“The Witch of Buchenwald,” “The Bitch of Buchenwald,” “The Beast of Buchenwald”

ilsekochStrictly speaking, Koch was not a guard. In fact, she was not in the SS in any capacity but her husband Karl Koch was the commander of Buchenwald and later Majdanek. Using the power that his position granted her, Koch developed a reputation for cruelty which was nothing short of unbelievable.

Koch, it has been testified, was known to meet prisoners upon their arrival to inspect them for interesting or attractive tattoos. If she saw something which caught her eye, she had the prisoner executed, skinned and their skin made into useful items such as lampshades or book covers. While it has never been proven that she manufactured anything from the skins, her collection was used against her at her trials. What has also been proven is that she often instigated the torture of inmates including forcing one of them to rape another in plain sight.

Unfortunately for her, in 1943 both her and her husband were arrested for embezzling from the SS and killing prisoners to cover up the crime. While he was executed, Ilse was acquitted and was free when she was arrested by the Allies.

Being a rare civilian exception, Koch was tried for war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment. She was serving out that sentence when she committed suicide in 1967.

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