only to arrive too late to confront the Bomb Plotters?

Skorzeny was an internal enforcer within occupied Europe whose opponents were almost invariably at higher risk than he was. His prominence is largely due to his high political associations and self promotion.

I don't think a self publicist like Skorzeny deserves a film, unless it be "warts and all".

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Re: The most dangerous man in europe

Post by HFK » 19 May 2011 00:10

Hello, Very good comments MajorT. I always felt Skorzeny received way too much credit for freeing Mussolini. The man who deserves more credit is Major Mohr, who commanded the troops involved. I remember a comment in a book I read years ago, " Skorzeny received a gold watch, and Major Mohr received nothing. "
regards, Harry

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Re: The most dangerous man in europe

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 May 2011 10:51

Hi HFK,

Not to forget that the Mussolini operation, because of its political implications, has tended to overshadow a much more militarily impressive operation by Luftwaffe paratroops in capturing the far more heavily defended Italian Army general headquarters.

At Gran Sasso Skorzeny was essentially a passenger on the way in and nearly ruined the whole operation by insisting on accompanying Mussolini on the way out - thereby nearly overloading the Fiesler Storch carrying them!

Skorzeny was political to his fingertips. After the war he was amongst those Germans who went to Argentina to work for Peron. Adolf Galland, the fighter ace, is professionally respected there to this day for helping modernize the Argentine Air Force. Skorzeny was meant to do the same for Argentine special forces, but left almost no professional impact because he spent most of his time on Nazi exile politics and ingratiating himself into Peron's social circle.

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Re: The Mussolini rescue was no great achievment

Post by fredleander » 06 Apr 2012 14:17

According to Student's book Skorzeny was already inside the hotel building before the Italian general had any contact with Mussolini's guards. Skorzeny is said to have broken the wireless radio with his submachine gun before any transmissions could be made. After that, the Italian general was able to calm the guard force as a whole. Probably as much to the fait accompli.

If the real story goes like this there would have been little opportunity for the guard force to annihilate the German paras. While the assault itself worked admirably the same can be said about the planning phase which, as often in military matters, was executed within a very tight time frame.

Fred
River Wide, Ocean Deep - a book about Operation Sealion:
https://www.fredleander.com
Saving MacArthur - an eight-book series on the Pacific War:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D3 ... rw_dp_labf

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Re: The Mussolini rescue was no great achievment

Post by Tom Peters » 08 Apr 2012 02:45

This is sort of a tangent, but while copying FMS documents at NARA this week, I ran into a D-series manuscript that was several hundred pages on the Mussolini rescue, written by Skorzeny (with maps). I wonder if anyone ever used it as a source.

Mad Dog

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Re: The Mussolini rescue was no great achievment

Post by fredleander » 08 Apr 2012 13:31

Tom Peters wrote:This is sort of a tangent, but while copying FMS documents at NARA this week, I ran into a D-series manuscript that was several hundred pages on the Mussolini rescue, written by Skorzeny (with maps). I wonder if anyone ever used it as a source.

Mad Dog
Sounds very interesting. Student (or his co-writer) seems a little pissed on Skorzeny since he and his SS-companions participating in the raid got much of the credit for it (plenty of Iron Crosses) while Student's sturm-jägers received very little. According to the original plan Skorzeny wasn't at all meant to land first, as he did. This occured due to to an unexplained change of approach route towards the landing area. The paras were meant to land first. As it were, Skorzeny seemingly did a good job of it.

Fred
River Wide, Ocean Deep - a book about Operation Sealion:
https://www.fredleander.com
Saving MacArthur - an eight-book series on the Pacific War:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D3 ... rw_dp_labf

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