Ilse Koch And The Lampshade Libel

It has become de rigueur to lambast and ridicule Revisionist Historians, but The Most Evil Men And Women In History, a TV series currently running on Channel 5 screened an episode on April 15 which demonstrates clearly that there has never been a greater need for the practitioners of this discipline. The subject of this episode is Ilse Koch, wife of the infamous Karl Koch, Commandant of Buchenwald. (1)

Ilse Koch is portrayed as a monster, at least that was how the programme makers intended to portray her, unfortunately this particular pseudo-documentary is not only long on lurid speculation, and short on hard facts, but visibly so, and by delving into the non-contentious historical record and using a little common sense it is possible to deconstruct it in its entirety.

The activities of Commandant Koch and his undoubtedly sexually depraved wife have been used as a bedrock for anti-Nazi fairy stories, in particular the alleged manufacture of lampshades and other artefacts from human skin, the manufacture of soap from dead Jews, the plundering of the dead in Auschwitz and elsewhere. Here though, the truth is found to be far more complex than simple inherent Nordic wickedness.

The programme begins with the bald statement that at the end of the Second World War (in Europe) some twelve hundred locals were marched through the liberated Buchenwald camp by the Americans wherein they were shown two shrunken heads said to have been found in the camp, along with a lampshade made from human skin, and other specimens taken from tattooed prisoners; the crowds and the artefacts are duly exhibited. Even in this poor quality film it is clear that some of the exhibits were bona fide medical specimens.

Ilse Koch and her husband Karl are said to have presided over the camp where a hundred thousand people died. The exact death toll of Buchenwald camp will never be known, but just how many of these deaths were caused either directly or indirectly by Ilse Koch? And how many by the horrors of war, particularly in the final few months of a war when Germany was being pounded on all sides, and starvation and disease were running rife?

Ilse was said to have personally selected inmates (for death), and to have been known as the Bitch of Buchenwald. Epithets are of course two a penny, but what exactly was her role in selecting inmates for death?

In his book to silence all but conscious liars, Professor Butz points out that since most of what we know about Buchenwald and its controllers comes from former inmates - who may with good reason be more than a little biased - we must read between the lines of their testimonies. He gives as a striking example the testimony of former inmate Christopher Burney, (2) who says of Kommandant Koch: “No cruelty was foreign to him, no single cell of his brain had not at some time or other contributed to the planning of new refinements of anguish and death for the rats in his trap.” (3)

Professor Butz comments that because Koch was a homosexual (bi-sexual?), Frau Koch used to “make out” with the prisoners. (It doesn’t seem to have occurred to either Butz or Burney that some inmates might have considered it to be a privilege rather than a punishment to bed the Commandant’s wife!). Then they were sent to the crematorium except that the highly valued tattooed skin was saved for lampshades. Professor Butz comments sarcastically that “At this point in Burney’s book things obviously look real bad for him, especially if he has tattoos and Frau Koch finds him”. (4)

However, by his own admission, Burney spent a mere fifteen months in Buchenwald (5) - twelve months more than the average life expectancy according to the programme - and by that time, Koch was no longer in charge, in fact the régime had improved considerably because Koch’s successor, Pister, “won for himself the reputation among the prisoners of being one of the mildest Concentration Camp Commanders in history.” (6)

Notwithstanding the hearsay testimony of this eyewitness to one of Hitler’s hell holes, Frau Koch was convicted of such crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment. She committed suicide in 1967.

This is duly related by the programme, but as usual where the wicked Nazis are concerned we are not told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. According to Professor Butz, in 1948, General Clay, the military governor of US controlled Germany, reviewed Frau Koch’s case and determined that she could not be related to the lampshades and other articles which were “discovered (i.e. planted) in her residence in 1945.” (7) He therefore reduced her sentence to four years for “ordinary sorts of brutalities”. (8)

This is confirmed by General Clay himself who stated that in the Ilse Koch case, no less than four prosecution witnesses were found “unworthy of belief”. (9)

So how did Ilse Koch end up committing suicide in her prison cell in 1967? After she was released from American custody, she was re-arrested and tried again on “essentially the same charges”. This second trial was clearly politically (and racially?) motivated, as was the verdict. “Although the defence was able to show that the testimonies of two of the prosecution witnesses contradicted declarations that they had made in connection with earlier proceedings, thus forcing the German court to strike their testimonies from the record, Ilse Koch was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.” (10) The above lends credence to her own claim - repeated in the programme - that she was framed.

The treatment - or rather the mistreatment - of Ilse Koch was hardly unique. Official communications from the British Army liaison to the authorities running war crimes trials in occupied Germany in February 1946 suggest that if they should escape the death sentence “(or even be acquitted)”, Germans tried in connection with alleged atrocities committed at Dachau, Flossenberg and Mauthausen should be handed over to the British “who may be able to impose the supreme penalty in respect of our victims.” (11)

The British took the allegations against Ilse Koch (12) seriously enough to send an official Parliamentary delegation to the camp, and the resulting White Paper was published as early as April 1945. The following extract appears on page 6:

“We were told of scientific experiments, such as the infecting of prisoners with typhus in order to obtain serum from them, by the camp’s Nazi doctors; but obtained no direct and unchallengeable evidence of this. We saw a laboratory with a large number of glass jars containing preserved specimens of human organs. The walls of the laboratory and other medical rooms were decorated with death-masks...We were told that Frau Koch, the wife of the German Commandant, collected articles made of human skin. We obtained pieces of hide which have since been identified by Sir Bernard Spilsbury as being human skin. One of these pieces clearly formed part of a lampshade.” (13)

Ironically, even if the tattooed skin and lampshade(s) could be attributed to Ilse Koch, the programme itself indicates that they may well have been bona fide (if somewhat off-beat) medical specimens. A camp doctor was said to have been writing a dissertation on tattooing. At one point we are told that “prisoners were forced to decorate the skins of their dead comrades”. Decorating skin removed from a corpse hardly constitutes a war crime - unless of course the victim was murdered specifically for that purpose.

