Title: My Commando Operations
Author: Otto Skorzeny
(Translated from German by David Johnston, originally titled Meihne Kommando Unternehmen.)
My Commando Operations is the title of the memoirs of Otto Skorzeny. Skorzeny served in the Waffen-SS during WWII, and was placed in command of the special forces section. He led his men in several daring operations, the most famous being the rescue of Benito Mussolini. Memoirs are usually written by the rich and/or the famous, and almost invariably tell their side of the story. Skorzeny is no exception. He writes about his days as a student when his homeland, Austria, was made a part of Germany, his time in the Waffen-SS before and during the war, various anecdotes, personal theories and his exploits during the war.
At best, Skorzeny is a mediocre writer. He is often long-winded, and insists on recounting often completely unrelated anecdotes. While they are not without value, Skorzeny has a bad habit of inserting them where the reader least expects and appreciates them. In fact, the book is somewhat unstructured, and chapters about the German attempts to build nuclear weapons and more or less well-founded allegations of treason seem to have been randomly inserted throughout the book.
Skorzeny seems to have an ambivalent attitude towards war crimes. He dismisses the SS units which ran the concentration camps as not a part of the "true" SS, and goes to great lengths to describe the men he commanded (and the SS in general) as honest, honourable and decent people. Himmler had designated the concentration camp guards as Waffen-SS completely arbitrarily, and they and the actual fighting forces which Skorzeny was a part of had little in common but the name. It is, however, an indisputable fact that the Waffen-SS which Skorzeny served in perpetrated many war crimes, including the execution of POW's and the murder of civilians, and nothing Skorzeny says can change that.
Skorzeny is rather single-minded, and he prefers to concentrate on how succesful his operations were and how clever he was. There are quotes from newspapers and magazines, all of which characterize him as intelligent, cunning, a brilliant tactician and great leader. There is not a single failure, no attempt at self-critiscism nor any battles lost. I sincerely doubt that his career was quite as rosy as he would have the reader believe, and it would probably be advidsable to take his words with a certain sceptiscism.
In addition, Skorzeny devotes numerous pages to the great service Germany did the world by fighting the Communists, all the while ignoring the atrocities committed by both sides. He seems to feel that the Allies did not appreciate the Nazi concept of heim ins Reich. He is also obsessed with the Soviet intelligence service, which he claims had agents all over Germany and the German-occupied territories. In fact, he insinuates that had Germany not been betrayed, then they would have won the war. There is also the singular claim that Stalin deliberately sacrificed some Red Army units while he withdrew the bulk of his forces in order to save them. All historians I know of disagree.
The book is an interesting account of one of the men who saw much of the SS from the inside, but Skorzeny's tendency to stretch the truth and attribute failures and mistakes (such as the decision to invade Russia) to "traitors" and enemy intelligence agencies means that it can be difficult to separate the truth from his self-serving lies.