Ilse Koch

German war criminal (1906–1967) / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Ilse Koch (22 September 1906 – 1 September 1967) was a German war criminal who committed atrocities while her husband Karl-Otto Koch was commandant at Buchenwald. Though Ilse Koch had no official position in the Nazi state,[1] she became one of the most infamous Nazi figures at war's end.

Quick facts: Ilse Koch, Born, Died, Cause of death, O...
Ilse Koch
Koch c. 1945
Margarete Ilse Köhler

(1906-09-22)22 September 1906
Died1 September 1967(1967-09-01) (aged 60)
Aichach Women's Prison, Aichach, West Germany
Cause of deathSuicide by hanging
Other names
  • The Bitch of Buchenwald
  • The Witch of Buchenwald
Known forAtrocities committed at Buchenwald
Wife of camp commandant Karl-Otto Koch
Criminal statusDeceased
(m. 1937; his execution 1945)
Conviction(s)U.S. Military
War crimes (1947)
West Germany
Incitement to murder
Incitement to attempted murder
Incitement to infliction of grievous bodily harm (5 counts)
Incitement to infliction of bodily harm (2 counts)
Criminal penaltyU.S. Military
Life imprisonment; commuted to 4 years imprisonment (1947)
West Germany
Life imprisonment (1951)

Because of the egregiousness of her alleged actions, including that she had selected tattooed prisoners for death in order to fashion lampshades and other items from their skins, her 1947 U.S. military commission court trial at Dachau received worldwide media attention, as did the testimony of survivors who ascribed sadistic and perverse acts of violence to Koch giving rise to the image of her as "the concentration camp murderess."

However, the most serious of these allegations were found to be without proof in two different legal processes, one conducted by an American military commission court at Dachau in 1947, and another by the West German Judiciary at Augsburg in 1950-1951.[2] Harold Kuhn and Richard Schneider, two U.S Army lawyers tasked with conducting the official review of her conviction at Dachau, noted that “in spite of the extravagant statements made in the newspapers, the record contains little convincing evidence against the accused… In regard to the widely publicised charges that she ordered inmates killed for their tattooed skin, the record is especially silent.” [3]

That the wild claims were dismissed as lacking evidence did little to sway public opinion. She was known as "The Witch of Buchenwald" (Die Hexe von Buchenwald) by the inmates because of her suspected cruelty and lasciviousness toward prisoners. She has been nicknamed "The Beast of Buchenwald",[4] the "Queen of Buchenwald",[5][6] the "Red Witch of Buchenwald",[7][8] "Butcher Widow",[9] and "The Bitch of Buchenwald".[10]

Koch died by suicide at Aichach women's prison[11] on 1 September 1967 at age 60.[12]