Otto Skorzeny was born inViennainto a middle-classAustrianfamily which had a long history of military service. His surname is ofPolishorigin, and Skorzeny's distant ancestors came from a village calledSkorzęcinin theGreater Polandregion.
In addition to his native German, he spoke excellent French and was proficient in English. In his teens, Skorzeny once complained to his father about the austere lifestyle the family was enduring; his father replied, "There is no harm in doing without things. It might even be good for you not to get used to a soft life."
He was a notedfenceras member of a German-nationalBurschenschaftwhile studying at theTechnical University of Vienna. He engaged in fifteen personal combats. The tenth resulted in a wound that left a dramaticdueling scar—known inacademic fencingas aSchmiss(German for "smite" or "hit")—on his cheek.
In May 1932, Skorzeny joined theAustrian Nazi organizationand soon became a member of the Austrian branch of the NaziSturmabteilung(SA) in February 1934. Acharismaticfigure, Skorzeny played a minor role in theAnschlusson 12 March 1938 when, according to his own account, he saved the Austrian PresidentWilhelm Miklasfrom being shot by Austrian Nazis.
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