Karl Koch : Nazi Germany

Karl Koch : Nazi Germany

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Karl Koch was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1897. He was a bank clerk before joining the German Army during the First World War. He was captured by the British army and was held as a prisoner-of-war until October, 1919.

Koch joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1930. Later he became a member of the Schutz Staffeinel (SS). In 1934 Koch became a senior official in Lichtenburg Concentration Camp. Two years later he became the commandant of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

In May 1937, Koch married Ilse Koch, one of the female guards at the camp. Later that year Koch was appointed commandant of Buchenwald, and his wife became a SS-Aufseherin (overseer) at the camp. Known as the "Bitch of Buchenwald" she liked to ride through the camp where she selected prisoners who displeased her to be whipped by Schutz Staffeinel (SS) guards. She also collected lampshades and gloves made from tattooed skins of specially murdered concentration camp inmates.

In September, 1941, Koch was appointed commandant of Majdanek, a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp run by the Waffen SS. In August, 1943, Koch was arrested by the Gestapo and charged with embezzlement and forgery. Found guilty, he was executed in April, 1945.

Karl Otto Koch

Karl Koch was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1897. He was a bank clerk before joining the German Army during the First World War. He was captured by the British army and was held as a prisoner-of-war until October, 1919.

Koch joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1930. Later he became a member of the Schutz Staffeinel (SS). In 1934, Koch became a senior official in Lichtenburg Concentration Camp. Two years later he became the commandant of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

In May 1937, Koch married Ilse Koch, one of the female guards at the camp. Later that year, Koch was appointed commandant of Buchenwald, and his wife became a SS-Aufseherin (overseer) at the camp.

Karl Otto Koch, a colonel of German Schutzstaffel (SS), was the first commandant of Buchenwald (from 1937 to 1941). In 1942, Otto and his wife Ilse received a punative transfer to Majdanek. In August 1943, Karl Koch was arrested by the Gestapo at the request of SS judge Josias Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont. Karl Otto was charged with the unauthorized murder of three prisoners, while Ilse was accused of the embezzlement of more than 700,000RM. Though Ilse was acquitted, Karl Otto was convicted and shot in April 1945.

Sources:What-Means.Com Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, Macmillan, New York, 1991 Hitler's Women Spartacus. Spartacus photo.

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Top 15 Most Evil Nazis

The Third Reich, which spanned from 1933 to 1945, was arguably the most heinous regime in history. Comprised of some equally malevolent characters, this administration was responsible for initiating the biggest and most costly war mankind has ever known, and perpetrated one of the worlds biggest acts of genocide, now referred to as the Holocaust. This list could have been bigger but I settled on these 15 (mostly) NSDAP members.

A WWI veteran, the Reichsmarschall was head of the luftwaffe, and the founder of the gestapo. After the fall of France he stole millions of pounds worth of art from Jews, and amassed a personal fortune. Goering took part in the beer hall putsch of 1923 and was wounded in the groin. Subsequently, taking morphine for pain relief, he became addicted to the drug for the rest of his life. In 1940, the Marshal ordered the bombing of the civilian population of Britain (the Blitz) and was involved in planning the holocaust. Goering was the highest-ranking defendant during the Nuremberg Trials. Sentenced to hang, he committed suicide in his cell the night before his execution by cyanide ingestion.

This man caused the deaths of millions. Learn more about his life when you buy Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader at!

Known as The &ldquoBitch of Buchenwald&rdquo because of her sadistic cruelty towards prisoners, Ilse Koch was married to another wicked Nazi SS, Karl Otto Koch, but outshone him in the depraved, inhumane, disregard for life which was her trademark. She used her sexual prowess by wandering around the camps naked, with a whip, and if any man so much as glanced at her she would have them shot on the spot. The most infamous accusation against Ilse Koch was that she had selected inmates with interesting tattoos to be killed, so that their skins could be made into lampshades for her home (though, unfortunately, no evidence of these lampshades has been found). After the war she was arrested and spent time in prison on different charges, eventually hanging herself in her cell in 1967, apparently consumed by guilt.

