Ilse Koch

Ilse Koch

German NSDAP activist, wife of Karl Koch
Date of Birth: 22.09.1906
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Ilse Koch
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Involvement with NSDAP
  4. Later Years and Controversy
  5. Death

Biography of Ilse Koch

Ilse Koch was a German member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the wife of Karl Koch, the commandant of concentration camps Buchenwald and Majdanek. She earned the nickname "The Witch of Buchenwald" for her cruel torture of camp prisoners and was also accused of making souvenirs from human skin.

Early Life and Education

Ilse Köhler was born in Dresden into a working-class family. She was a diligent student and a lively child. In her youth, she worked as a librarian.

Involvement with NSDAP

In 1932, Koch joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Two years later, she met Karl Koch, whom she married in 1936. In 1936, she began working as a secretary and guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1937, Karl Koch was appointed as the commandant of Buchenwald, where Ilse gained notoriety for her brutality towards prisoners. It was reported that she would walk around the camp, beating people she encountered with a whip and setting her dog on them. Koch was also accused of ordering the killing of prisoners with tattoos in order to make various unique items from their skin, such as lampshades, gloves, and book covers.

Later Years and Controversy

In 1941, Ilse Koch became the senior overseer among the female guards. In September 1941, Karl Koch was appointed as the commandant of Majdanek, and in July 1942, he was removed from his position due to corruption charges. In 1943, the Kochs were arrested by the SS. Karl Koch was charged with the murder of doctor Walter Krämer and his assistant, who could have exposed his syphilis treatment. In early 1945, Karl Koch was sentenced to death and was executed in Munich in April, shortly before the Allied forces entered the city. Ilse Koch was acquitted and moved in with her parents in Ludwigsburg.

On June 30, 1945, Koch was arrested by American forces and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1947. However, several years later, General Lucius Clay, the military governor of the American occupation zone in Germany, released her, deeming the charges of ordering executions and making souvenirs from human skin insufficiently proven. This decision sparked public outrage, leading to Koch's re-arrest in 1951 in West Germany. She was once again sentenced to life imprisonment.


On September 1, 1967, Ilse Koch took her own life by hanging herself in her cell at the Bavarian prison in Aichach. The image of Ilse Koch served as the inspiration for the character in the film "Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS" (1974).