Margarete Ilse Koch, née Köhler (22 September 1906 – 1 September 1967), called the Bitch of Buchenwald or the Witch of Buchenwaldby her detractors, was the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, commandant of the Buchenwald (1937–1941) and Majdanek (1941–1943) concentration camps.
Ilse Koch remained at Buchenwald until 24 August 1943, when she and her husband were arrested by the SS. The charges against the Kochs comprised private enrichment, embezzlement, and the murder of prisoners to prevent them from giving testimony. Ilse Koch was imprisoned until 1944 when she was acquitted for lack of evidence. Her husband was found guilty and sentenced to death by an SS court in Munich, and was executed by firing squad on 5 April 1945.
Postwar Dachau and West German trials
See the article on the Western Holocaust camps on Buchenwald being extensively used in Allied psychological warfare and on many of the earlier accusations now having been admitted to be false even by non-Holocaust revisionists.
Ilse Koch was one of the accused at the notorious and illegal Dachau trials and sentenced to life imprisonment for supposed crimes at Buchenwald.
General Lucius D. Clay was the interim military governor of the United States Zone in Germany, and he reduced the judgment to four years' imprisonment, after she had served two years of her sentence, on the grounds 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". Clay stood firm despite the ensuing uproar. The biography Lucius D. Clay: An American Life quotes a statement made by Clay years later:
- There was absolutely no evidence in the trial transcript, other than she was a rather loathsome creature, that would support the death sentence. I suppose I received more abuse for that than for anything else I did in Germany. Some reporter had called her the "Bitch of Buchenwald", had written that she had lamp shades made of human skin in her house. And that was introduced in court, where it was absolutely proven that the lampshades were made out of goatskin.
Koch was re-arrested in 1949 and tried before a West German court. At least four witnesses for the prosecution testified that they had seen Koch choose tattooed prisoners, who were then killed, or had seen or been involved in the process of making human-skin lampshades from tattooed skin. However, this charge was dropped by the prosecution when they could not prove lampshades or any other items were actually made from human skin.
Regardless, she was outrageously convicted of charges of incitement to murder, incitement to attempted murder and incitement to the crime of committing grievous bodily harm (all of which had been already dealt with by the Dachau Trials), and on 15 January 1951 was sentenced to life imprisonment and permanent forfeiture of civil rights. She hanged herself in prison in 1967.
See the "External links" regarding various criticisms of the accusations.