Dr. Paul Josef Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda, and a vehement antisemite. Goebbels speeches of hatred against Jews arguably initiated the final solution, and no doubt helped sway public opinion to the detriment of the Jewish people. A sufferer of polio, Goebbels had a club foot, but this did not effect his standing as the second best orator in The Reich. He coined the phrase &ldquoTotal War,&rdquo and was instrumental in convincing the nation to fight long after the war was effectively lost. At the end of the war, a devoted Goebbels stayed in Berlin with Hitler and killed himself, along with his wife Magda and their six young children.

Born in Austria, Stangl was a commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps. In 1940, through a direct order from Heinrich Himmler, Stangl became superintendent of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at the Euthanasia Institute at Schloss Hartheim where mentally and physically disabled people were sent to be killed. Stangl accepted, and grew accustomed to the killing of Jews, perceiving prisoners not as humans but merely as &ldquocargo.&rdquo He is quoted as saying, &ldquoI remember standing there, next to the pits full of black-blue corpses&hellip somebody said &lsquoWhat shall we do with rotting garbage?&rsquo that started me thinking of them as cargo. Stangl escaped Germany after the war and was eventually arrested in Brazil, in 1967. He was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings, but argued: &ldquoMy conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty.&rdquo He died of heart failure in 1971, while serving a life sentence.

During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Blobel commanded Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, that was active in Ukraine. Following Wehrmacht troops into Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen would be responsible for liquidating political and racial undesirables. Blobel was primarily responsible for the Babi Yar massacre at Kiev. Up to 59,018 executions are attributable to Blobel, though during testimony he was alleged to have killed 10,000 to 15,000 people. He was later sentenced to death by the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen Trial. He was hanged at Landsberg Prison on June 8, 1951.

Kramer was the Commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Dubbed &ldquoThe Beast of Belsen&rdquo by camp inmates, he was a notorious Nazi war criminal, directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Kramer adopted his own draconian policies at Auschwitz and Belsen and, along with Irma Grese, he terrorized his prisoners without remorse. After the war he was convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hameln prison by noted British executioner Albert Pierrepoint. Whilst on trial he stated his lack of feelings as he was &ldquojust following orders&rdquo.

Austrian born Kaltenbrunner was chief of security in The Reich where he replaced Reinhard Heydrich. He was president of Interpol from 1943 to 1945, and was there to destroy the enemies within the Reich. Kaltenbrunner was a physically imposing man with scars on his cheeks, which made him look like the tyrant he really was. Kaltenbrunner was one of the main perpetrators of the holocaust and he was hanged after the Nuremberg trials on October 16, 1946. He was the highest ranked SS man to be hanged.

Jeckeln led one of the largest collections of Einsatzgruppen, and was personally responsible for ordering the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, Slavs, Roma, and other &ldquoundesirables&rdquo of the Third Reich, in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Jeckeln developed his own methods to kill large numbers of people, which became known as the &ldquoJeckeln System&rdquo during the Rumbula, Babi Yar, and Kamianets-Podilskyi Massacres. After the war he was tried and hanged by the Russians in Riga on February 3, 1946.

WWI veteran Dr. Oskar Dirlewanger led the infamous SS Dirlewanger Brigade, a penal battalion comprised of the sickest most vicious criminals in the Riech. Dirlwanger raped two 13-year-old girls on separate occasions in the 1930s, and lost his Dr. title after being imprisoned, only to have it reinstated after his bravery in combat during the Spanish Civil War. He volunteered for the SS at the start of WWII, and was given his own battalion due to his excellent soldiery, Dirlewanger&rsquos unit was employed in operations against partisans in the occupied Soviet Union, but he and his soldiers are widely believed to have tortured, raped and murdered civilians (including children) and he allegedly fed female hostages strychnine in order to entertain his soldiers whilst they died in agony. Dirlewanger was captured by the French in a hospital after being injured at the front as he had always led his soldiers into battle. The French handed him over to the Polish, who locked him up and beat and tortured him over the next few days. He died from injuries inflicted by the Polish guards around June 5, 1945.

Odilo Globocnik was a prominent Austrian Nazi, and later an SS leader. He was one of the men most responsible for the murder of millions of people during the Holocaust. Globocnik was responsible for liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto, which contained about 500,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after New York. He is also known for liquidating the Bialystok Ghetto, which stood out for its strong resistance to German occupation and resettling a large quantity of Poles under the premise of ethnic cleansing. He was in charge of the implementation and supervision of the Lublin reservation, to which 95,000 Jews were deported, with its adjacent network of forced labour camps in the Lublin district. He was also in charge of over 45,000 Jewish laborers. On May 21st, Shortly after capture, Globocnik committed suicide by means of a cyanide capsule hidden in his mouth.

