Egon Berliner: SOE X Section (Austria)

Egon Berliner

22-year-old Egon Berliner was born in Austria on 9 May 1923 to a Jewish family and in 1938 was involved in a fight with the Hitler Youth and was chased by the SS for two hours before managing to escape. In 1939 he arrived at his family flat, and the porter warned him two Gestapo officers were waiting for him, Berliner then escaped to England and was recruited by SOE in May 1943.

 After passing selection and training Berliner was asked whether he was willing to volunteer for a mission to contact a communist group in Innsbruck, Austria and determine whether they could be developed into a resistance group, though SOE in London considered it unlikely they would risk opposing the Nazi authorities it was decided to send one exploratory agent and on the night of 28-29 July 1944 Berliner was dropped by parachute into southern Tyrol to make his way to Innsbruck. After contacting the communists SOE doubts were correct and Berliner made his way to the allied lines in southern Italy.

    He later volunteered to return to Austria and discover whether a Social Democrat Group could be transformed into a resistance movement and after they refused he distance himself from everyone he had contacted and travelled to the Koralpe (Koralm) mountain range in southern Austria and after being denounced by a member of the group was arrested by the Gestapo whilst attempting to cross the River Drave to Yugoslavia in early April 1945.

Berliner was taken to the Gestapo prison in Gratz where he was tortured for two hours and suffered more brutal treatment for being a Jew before being thrown into a condemned cell with two other prisoners. At 20:30hrs on Tuesday 4 April 1945 Gestapo SS -Obersturmführer Herz of the Graz Gestapo entered the cell and read out the names of those to be executed, Berliner and other men were then put into the back of a lorry to be taken to the SS barracks in Wetzelsdorf.

After the war captured Gestapo officers claimed the lorry received a direct hit from an allied aircraft and all the prisoners were killed but a subsequent investigation discovered they were executed by the SS.  

Alan Malcher

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: