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Ilse Koch – The Bitch of Buchenwald

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Ilse Koch (The Bitch of Buchenwald)ILse Koch

Ilse Koch was one of the most infamous Nazi commandants in the entire world.  She was born on the 22nd of November in 1906 in the city of Dresden.  She was commonly referred to as “The Witch of Buchenwald”, “The Beast of Buchenwald”, and “The Bitch of Buchenwald” by people all over the world due to her sadistic approach in Nazi concentration camps.  She was known to take souvenirs from the skin of murdered prisoners who had tattoos on their body.

Ilse Koch’s Life

Koch, who was born in Dresden, Germany, was the daughter of a factory manager.  All through school she was known to be polite and happy without a worry in the world.  When the economy in Germany hadn’t recovered from their defeat in World War 1, she became a member of the Nazi Party.  That is where she met her soon to be husband, Karl Otto whom she married in 1936.

Ilse Koch and Her Crimes

In 1936 she became a guard and secretary at the Sachsenshausen concentration camp which was situated near the city of Berlin.  She then moved to Buchenwald when Karl Otto became Commandant.  Koch had the need to build an indoor sports arena which she paid 250, 000 marks for, all of which were stolen from prisoners.  In 1941 she was promoted to an Oberaufseherin (chief overseer) and her duties revolved around overseeing the female guards who served at the concentration camps.  Her reign was short as she and Karl Otto were arrested on the 24th of August in 1943 by Josias von Waldeck-Pyrmont, SS and Police Leader for Weimar.  The charges against both Otto and Koch were embezzlement, private enrichment, and the murder of prisoners to prevent them from testifying in court.


Ilse Koch was acquitted for her crimes due to lack of evidence but Otto was still found guilty and was sentenced to death.  He was then executed in Buchenwald in April of 1945 and at this time; Koch moved to live with her family in Ludwigsburg where she was then arrested by the U.S. authorities on the 30th of June, 1945.  Koch was charged with “participating in a criminal plan for aiding, abetting, and participating in the murders at Buchenwald.”  She was sentenced to life in prison on the 12th of August, 1947.  After serving only 2 years in prison, Koch’s sentence was brought down to 4 years in prison based on the fact that “there was no convincing evidence that she had selected inmates for extermination in order to secure tattooed skins, or that she possessed any articles made of human skin.”  Ilse Koch was then re-arrested due to the uproar from the public in 1949 and appeared before a West German court.  There were 250 witnesses that testified against her and 50 that were part of the defense.  Due to an ailment, Koch collapsed in court and was given a later date in January of 1951.  At that hearing, the prosecutions witnesses said that she had been seen selecting prisoners with tattoos who never returned to the camp and that she would make lampshades out of human skin.  This charge was dropped by the prosecution when they realized that they could not prove the lampshade theory.  On the 15th of January in 1951, Koch was convicted of incitement to murder, incitement to attempted murder, incitement to the crime of committing grievous bodily harm, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ilse Koch’s Death

After several attempts to acquire an appeal and several dismissals, Koch finally gave up on the judicial system.  She committed suicide via hanging at the Alchach women’s prison on the 1st of September, 1967 at the age of 60 years old.


Whether Ilse Koch was really the terrifying person as she was portrayed, or whether she was just an abusive human we will never know.  Although there are numerous witness accounts of her creating physical objects out of human skin, there has never been any hard evidence to prove this theory true.  With her role in Nazi Germany, she was not a well thought of commandant and many of the people in the concentration camps saw her as a monster.  With her suicide at the age of 69, Koch did not live out her life imprisonment; instead she opted for an early death.

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