Take a look inside one of the most horrific periods in human history with Doctors From Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans at!

Eichmann was the organizational talent that orchestrated the mass deportation of Jews from their countries into waiting ghettos and extermination camps. A prodigy of Heydrich, he is sometimes referred to as &ldquothe architect of the Holocaust.&rdquo He learned Hebrew and studied all things Jewish in order to manipulate Jews, through his power of coercion, to leave their occupied territories and possessions in favor of a better life in the ghettos. At the end of the war he was doing the same to Hungarian Jews and, if it wasn&rsquot for the intervention of Raoul Wallenberg, the number of victims of the holocaust would have been much higher. He fled Germany at the end of the war via a ratline to South America, and was captured by the Mossad in Argentina. He was extradited to Israel and executed by hanging in 1962, after a highly-publicized trial. Eichmann&rsquos death was, and is, the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel.

Mengele initially gained notoriety for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, but is far more infamous for performing grisly human experiments on camp inmates, for which Mengele was called the &ldquoAngel of Death.&rdquo His crimes were evil and of many. When it was reported that one hospital block was infested with lice, Mengele gassed every single one of the 750 women assigned to it. Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation. He was particularly interested in identical twins. Mengele&rsquos experiments included attempts to take one twin&rsquos eyeballs and attach them to the back of the other twin&rsquos head, changing eye color by injecting chemicals into children&rsquos eyes, various amputations of limbs, and other brutal surgeries. He survived the war, and after a period living incognito in Germany, he fled to South America, where he evaded capture for the rest of his life, despite being hunted as a Nazi war criminal.

Heydrich was appointed Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. In August 1940, he was appointed and served as President of Interpol. Heydrich chaired the 1942 Wannsee Conference, which discussed plans for the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German occupied territory, thus being the mastermind of the holocaust. He was attacked by British trained Czech agents on May 27, 1942, sent to assassinate him in Prague. He died slightly over a week later from complications arising from his injuries. The foundations of genocide were laid by Heydrich and carried out in Operation Reinhard in his name.

'Hidden History' Of Koch Brothers Traces Their Childhood And Political Rise

David Koch speaks at the Defending the American Dream summit in 2015. He and his brother Charles lead a conservative political network that plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the 2016 elections. Paul Vernon/AP hide caption

David Koch speaks at the Defending the American Dream summit in 2015. He and his brother Charles lead a conservative political network that plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the 2016 elections.

In January 2015, at a private conference in Palm Springs, Calif., the political network led by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch announced plans to spend $889 million in the 2016 elections. The organization consists almost entirely of groups that don't register under the campaign finance laws and therefore don't publicly identify their donors.

Journalist Jane Mayer traces the growing influence of the Koch brothers and other wealthy conservative donors in her new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. According to Mayer, the Kochs and other conservatives have created philanthropic entities that enable them to aggressively pursue a libertarian agenda of lower taxes, deregulation of business and the denial of climate change.

Because they are considered charities, the philanthropic groups "don't need to disclose the names of their donors," Mayer tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "These are the groups that are called 'dark money groups,' and they thus become kind of secret banks that affect American politics in a huge way without most people understanding who is behind them."

It's very worrisome to many Americans to think that the whole ideal of one man, one vote might be overwhelmed by 400 of the richest people of any political persuasion picking the next leader for them.

Mayer warns that such influence and secrecy undermines democracy: "It's very worrisome to many Americans to think that the whole ideal of one man, one vote might be overwhelmed by 400 of the richest people of any political persuasion picking the next leader for them. That's just not how democracy is supposed to work."

Interview Highlights

On the Kochs' secret, semi-annual seminars

They've been so careful about the secrecy at these meetings, which take place twice a year in resorts, that at one point they even went to the trouble to erect white noise machines that would create static facing the outside, so that nobody could eavesdrop on them. They routinely refuse to disclose the names of the donors who come to these events, but at one point a guest list got left behind, which has provided the one full guest list of one of these events. What you can see from it is that there are about somewhere between 400 and 450 of the wealthiest conservatives in America getting together to plan how to use their fortunes to influence American politics. .

