This page was created by Angela Mesna, a senior English
major at UCSB (link to author page). I became
interested in Ilse because of her nickname and decided to more research
on her. Most of my information came mainly from various Internet sources
There is little known about the early years of Ilse Koch. She was born in Dresden Germany in 1906. She worked in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp before marrying her husband Karl Koch in 1937. When her husband was appointed to be commandant at the Buchenwald concentration camp she willingly went with him.
Ilse did not opt for the removed position of a wife of a camp official but rather became an SS Aufseherin (overseer) of the camp. Ilse used the position to express her sadistic and cruel nature. She was known for riding her horse through the camp and whipping and beating any prisoner who caught her particular interest. She would also ride through the camp and select specific prisoners with tattooed skin or interesting skin markings. She had these individuals killed and their skins tanned in order to make lampshades and other household items.
This is a picture of a lampshade made of
human skin found in Koch's apartment.
It was not altogether uncommon for officers to have lampshades made of human skin, but as one witness recounts, her handbag was made of human flesh, and her extreme pride in it was very disturbing. [a more recent detailed discussion of the human skin objects can be found on scrapbookpages.com]
Karl was arrested shortly before the end of the war
in 1944 for his exploitation of camp workers [he was so greedy and corrupt
that the Nazis themselves arrested and executed him!] and Ilse was arrested
when the camp was liberated. Karl was charged and executed in 1945.
Ilse was also found guilty of "participating in the atrocities at Buchenwald"
and was given a life sentence. She only served two years of this sentence.
She was later re-arrested for killing German nationals and again given
a life sentence. Ilse Koch committed suicide on September 1,
It is difficult to determine whether Ilse Koch was a product of Nazi ideology and anti-Semitism or rather found the Holocaust as an opportunity to divulge in her already sadistic nature. Because there is little available on her childhood and early childhood behaviors, it is difficult to attempt to make a definitive answer. What is clear is that this woman found, under the rule of Hitler, the capacity in herself to brutally torture her prisoners and keep pieces of them for her personal decoration.
Content by: Angela Mesna
Web Design: Brittney Smith
Date created: December 8, 2003, updated Feb. 1, 2009 by hm