Karl Otto Koch

Karl Otto Koch ( Darmstadt , 2 of August of 1897 – Buchenwald , 5 of April of 1945 ) was an officer of the Schutzstaffel (SS) who held the rank of SS-Standartenführer during World War II . He was commander of the Nazi concentration camps of Esterwegen , Buchenwald , Sachsenhausen , and Majdanek , the latter located in occupied Poland.


Early years

Koch was born in Darmstadt , in the then existing Grand Duchy of Hesse . In 1916 he voluntarily joined the Imperial Army and fought on the Western Front until 1918, when he was captured by the British. During the rest of the war, until 1919, he was in a prison camp, before being repatriated to Germany. Koch married for the first time in 1924 and had a son. However, this marriage ended in a divorce in 1931 because of her infidelity .

In that same year, Karl Otto Koch joined the Nazi Party and the Schutzstaffel (SS).

Service in the SS

Koch served in several SS-Standarten until June 13, 1935, when he became commander of Columbia Concentration Camp , located in Berlin-Tempelhof . In April of 1936 was assigned to the field of Esterwegen and four months later it happened to direct the one of Sachsenhausen . On 1 August 1937 he was given command of the new Buchenwald concentration camp . In September 1941 he was transferred to the Majdanek concentration camp, which was intended for prisoners of war. This was due in large measure to a police investigation into allegations of misconduct in Buchenwald, which included corruption, fraud, embezzlement, drunkenness, sexual offenses and murder. Koch led the Majdanek camp for a year, until relieved of his post after 86 Soviet prisoners had escaped from Majdanek in August 1942.

The 25 as maypole as 1936 , Koch married Ilse Köhler , with whom a son and two daughters had. Later, Köhler would be known like “The witch of Buchenwald” or “The bitch of Buchenwald” ( Die Hexe von Buchenwald ). 1 When Koch was assigned to Buchenwald, Ilse was appointed superintendent ( Oberaufseherin ) by the SS and therefore played an active and official role in the atrocities committed there. The most famous accusation against Ilse Koch was that he selected prisoners with tattoos to be killed, in order that his skin be used to make lampshades for his house; 2 however, no one could testify to having seen such lamps during the Ilse trial. 3

Detention and firing

Koch’s actions in Buchenwald caught the attention of SS-Obergruppenführer Josias of Waldeck-Pyrmont as early as 1941. Waldeck investigated the death of Dr. Walter Krämer, a physician from Buchenwald, whom he knew of having dealt with him earlier. He discovered that he had been killed on Koch’s orders since Krämer had treated him for syphilis and the then commander of Buchenwald feared that this information would come to light. 4

In the course of investigations also made by SS Judge Konrad Morgen between 1942 and 1943, they revealed that Koch had not only embezzled large sums of money from the SS, but also robbed property of the prisoners and numerous orders of Murder with other prisoners of the camp. 4 Waldeck-Pyrmont arrested Koch on August 24, 1943, placed him at the disposal of an SS court, being tried and sentenced to death. He was eventually shot in the same Buchenwald few days before US forces free themselves field on 5 April 1945. 4


  1. Back to top↑ William L. Shirer (1990). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (3rd edition). New York: Simon & Schuster. P. 885.
  2. Back to top↑ New York Times , September 24, 1948, p. 3
  3. Back to top↑ Dachau Scrapbook: The trial of Ilse Koch
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b c David A. Hackett (1995). The Buchenwald Report , Westview Press, p. 341


  • Cazenave, Benoit (2005). “L’exemplarité du commandant SS Karl Otto Koch”. Revue of the Auschwitz Fondation , Brussels.