I think the genius of the Kochs is the magic trick that they've really figured out, which is that it's not just their money funding this they've created a consortium. It's a club where you've got maybe 400 people who are cumulatively enormously wealthy. I tried to figure out at one point how many billionaires were involved just in the first term of Obama's presidency, because they were funding so much of the opposition to Obama, and I got to a count of 18 billionaires who are known and whose net worth put together was $214 billion. Now, obviously they're not spending all of it on politics, but it gives you a sense of the throw-weight of this tiny, concentrated group of people.

On how the Koch brothers' father built oil refineries for Hitler and Stalin

Fred Koch, the patriarch of the family, was an expert in building oil refineries, and he and a friend named William Rhodes Davis proposed building one in Germany during 1934, '35, that period in there. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of the Third Reich in Germany, so this meant working under the Third Reich. And in order to get permission, they actually had to go to Hitler himself, and William Rhodes Davis did the "Heil Hitler" to greet Hitler, and finally they got Hitler to greenlight this proposal so that they could build an oil refinery in Hamburg.

The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

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And the Hamburg Oil Refinery, built by the Winkler-Koch Co., became key, according to several German historians I talked to, to Hitler's war efforts. By the time they built it, it was already clear that Hitler had very major military ambitions, but one of the things he was unable to do was to refine high-octane oil for warplanes. What this plant did was create that capacity, and it eventually supplied much of the fuel that was needed for Hitler's Luftwaffe.

He was not a Nazi, and I certainly don't suggest that in the book, but what he was was an American businessman looking for a good deal, and he was looking all over the world to see how he could make some money. Oddly, and what's been known before, is before working under Hitler's Third Reich, Fred Koch had worked for Stalin, where — under Stalin's first five-year plan — Fred Koch helped build up the Russian, the Soviet oil refineries and really gave huge muscle to the oil industry in the Soviet Union.

On the four Koch brothers' upbringing

I think their parents seem to have cared quite a bit about them, but they were the kinds of parents who were gone much of the time. The father was gone doing business, and the mother was a very active socialite and was gone much of the time, and so she and the father placed the child rearing in the hands of a hired nanny.

Here again, you get this strange recurrence of a kind of little touch of Nazi Germany, because . Charles and Frederick, the oldest sons, were put in the hands of a German nanny who was described by other family members as just a fervid Nazi. She was so devout a supporter of Hitler that finally, after five years working for the family, she left of her own volition in 1940 when Hitler entered France because she wanted to celebrate with the Fuehrer.

On three of the brothers attempting to blackmail the eldest, Frederick, when they suspected he was gay

You have to remember this was a very long time ago, when the idea of being gay was considered scandalous in a family, particularly a family of rough, self-made oil men out in Wichita, Kan. It was considered a dark secret that first-born son Frederick might have been gay. At some point, when Frederick was in his 20s, all four of the sons by then had shares in the family company. And what the three other brothers did was they created a kind of kangaroo court . so that [Frederick] walked into a room, found his three other brothers sitting there in chairs facing him, and they confronted him and conducted an inquisition to see if he was gay. And they then said that if he was, they were going to tell their father unless he handed over his share in the company. .

It's been rumored about for years in other write-ups about the Kochs, and there have been various descriptions of people denying it, but I actually got a hold of a sealed deposition in which one of the brothers, Bill Koch, describes the whole thing as it unfolded. The brother who they were accusing — Frederick, who was the eldest — stood up, looked at them, said, "I never want to hear about this again," and walked out of the room. It didn't work. But as a ploy, I think it gives you an idea of a family that is not the usual cozy, all-American family.

On the family company, Koch Industries, being investigated for pocketing millions in oil from Indian reservations

Ilse Koch: The “Witch of Buchenwald” was one of the most evil villains of the Holocaust

Koch joined the Nazi party in 1932 and four years later married the commandant of the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald, Karl-Otto Koch. They lived in an elegant house on Buchenwald’s grounds and seemed like any ordinary couple with three children. However, their marriage and everyday life were far from normal.

