Erich Koch

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Erich Koch

In office
1 October 1928 – 23 April 1945
Leader Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Hans Albert Hohnfeldt (acting)
Succeeded by Position Abolished

Oberpräsident of East Prussia
In office
2 June 1933 – 23 April 1945
Preceded by Wilhelm Kutscher
Succeeded by Position Abolished

Reichskommissar for Ukraine
In office
1 September 1941 – 10 November 1944
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Position Established
Succeeded by Position Abolished

Reichskommissar for the Ostland
In office
21 September 1944 – 21 January 1945
(de facto ousted 13 October 1944)
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Hinrich Lohse
Succeeded by Position Abolished

Born 19 June 1896
Elberfeld, German Empire
Died 12 November 1986
Barczewo Prison
Political party NSDAP
Conviction(s) alleged war crimes
Criminal penalty Death; commuted to life imprisonment
Military service
Allegiance  German Empire
Service/branch Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Freikorps Flag.jpg Freikorps „von Killinger“ / Marine-Brigade „Ehrhardt“
Years of service 1915-1918
Battles/wars World War I

Erich Richard Koch (1896 – 1986) was a German veteran of WWI and the Freikorps as well as National Socialist Gauleiter in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945, Chief of Civil Administration in the Region of Białystok between 1941 and 1945 and Reichskommissar for Ukraine between 1941 and 1944. He was also a member of the Reichstag since 1930 and officer of the SA, at last SA-Obergruppenführer.


Early life and WWI

Koch was born in Elberfeld, today part of Wuppertal, as the son of foreman Gustav Adolf Koch (1862 – 1932) and his wife Henriette, née Matthes (1863 – 1939). In World War I, he served as a soldier from 1915 to the end of the war in 1918. He later fought as a member of Freikorps in Upper Silesia.

Weimar Republic

A skilled trader, Koch joined the railway service (Reichsbahn) as an aspirant for the middle level of the civil service. He was dismissed from this position in 1926 for "anti-Weimar Republic activities".

Koch joined the NSDAP in 1922 (member #90). From 1922 he worked in various party positions in the NSDAP-Gau Ruhr. During the Occupation of the Ruhr, he was a member of Albert Leo Schlageter's resistance and was imprisoned several times by the French occupation authorities. In 1927 he became Bezirksführer of the NSDAP in Essen and later the deputy Gauleiter of Gau Ruhr. Koch belonged to the left wing of the party and was a supporter of the faction led by Gregor Strasser.

In 1928, Koch became Gauleiter of the Province of East Prussia and the leader of the NSDAP faction in the provincial diet. From September 1930 he was a member of the Reichstag for East Prussia. After the Machtergreifung (Hitler's accession to power in January 1933), Koch was appointed to the Prussian State Council in July 1933. He became Oberpräsident of East Prussia on 2 June 1933 (acting until September) replacing Wilhelm Kutscher. He thus united under his control the highest party and governmental offices in the province. In November 1938 Koch was appointed SA-Obergruppenführer.


At the commencement of World War II on 1 September 1939, Koch was appointed Reich Defense Commissioner (Reichsverteidigungskommissar) for Wehrkreis (Military District) I, which comprised East Prussia. In October 1944, he organized the Volkssturm of the east.


After the war, he was captured by British forces in Hamburg in 1949. He was extradited and imprisoned for eight years in Poland before his trial began in 1958. He was convicted in 1959 for claimed crimes in Poland and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment a year later due to alleged poor health. However, Koch lived for many decades after this. He was never charged for claimed crimes in the Soviet Union, despite allegedly having committed numerous crimes there, Koch being in Communist captivity, and being one of the highest ranking National Socialist officials alive after the Nuremberg trials.

Koch has been argued to have been a Soviet agent who instituted brutal polices in Ukraine in order to cause opposition to and resistance against Germany, and possibly also in order to continue the harsh ant-Ukrainian policy by the Soviet Union (see the article on the Holodomor). This has been argued to provide an explanation for Koch's argued strange and lenient treatment by the Communists during the postwar period. It has been argued that only a direct order by Stalin himself could have prevented the execution of a person of Koch's rank and alleged criminality in the Soviet Union once being in Communist captivity.[1]

Koch appeared in a television report on Königsberg's history in 1986, interviewed by West German journalists in his Polish prison cell. He remained unrepentant to the end, arguing that he would never have surrendered as "it was a matter of honour".


Koch died shortly thereafterin Barczewo prison, Barczewo, People's Republic of Poland (formerly Wartenburg in East Prussia) at the age of 90, as the last German POW to serve a term in Poland. He was buried in an unmarked grave, at the local prison cemetery.

Awards and decorations


  1. Why did Stalin save the life of Hitler’s gauleiter in Ukraine who sent to graves 4 million people?