Erich Koch

Erich Koch ( Elberfeld , 19 as June as 1896 – Barczewo , December as November as 1986 ) was a politician German of the Nazi Party . He was Gauleiter of East Prussia between 1928 and 1945, and during World War II he was head of the civil administration ( Chef der Zivilverwaltung ) of the district of Białystok . During this period he was also Reichskommissar in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine (1941-1943) and also in the Reichskommissariat Ostland (1944). After the war, Koch was tried in Poland , convicted in 1959 for war crimes and sentenced to death: the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment a year later, remaining in prison until the day of his death.


Early years

Koch was born in Elberfeld, today part of Wuppertal , as the son of Gustav Adolph Koch (1862-1932) and his wife, Henriette (1863-1939). During World War I served as a soldier without distinctions from 1915 to 1918 and later fought as a member of Freikorps Rossbach in Upper Silesia . 1 Operational expert, Koch joined the Railway Service as an applicant for the middle level of public administration. 1 However, he was dismissed from this job in 1926 because of his anti- Republican activities . 1

Ascent in the Nazi Party

Koch had joined the German National Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1922. 1 Since that year he also held several positions within the NSDAP Gau Ruhr . During the Occupation of the Ruhr was part of the group directed by Albert Leo Schlageter , reason of which was jailed in numerous occasions by the French authorities. 1 In 1927 he became Bezirksführer of the NSDAP in Essen and later in the Gauleiter deputy of the Gau Ruhr . Koch belonged to the left wing of the party and was a supporter of the faction led by Gregor Strasser . 1

In 1928 he became the Gauleiter of the strategic East Prussian Province and leader of the Nazi Party faction in the Prussian provincial diet. 1 From September 1930 he was also a member of the Reichstag for East Prussia. 1 After Machtergreifung of 1933 , Koch was appointed to the Prussian State Council in July 1933. 1 Thus, ended up becoming Oberpräsident of East Prussia in September 1933, replacing Wilhelm Kutscher . 1

Before the war Koch’s government in East Prussia was characterized by efforts to achieve collectivization of local agriculture, as well as repression of its critics both inside and outside the Party. 1 It also had large long-term plans for mass-scale industrialization of an eminently agricultural province such as Prussia. These actions made him unpopular among local peasants. 1 However, the “Erich Koch Plan” for East Prussia was supposed to have been abandoned through aid programs financed by public emergency funds (focusing on technical improvements in agriculture and road construction projects ). The province free of unemployment : on August 16, 1933 Koch informed Hitler that unemployment had been banished completely from East Prussia, a feat that won admiration throughout Germany . 2

Koch’s industrialization plans led him into conflict with Walther Darré , who ran the office of the Reich Farmer Leader ( Reichsbauernführer ) and the Ministry of Agriculture. Darré, an agrarian neopaganist , wanted to impose his vision of an agricultural East Prussia. When his agricultural representatives in Prussia questioned Koch’s plans, he had them arrested immediately. 3

World War II

At the beginning of World War II he was appointed Reich Defense Commissioner ( Reichsverteidigungskommissar ) for East Prussia (which constituted the 1st Military District). On 26 October 1939, after the end of the Polish Campaign , he was transferred from the East to the new Westpreußen Reichsgau ( West Prussia ), a territory later called Dantzig-West Prussia .

In March 1940 the director in charge of the Landesstelle fur Nachkriegsgeschichte , Theodor Schieder , appeared before the Gauleiter Erich Koch with a detailed plan with studies on the new territories annexed to East Prussia ; Koch himself wanted to know the political, social and ethnic conditions in these areas. Schieder in turn sent two reports to Koch, including an inventory of the area’s population in the late 19th century, which was more relevant to Nazi extermination and settlement policies, and provided the basis for Jewish segregation and Slavic “spouses” of the ethnic Germans. 4 Shortly after the beginning of the invasion of the Soviet Union , Koch was named “civil Commissioner” the 1 of August 1941, and later served as Head of the Civil Administration in the Bezirk Bialystok (District Bialystok ). In 1942 Gauleiter Koch expressed his thanks to Theodor Schieder for his collaboration in the Nazi operations of Poland annexed:

As director of the Landesstelle Ostpreußen für Nachkriegsgeschichte we have provided the material that provides an important service in our fight against the Poles and today continues to help us establish new order in the Regierungsbezirke Zichenau und Bialystok . 5