Ilse Koch, wife of Karl Koch who was the commandant of the concentration camp at Buchenwald Photo Credit

Ilse was a nymphomaniac who tortured prisoners in the concentration camp. She became known for her evilness and sadistic behavior which she expressed while beating the prisoners and forcing them to perform sexual activities for her amusement.

Besides the relentless torturing of the prisoners, she selected those who had distinctive tattoos and skinned them. Her hobby was collecting lampshades, gloves, and book covers but the items from her collection had a special ‘touch”. She covered the books with the prisoners’ tattooed skin. Some say that she even had a purse made out of human’s tattooed skin and she was especially proud of her collection of cannibalistic trophies, which included prisoners’ organs, as well.

Buchenwald 16th April 1945. A collection of prisoners’ internal organs Photo Credit

Ilse gained many nicknames during her stay at the concentration camps, such as “The Witch of Buchenwald,” “The Concentration Camps’ Killer,” “The Red Witch of Buchenwald,” The Butcher’s Widow:, and the “Bitch of Buchenwald.”

Luckily, she was arrested in 1943 along with her husband. Otto was accused of corruption and stealing vast amounts of valuables and money from the murdered Jews. He was executed by the SS on April 5th, 1945.

Ilse was imprisoned until 1944 when she was released due to lack of evidence. However, at the end of the war, she and 30 other workers were arrested on June 30th, 1945, by the U.S. authorities. She was charged with ‘participating in a criminal plan for aiding, abetting and participating in the murders at Buchenwald.’

To escape the prison, she announced to the court that she was pregnant. However, they knew that her husband was dead, so they started suspecting she had love affairs with other workers before and after the death of her husband, for whom she had once claimed to be a homosexual.

Ilse Koch at the U.S. Military Tribunal in Dachau, 1947 Photo Credit

Koch was finally sentenced to imprisonment for violating the laws and customs of war, on August 19th, 1947.

She committed suicide in 1967, under the delusion that the survived camp prisoners would come and abuse her in her cell. Her body was buried in an unmarked grave in the women’s prison cemetery of Aichach, Germany.

Nazi behind Winslet film role is revealed

The woman Kate Winslet plays in the Oscar-tipped movie The Reader has been revealed as one of Germany's most notorious war criminals.

Known as the "Bitch of Buchenwald", concentration camp guard Ilse Koch was sentenced to life imprisonment before she committed suicide, just like Hanna Schmitz, the fictional character played by Winslet.

Bernhard Schlink, whose controversial book examining German post-war guilt was adapted for the film, has always refused to reveal the basis of Schmitz's character. But Professor Bill Niven at Nottingham Trent University, an authority on Schlink and on his book, believes the parallels between Schmitz and Koch are unmistakable. "No other known female camp guard comes close to matching up with Schmitz," he said.

In the film, which begins in 1958, German teenager Michael Berg meets tram conductor Schmitz. The pair have a passionate affair, with Schmitz becoming abusive. Then she disappears and Michael is left fixated on their relationship. Eight years later Michael attends a war crimes trial in which a number of German women face justice for their actions as concentration camp guards. To Michael's horror, Schmitz is one of the defendants and is sentenced to life in prison. Michael begins to send taped books to the illiterate Schmitz. The day before her release from prison Schmitz commits suicide.

Koch also killed herself while serving a life sentence. She had recently been reunited with her illegitimate son, Uwe, who had only just discovered her true identity and guilt. Niven, an expert on contemporary German history and literature, said: "We are told that Ilse's son wrote poems to her in prison and that Michael and Hanna were united by reading. What also struck me was that Ilse was accused of using a riding crop to strike prisoners and Hanna, in the book, strikes Michael with a belt. This gratuitous violence is also echoed in the fact that both Hanna and Ilse selected prisoners for execution, and that there was a suggested sexual element underlying this. Ilse was accused of having affairs with prisoners, while Hanna was suspected by her camp inmates of selecting female prisoners to have sex with."

Like Schmitz, Koch came from a poor background and became an early devotee of Hitler, joining the Nazi party in 1932. She was singled out by Himmler as a good "Aryan" wife for his close friend Karl Koch, whom she married in 1936.

At Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Koch's sadism as commandant marked him out for promotion and he was transferred to Buchenwald. Ilse Koch followed her husband there and they built a luxurious home for their family. Karl Koch later bought a luxury car and opened Swiss bank accounts with money extorted from prisoners. His wife was a regular visitor inside the camp and supervised the female guards. Witnesses saw her ride through prisoners on her horse, lashing out at them with a whip, and on another occasion repeatedly kicked a man in the face.

