The Terrible War Crimes of Ilse Koch: Das Biest von Buchenwald

The story about this woman will give you chills for life.


One of the war stories that fascinated me when I was younger was the story of Ilse Koch or the “Das Biest von Buchenwald”.

That’s not because it’s a particular “fun” story or anything but mainly because it’s terrifying and it gives you chills when you read about the details. This woman was a true demon during the war.

Even though she did some horrible things, not many people not the name of “Ilse Koch” nowadays — that should change.

The happy child that turned into a beast

According to Wikipedia, Ilse Koch was born in 1906 in the city of Dresden, just north of the Czech border.

We see a lot of war criminals in Germany being related to former army officers. Her father was such a person and was a commander in the German army.

At the beginning of her life, she didn’t do anything wrong and went to school, got good grades, and was the typical perfect student. But like many other Germans, she became an associate of the Nazi Party.

After World War 1, many Germans were bittered about the defeat in the “Great War” and turned into the then-secret army, because the Germans weren’t allowed to have a big army anymore after the Treaty of Versailles.

When Adolf Hitler became the leader of the Nazi Party, many Germans saw some kind of messiah in him.

Ilse Koch started working at a concentration camp.

Koch’s terrible crimes in Buchenwald

At the beginning of her Camp Career, she started working at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp — a camp that was known for keeping people that committed “political crimes” (according to the Nazis).

One of the most prominent prisoners during the war in Sachsenhausen was Yakov Dzhugashvili — that might not ring a bell but it was Joseph Stalin’s son.

By Unknown. Several sources believe the photographer to have been Ernst Hoffmann or Bernhard Walter of the SS — Yad Vashem, USHMM #77221 The album was donated to Yad Vashem by Lili Jacob, a survivor, who found it in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in 1945.Czesław Madajczyk, Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce, Polish Scientific Publishers PWN, 1970, p. 257, Public Domain,

After a while, she met a man on the job that she eventually married.

This Camp Commander, later on, got transferred to Buchenwald and Koch moved along with him.

This is where the horrors started.

During her time at Buchenwald, she did some horrible experiments with the prisoners — skinning them and using the skins of Jews for all kinds of chilly purposes.

She allegedly used the skins to create tools like clothes, lampshades, and other “products”.

When I was a kid, I had a phase (after reading about this story) where I would be terrified of old lampshades — they would remind me of this story and give me chills.

By United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Foto #74066, Publiek domein

Besides this, she did various other medical experiments with the prisoners — the female Joseph Mengele.

The end of her crimes

Koch was arrested first by the SS (Schutzstaffel) because she didn’t follow orders by the higher commanders and she was imprisoned but they couldn’t keep her there.

There wasn’t any proof left that she abused her position in the camp and she was released in 1944. Her husband on the other hand was sentenced to death and she lived alone until 1945 when she got arrested by the United States troops.

Like many other Nazi War Criminals, she was accused of these terrible crimes and was sentenced for the rest of her life.

But because there (again) was a lack of evidence, her sentence was shortened to a prison sentence of 4 years.

After a lot of trials and court cases deciding whether she would have to be locked up again, she killed herself in 1967 — when she was imprisoned after being sentenced again for her crimes against German officials.

That’s how the story of “The Beast of Buchenwald” ended.


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Originally Published on Medium

Posted in War

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