Earlier, on 1 September 1941, Koch had been appointed Reichskommissar of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine with control over the Gestapo and Ordnungspolizei . His rule now extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea ; 6 This area was inhabited by different populations and territories of ethnic German, Polish, Belarusian and Ukrainian. As Reichskommissar had full authority in his area under control, which soon led him to conflict with other elements of the Nazi bureaucracy. In December 1941 the Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied Territories ( Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete ), Alfred Rosenberg , expressed his disapproval of Hitler for the autonomy with which Koch acted in Ukraine . 7 Koch’s first act was to close the local schools, stating that:

Ukrainian children do not need schools. What they will have to learn has already been taught to them by their German teachers. 1

His brutality was soon exemplified by a comment in which he said:

If I meet a Ukrainian worthy of sitting at my table, I have to shoot him. Referring to Fig.

The Reichskommissar worked together with the General Plenipotentiary for the implementation of the Work ( Generalbevollmächtigter für den Arbeitseinsatz ), Fritz Sauckel , in the task of providing the labor force with forced labor. He was also involved in the persecution of Polish and Ukrainian Jews . Because of these brutal actions, Nazi power in Ukraine was constantly beset by partisan rebellions . 1

On 25 November 1944 he was appointed commander of the Volkssturm of East Prussia . Due to the great advances of the Red Army , Koch initially left Königsberg on his way to Berlin in early January 1945, after an attempt by the Wehrmacht to leave East Prussia failed . Koch would return to the much safer city of Pillau , from where …

… made a great exhibition by organizing the maritime evacuation using radio communications from the Kriegsmarine , before retreating once again, escaping through this Baltic port on April 23, 1945, aboard the icebreaker Ostpreussen . .. 9

Judgment and imprisonment

After the war, he was captured in Hamburg by British forces in May 1949. The Soviet Union demanded the extradition of Koch, but the British government decided to hand it over to the new Polish Government . On 14 January 1950 he was delivered by the British to a Warsaw prison, Mokotow , where he would remain in prison for eight years before the start of his trial on 19 October 1958. He faced charges of war crimes for extermination Of 400,000 Poles, but was never prosecuted for his crimes in Ukraine. He was found guilty of these crimes and sentenced to death on March 9, 1959 by the Warsaw district court for having planned, prepared and organized the mass murder of civilians.

His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment because of his ill health, although many believe he was saved because the Soviets believed Koch had information about works of art looted by the Nazis during the fighting; In particular, information on the whereabouts of the spoiled pieces of the Amber Chamber of the Tsarskoe Selo Palace , near Leningrad , which had been dismantled by direct order of Koch. The Soviet authorities believed that it had given orders for the different parts of this famous hall to be taken aboard the transatlantic Wilhelm Gustloff , a ship that was torpedoed and sunk in the Baltic in early 1945 while carrying out the evacuation of refugees from Prussia Oriental . 10 However, rescue attempts by teams of Soviet and Polish divers during the 1950s did not reveal any evidence corroborating this theory.

Koch still appeared in a 1986 television interview on the History of Königsberg , interviewed by West German journalists in his cell in the Polish prison. He died of natural causes on November 12 of that year in the prison of Barczewo , at the age of 90 years.


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Robert S. Wistrich, Who’s Who in Nazi Germany , p. 142-143.
  2. Back to top↑ Dan P. Silverman (1993). «Fantasy and Reality in Nazi Work-Creation Programs, 1933-1936». The Journal of Modern History 65 (1). Pp. 113-151.
  3. Back to top↑ Richard Steigmann-Gall , The Holy Reich – Nazi conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945 , p. 102.
  4. Back to top↑ Ingo Haar , Michael Fahlbusch (2006); German scholars and ethnic cleansing, 1919-1945 , Berghahn Books, pp. 14-18
  5. Back to top↑ Macht – Geist – Wahn: Kontinuitäten deutschen Denkens Götz Aly p. 175 Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999
  6. Back to top↑ Arad, Yitzhak . The Holocaust in the Soviet Union . University of Nebraska Press. P. 99. ISBN  978-0-8032-2059-1 . “The area under his control spread from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.”
  7. Back to top↑ Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume IV – Document No. 1517-PS
  8. Back to top↑ Norman Davies (2006); Europe at War , Macmillan.
  9. Back to top↑ Anthony Beevor , The fall of Berlin, 1945 , p. fifty
  10. Back to top↑ Luke, Last days of the Reich , p. 27