William Gellinick, a prisoner who had worked in the pathology laboratories at Buchenwald, said he heard Ilse Koch once tell her husband: "My little pigeon. I think it is time for that old man [in a working party] to grovel a bit." The victim was made to roll up and down a hill repeatedly, suffering injuries which contributed to his death. Prisoners claimed that Ilse Koch loved to watch as well as mete out punishments.

In 1943 the SS was sufficiently alarmed by the allegations of unauthorised extortion to have the Kochs tried by an SS judge. Although Ilse Koch was acquitted, her husband was not, and in April 1945 - days before the camp was liberated - he was executed by firing squad. His wife had fled, but was arrested by the Americans later that year and tried in 1947.

Her trial shocked the world. Gellinick claimed that he had seen human skin brought in and processed to make lampshades for presentation to Koch's husband she was said to have selected prisoners with tattoos to be killed to produce them.

She was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1947 by the US war crimes tribunal, but it emerged that she was pregnant, probably by a fellow inmate. Her son, Uwe Kohler, was taken from her at birth and adopted. She was eventually sentenced by the German authorities to a life term and confined to Aichach prison. Uwe Kohler visited her in her Bavarian prison but disappeared after her death.

Death and burial ground of Koch, Ilse.

She was gripped by hysteria of time Koch committed suicide by hanging herself with bed sheets in her cell at Aichach women’s prison on 01-09-1967 she was 60 years old. She had 4 children, Artwin, Gisel, Gudrun and Uwe. Uwe is born in prison in October 1947 and the father is still unknown, but likely she was fathered by a fellow prisoner, Fritz Schäffer., Uwe was adopted and first in 1966 heard who his biological mother was, he makes a good living selling insurance now. The daughter Gudrun died unexpected, not one year old, during a skiing holiday of her parents and Ilse Koch’s sister Erna was her nanny at the time

On one of his scheduled visits, Ilse’s son Artwin was stunned to learn that she had killed herself the night before Koch’s body is buried in an unmarked and untended grave in the cemetery at Aichach . According to Joseph Halow, author of Innocent at Dachau, her son disappeared after learning of his mother’s suicide, but living in Bonn he said “I want to clear my mother’s name,”


A few hours after the Reichstag Fire, as Nazi propaganda spread fears of a Communist revolt, Hitler convinced Hindenburg to invoke Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which gave the president dictatorial powers and allowed him to make laws for all of Germany’s territorial states.

Hitler and the cabinet quickly drew up a more permanent and expansive Decree for the Protection of the People and the State (known as the Reichstag Fire Decree), which suspended the right to assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and other constitutional protections within Germany.

The decree also removed all restraints on police investigations, allowing the Nazis to arrest and jail their political opponents indiscriminately. That night, the stormtroopers of the Sturmabteilung (SA) rounded up some 4,000 people, many of whom were tortured as well as imprisoned.

The swift and brutal response to the Reichstag Fire bolstered Hitler’s image as Germany’s strong-willed savior from the dreaded 𠇋olshevism.”

On March 23, meeting at the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, giving full powers to Hitler. The meeting, which supposedly marked the union of National Socialism with Hindenburg and the German establishment, essentially turned the country over to the Nazis.

By the end of the year, all non-Nazi political parties, labor unions and other organizations had ceased to exist. When Hindenburg died in 1934, the German Army sanctioned Hitler’s decision to combine the posts of president and chancellor, cementing his absolute power in Germany.

Karl Koch : Nazi Germany - History

Ilse Koch
The Bitch of Buchenwald
[loose translation of camp-era nickname "Hexe"=witch, used by English press during trial]

This page was created by Angela Mesna, a senior English major at UCSB (link to author page). I became interested in Ilse because of her nickname and decided to more research on her. Most of my information came mainly from various Internet sources (sources).
[note Feb. 1, 2009: a reader brought to my attention that Holocaust denier used some vagueness and a single typo on this page as part of his effort to dispute the veracity of the Holocaust itself. I (Prof. Marcuse) have responded to that video in bracketed comments like these--most of them are irrelevant and mere smokescreen intended to confuse viewers. The original denier video can be viewed at:]

There is little known about the early years of Ilse Koch. She was born in Dresden Germany in 1906. She worked in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp before marrying her husband Karl Koch in 1937. When her husband was appointed to be commandant at the Buchenwald concentration camp she willingly went with him.