Bona fide medical specimens can be found in teaching hospitals throughout the world. One of the more grisly medical scandals we have had thrust upon us in Britain in recent years has been the retention of the organs of dead children by a number of hospitals for research purposes without the informed consent of the parents. And as I write these words a grotesque exhibit of human corpses is being peddled in Britain as art. (14)

On a slightly different subject, here is food for thought. The taking of “trophies” from a defeated enemy or even of innocent civilians is hardly a new phenomenon. Countless outlaws and others have ended up with their heads impaled on spikes in earlier (and supposedly darker) ages. The practice of taking scalps in the Wild West is well documented, but it may be that Ilsa Koch was not the first victim of this particular libel. A 1920 pamphlet published by an anti-Bolshevik organisation claimed, among other things, that human gloves were found in a torture chamber in Kharkov. (15) The brutality and utter inhumanity of the Bolsheviks is well documented, but one wonders if anti-Bolshevik Russians didn’t gild the lily a bit in order to whip up support for the liberation of their homeland.

Returning to Ilse Koch, even if one accepts that she committed real crimes under German law, (16) even if one accepts that she was a harlot, (17) even if one accepts that she was exceptionally depraved in a sexual sense, she has a long way to go before qualifying as one of the most evil or even one of the most depraved women in the world. Are we really being asked to believe that she can hold a candle to Elizabeth Bathory the Blood Countess, who tortured and murdered hundreds of young virgins before bathing in their blood? Or to Belle Gunness, the Norwegian-born American serial killer of La Porte, Indiana? Or to Rosemary West who is currently serving ten life sentences for murders of monumental cruelty including one of her own daughters? Or even to that perennial favourite Myra Hindley, the more than willing partner of her fellow Moors Murderer, Ian Brady?

The timing of this pseudo-documentary is ironic; it coincides with claims that those wonderful people who gave you Sabra and Shatilla have been at it again, this time in a West Bank hell hole called Jenin where there has been no little debate over exactly how many innocent Palestinians have been slaughtered. None if you believe the Israelis, they were all terrorists, although there may have been some unavoidable collateral damage, but war is war, oy vay.

In stark contrast with Buchenwald, the Zionist occupiers have not been keen to exhibit the dead and the damned to the world; neutral observers were not allowed in until the outrage and international pressure could be withstood no longer.

Mass Starvation
In The Concentration Camps

In a world where news is transmitted worldwide at the press of a button, journalists can be forgiven if they don’t always get it right first time. In June 2001, two mischievous Dallas DJs reported that the singer Britney Spears and her boyfriend had been killed in a car crash in California. The police and fire departments were inundated with calls from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand before the fraud was exposed. (18) Any journalist or news agency that picked up on this story could be forgiven for being duped. But documentaries aren’t hot news, they take weeks or months to plan, research and make. The Channel 5 team’s failure to mention the true facts of the Ilse Koch case, in particular that she underwent not one but two trials, and that the evidence against her was tainted, is to say the least, wilful, mendacious, and downright dishonest.

Another, and far more persistent piece of dishonesty is the exhibiting to the world of what might be called walking skeletons as proof of the alleged Nazi genocide of the Jews. The terrible scenes found in Buchenwald, Dachau and in particular Belsen are proof of no such thing. These people, although victims of war, were no more systematically starved than was the population of Allied-occupied Germany after the war, and in this connection we can do no better than quote again from the papers of General Clay.

Document CC 23681 SECRET dated 27 February 1946 reports that rations that day were cut to 1,000 calories “with corresponding cuts for heavy workers to include coal miners. This ration will of course barely maintain life and is far below any minimum standard for the average consumer to maintain health for even a short period.” (19)

Document CC 1033 SECRET dated 6 March 1946: the US administration had been prepared to support 1,550 calorie ration “provided the Germans met certain established quotas.” (20)

Document CC 1530 SECRET dated 16 March 1946: Clay said he felt immediate steps must be taken to reduce the rations from 1,550 calories to 1,200. (21)

In a cable dated March 18, 1946, Clay recommended that the 1,550 ration be reduced to 1,313. (22)

The following table is extracted from The Dictionary Of Nutritional Health. (23)

Men, age 35-64, very active 3,350 Calories per day maximum
Women during lactation 2,750
Men age 18-34, sedentary 2,510
Women, age 18-54, most occupations 2,150

You work it out.

It goes without saying that however much innocent blood is shed in the Middle East, however many atrocities the brave Israelis commit, and however much the world may agonise over the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people, the suffering of some remains, as ever, far more important than others. Even if that suffering ended more than half a century ago and has been greatly exaggerated into the bargain.

May 17, 2002

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