Koch, Ilse

Ilse Koch
Ilse Koch

Ilse Koch (22 Sept. 1906 – 1 Sept. 1967) was the widow of former Buchenwald commandant Karl-Otto Koch, who had been executed by the SS for murdering inmates and embezzling inmate property at the Buchenwald Camp.

Ilse Koch was the only civilian indicted by U.S. troops during the infamous Dachau Trials, in preparation of which many defendants were subject to brutal torture, and which were characterized by an atmosphere of hysteria, propaganda and mass-hypnosis. Frau Koch was accused, among other things, of having had inmates killed because of their attractive skin tattoos, then to have those tattooed skin areas surgically removed and turned into household items such as lampshades, book bindings, gloves etc.

When a review of this set of show trials later found out about the circumstances, Frau Koch was pardoned and released from prison. However, the West-German authorities put her on trial again for the same type of freely invented offenses, and with yet another show trial dominated by hysteria, propaganda and mass-hypnosis, where any former Buchenwald inmate could tell any lie he wanted, Koch was sentenced to serve the entire rest of her life in prison. Having exhausted all means of getting legal remedies to this travesty of justice, she eventually committed suicide in her West-German prison cell.

In an interview Konrad Morgen granted the British historian John Toland years after the war, he insisted that the stories about Ilse Koch using tattooed human skin for lampshades and other objects were unfounded legends, since he had searched the Koch household himself without finding any such objects. (See Toland 1976, pp. 845f.).

In sum, the trials against Ilse Koch are the “modern” equivalent to medieval witch trials. (See Smith 1983, which unfortunately has never appeared in an English edition; see also Rudolf 2023, pp. 94-97.)

You need to be a registered user, logged into your account, and your comment must comply with our Acceptable Use Policy, for your comment to get published. (Click here to log in or register.)

Leave a Comment