Ilse did not opt for the removed position of a wife of a camp official but rather became an SS Aufseherin (overseer) of the camp. Ilse used the position to express her sadistic and cruel nature. She was known for riding her horse through the camp and whipping and beating any prisoner who caught her particular interest. She would also ride through the camp and select specific prisoners with tattooed skin or interesting skin markings. She had these individuals killed and their skins tanned in order to make lampshades and other household items.

This is a picture of a lampshade made of human skin found in Koch's apartment.
[actually, we don't know exactly where within the Buchenwald camp it was found,
and the Kommandant's villa was not within the prisoners' camp]
The drawing is a tattoo that was on the man's chest.

It was not altogether uncommon for officers to have lampshades made of human skin, but as one witness recounts, her handbag was made of human flesh, and her extreme pride in it was very disturbing. [a more recent detailed discussion of the human skin objects can be found on]

Karl was arrested shortly before the end of the war in 1944 for his exploitation of camp workers [he was so greedy and corrupt that the Nazis themselves arrested and executed him!] and Ilse was arrested when the camp was liberated. Karl was charged and executed in 1945. Ilse was also found guilty of "participating in the atrocities at Buchenwald" and was given a life sentence. She only served two years of this sentence. She was later re-arrested for killing German nationals and again given a life sentence. Ilse Koch committed suicide on September 1, 1947 [typo corrected Feb. 1, 2009]: 1967. [again, see for more details]

It is difficult to determine whether Ilse Koch was a product of Nazi ideology and anti-Semitism or rather found the Holocaust as an opportunity to divulge in her already sadistic nature. Because there is little available on her childhood and early childhood behaviors, it is difficult to attempt to make a definitive answer. What is clear is that this woman found, under the rule of Hitler, the capacity in herself to brutally torture her prisoners and keep pieces of them for her personal decoration.

Aktion T4 the Nazi euthanasia programme that killed 300,000

The first to die was a five-month-old baby boy called Gerhard Kretschmar. Gerhard’s father, Richard Kretschmar, considered his severely disabled child to be a ‘monster’, and he soon approached his local physician with the request that the baby be ‘put to sleep’ for his own good. After the doctor refused, Kretschmar wrote directly to Adolf Hitler, asking the Führer to overrule the doctor.

Hitler, who had long been in favour of ‘mercy killing’ the severely disabled, dispatched his personal physician, Karl Brandt, to the village of Pommsen near Leipzig to examine the child. Hitler told Brandt that if the baby was as severely disabled as the father claimed, Brandt had his permission to kill the child.

Brandt duly examined Gerhard and concluded that the child was beyond help. With Hitler’s blessing, the child was killed, probably by lethal injection on the 25th of July 1939. His death would mark the start of one of the most hideous programmes of the Second World War – the mass murder of the mentally ill and the physically disabled throughout Germany and some of its occupied territories. The programme would come to be known as Aktion T4.

The death of little Gerhard Kretschmar was therefore seen as a ‘trial run’ for what would follow

The road to the mass killing of the mentally ill and the disabled began in 1933 with the passing of the ‘Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring’. This made sterilisation compulsory for anyone suffering from conditions considered to be hereditary at the time. These conditions included schizophrenia and epilepsy – afflictions that the Nazis, obsessed with racial purity as they were, did not want passing down through the generations. By sterilising people with conditions such as Huntingdon’s chorea, the vaguely labelled ‘imbecility’ and even chronic alcoholism, the Nazis sought to remove these illnesses from the national gene pool, thus creating a stronger, purer race.

Hitler wanted to go further than merely sterilising people. As early as 1933, he was already expressing the view to both his physician Karl Brandt and the head of the Reich Chancellery, Hans Lammers, that his regime should go further and kill those in society the Nazis considered useless. The death of little Gerhard Kretschmar was therefore seen as a ‘trial run’ for what would follow. After the child’s death, Hitler told Brandt to treat all similar cases the same. It was the start of something truly monstrous.

