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The Paladin Group was a far-right organization founded in 1970 in Spain by former SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny. It conceived itself as the military arm of the anti-Communist struggle during the Cold War. Ostensibly a legitimate security consultancy, the group's real purpose was to recruit and operate mercenaries for right-wing regimes worldwide.
The Nouvel Observateur magazine, of 23 September 1974, qualifies the group as a "strange temporary work agency of mercenaries" (étrange agence d’interim-barbouzes); in The Great Heroin Coup (1976), Henrik Krüger calls it a "fascist group" or "neo-fascist group", while Stuart Christie speaks of it as a "security consultancy group" in Granny Made me an Anarchist. Lobster Magazine describes it as a "small international squad of commandos".
The Paladin Group was created in 1970 in the Albufereta neighborhood of Alicante, Spain, by former SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny and former US Colonel James Sanders. A former special operations officer, Skorzeny had become a member of the ODESSA network after the war, helping to smuggle Nazi war criminals out of Allied Europe to Spain, South America and other friendly destinations so they could avoid prosecution for war crimes. Skorzeny himself resided after the war in Spain, protected by Franco.
Skorzeny envisioned the Paladin Group as "an international directorship of strategic assault personnel [that would] straddle the watershed between paramilitary operations carried out by troops in uniforms and the political warfare which is conducted by civilian agents".
In addition to recruiting many former SS members, the Group also recruited from the ranks of various right-wing and nationalist organizations, including the French Nationalist OAS, the SAC, and from military units such as the ‘Légion étrangère’. The hands-on manager of the Group was Dr. Gerhard Hartmut von Schubert, formerly of Joseph Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry, who had trained security personnel in Argentina and Egypt after the war. Under his guidance, Paladin provided support to the PFLP - EO led by Wadie Haddad. The Group's other clients included the South African Bureau of State Security. They also worked for the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and the Spanish Dirección General de Seguridad, who recruited some Paladin operatives to wage clandestine war against Basque separatists. The Group is also reputed to have provided personnel for José López Rega's notorious Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance death squad.
The Paladin Group was also allegedly allied with a number of other right-wing governments, including Salazar’s Portugal, and some of the Italian neo-fascists involved in the strategy of tension attacks of the 1970s and 1980s. The Paladin Group also held offices in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Soviet news agency TASS alleged that Paladin was involved in training US Green Berets for Vietnam missions during the 1960s, but this is considered unlikely. This is because Skorzeny's methods were considered somewhat antiquated, and he resented the USA for its role in destroying Nazi Germany.
Von Schubert became the head of the Paladin Group after Otto Skorzeny’s death in 1975.
Following Franco’s death in 1975
Otto Skorzeny died the same year as Franco, whose death on November 20, 1975 opened up the way for a transition to democracy. Neo-fascist groups formerly hosted by Franco ceased to be welcome in the new regime and fled to South America, in particular to Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, and Argentina, where the return of Perón after a 20-year exile in Spain had seen the June 20, 1973 Ezeiza massacre.
- Stuart Christie, Granny Made me an Anarchist
- L'Express, 13 September 1976
- Henrik Krüger, The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence, and International Fascism, Boston : South End Press, 1980. 240 pages. (First published in Denmark under the title: Smukke Serge og Heroinen en 1976.) ISBN 0-89608-031-5
- Martin A. Lee, The Beast Reawakens, 1997. ISBN 0-316-51959-6 - (pages 185–86)
- Le Nouvel Observateur, 23 September 1974
- E. Gerdan, Dossier A ... comme Armes, édition Alain Moreau, 1975
- Le Monde 2, n° 60 - Special issue on Operation Condor
- Peter Dale Scott, Transnationalised Repression; Parafascism and the U.S., Lobster Magazine, N°12 : 1986.
- Frederic Laurent, L'Orchestre Noir, Stock, 1978.