Three weeks after Gerhard Kretschmar’s death, the Nazis set up the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses. The committee registered the births of all babies born with defects identified by physicians. The mass killing of infants began soon after. By 1941, over 5,000 children identified by the committee had been murdered with the blessings of the state.

Of course, the state was conscious of the fact that parents wouldn’t take likely to the government killing their children. To prevent mass revolt, deception was deployed. Parents of disabled children were told that their offspring were being sent to ‘Special Sections’ where they were to receive advanced medical attention. In reality, the children were sent to extermination centres housed in psychiatric hospitals where they were killed by lethal injection. The parents would then be informed that their children had died from something else, usually pneumonia. Children sent to the Am Spiegelgrund institute in Austria were not just killed by lethal injection. Some were gassed and others died after being subjected to physical abuse. Once dead, the children’s brains were removed for further study without the parents being informed. Grotesquely, some of these preserved brains sat in private collections into the 21st Century.

Across Poland, asylums were emptied by members of the SS and the patients shot.

It wasn’t just disabled children that the Nazis decided to exterminate. The outbreak of war in September 1939 meant not only the targeting of mentally and physically disabled Germans adults sights were set on the vulnerable of conquered territories such as Poland and Czechoslovakia as well.

Polish patients were the first to be targeted soon after the Nazi conquest of the country. Across Poland, asylums were emptied by members of the SS and the patients shot. It wasn’t long before a more cost-efficient method of killing the physically and mentally ill was being sought out, and as early as December 1939 patients were being gassed to death. Heinrich Himmler witnessed one such gassing. He liked what he saw, and gassing would later become the extermination method of choice during the Final Solution.

The programme of killing adults suffering from mental and physical disabilities quickly spread back into neighbouring Germany. Regional governors were eager to clear out their institutions to make way for wounded soldiers, and having seen what was going on in Poland, they jumped at the chance to implement similar programmes on the home front. 8,000 vulnerable Germans were murdered in the first wave of killing. They would by no means be the last.

What had begun as a regional solution to hospital overcrowding soon spread across Germany. By 1940, all Jews had been removed from German institutions and killed, and orders went out to nursing homes, mental institutions, hospitals, old people’s homes and sanatoria to register anyone who had been interned for five years or more with a range of conditions ranging from being ‘criminally insane’ to syphilis, senile dementia and epilepsy. Those who fell into these categories were removed from their institutions by special ambulances driven by SS men dressed in white coats. They would then be taken to extermination centres and usually killed within 24 hours. Death certificates with false causes of death were then drawn up and sent to relatives.

Of course, the mass killing of German adults and children didn’t go unnoticed. The deaths were hardly a state secret, and many people and doctors who objected to Aktion T4 went out of their way to remove their relatives and patients from institutions before the SS came for them. Protests broke out across Germany. Both the Protestant and Catholic churches objected to the morality of the programme. Despite these objections, patients under both churches’ care were routinely removed and murdered – often, and to these churches’ eternal shame, with priests’ consent.

The Nazi euthanasia programme was officially suspended indefinitely in 1941 in the face of both public and official protest. Sadly, the killings would continue right up to the end of the war as fanatical Nazis carried on the programme regardless. The last child to be euthanized was Richard Jenne in the town of Kaufberen in Bavaria. Incredibly, the town had already been occupied by American troops for three weeks when the boy’s murder took place.

In total, Aktion T4 killed between 275,000 and 300,000 innocent people. The method of death by gassing that was developed for the programme would later be transferred to the mass killing of Jews, Poles, Roma, homosexuals and other targeted groups in the extermination camps that sprang up across the occupied territories.

After the war, many prominent participants in the programme including Karl Brandt were tried at Nuremberg in what became known as the ‘Doctor’s Trial’. Many were hanged for their crimes against humanity. Among those sentenced to death were Viktor Brack, an enthusiastic Nazi who cut his teeth on the euthanasia programme before going on to gas thousands of Jews, and Kurt Blome, a scientist who experimented on live human subjects as well as committing euthanasia. Brandt, the man who kickstarted the programme with the death of little Gerhard Kretschmar in 1939, was hanged on the 2nd of June 1948.

Aktion T4 was but one of many appalling crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis during the Second World War. “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” Those were the words of the former US Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey. As with everything they did, the Nazis failed this test.