Trial of Ilse Koch, continued...


Ilse Koch's mug shot

The star witness for the defense in the Buchenwald case was SS officer Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, the special court judge who had convicted Ilse's husband, Commandant Karl Otto Koch, and sentenced him to the death penalty in 1943. In his previous testimony as a defense witness for the SS at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on 7 August 1946, Morgen said that he had investigated around 800 documents that pertained to concentration camp criminal cases, and from this, he had tried 200 SS men on charges of corruption and/or murder in various concentration camps. Morgen testified that he had personally arrested 5 concentration camp commandants and two were shot after being convicted. Morgen added that "Apart from the commandants, there were numerous other death sentences against Fuehrers and Unterfuehrers."

Georg Konrad Morgen was born in Frankfurt in 1910. He was an attorney who had specialized in international law before he became involved in criminal cases in the special SS court. On the witness stand in the Dachau courtroom, Morgen testified that he had been a judge in the German state court at Stettin. He said that he had been appointed in May 1943 by Prince zu Waldeck, whose district included Weimar and Buchenwald, to investigate Commandant Koch on charges of corruption.

Morgen's direct testimony, from the trial transcript as quoted in "Justice at Dachau" is as follows:

The investigation (of Commandant Koch) began as a result of reports that a certain prisoner had been shot while attempting to escape. In fact, this prisoner had been told to get water from a well some distance from the camp, and he was shot from behind. My office was called to investigate this charade. It turned out this prisoner had treated Koch for syphilis, and in order to keep his disease a secret Koch had this man eliminated. Koch was a born criminal. In his youth he started with thefts of postal banks. Then he and his brother were stool pigeons for the police. The whole family was criminal. One of his sons had to be punished in musical school for stealing radios. His second son was in an insane asylum. I think the human language is not capable of describing the horror of Koch's crimes. He was mad for power and took every occasion to get rich off of the prisoners. I am convinced he stole millions of marks from the camp.

Morgen testified that he had searched Ilse Koch's home very thoroughly and had not found any human lampshades, nor any gloves or photo album covers made from human skin, as alleged by the Buchenwald prisoners. In his previous testimony as a defense witness at the Nuremberg IMT, Morgen said that he had lived at Buchenwald for 8 months and had visited the camp repeatedly and thoroughly, sometimes making surprise visits. Actually, Morgen stayed at the Elephant Hotel, Hitler's favorite place to stay in Weimar, which is 5 miles from the Buchenwald camp. In response to a question by the Nuremberg prosecutor on 7 August 1946 about whether he could have been deceived during his visits, Morgen testified as follows:

As I have already pointed out, I was not a mere visitor to a concentration camp. I had settled down there for a long residence, I might almost say I established myself there. It is really impossible to be deceived for such a long time. In addition, the commissions from the Reich Department of Criminal Police worked under my instructions, and I placed them directly in the concentration camps themselves. I do not mean to say that, in spite of these very intensive efforts, I was able to learn of all the crimes, but I believe that there was no deception in regard to what I did learn.

After the war, Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen was arrested along with other Nazis and SS men, since both the Nazi party and the SS had been designated as criminal enterprises by the Allies. According to his testimony in Nuremberg, he was a prisoner in the bunker at Dachau where some of his cell mates included SS men who had been arrested by him when he had previously conducted numerous investigations into corruption and cruelty in the concentration camps. American military interrogators tried to get him to sign an affidavit, admitting that Frau Koch had ordered prisoners killed to make human lamp shades, but he refused, even after several beatings. He told historian John Toland after the war that he was threatened three times with being turned over to the Russians or the Poles, but he still refused.

The following quote is from a footnote in John Toland's book, entitled "Adolf Hitler":

"Morgen also did his best to convict Ilse Koch, the wife of the Buchenwald commandant. He was convinced that she was guilty of sadistic crimes, but the charges against her could not be proven. After the war Morgen was asked by an American official to testify that Frau Koch made lampshades from the skin of inmates. Morgen replied that, while she undoubtedly was guilty of many crimes, she was truly innocent of this charge. After personally investigating the matter, he had thrown it out of his own case. Even so, the American insisted that Morgen sign an affidavit that Frau Koch had made the lampshades. Anyone undaunted by Nazi threats was not likely to submit to those of a representative of the democracies. His refusal to lie was followed by a threat to turn him over to the Russians, who would surely beat him to death. Morgen's second and third refusals were followed by severe beatings. Though he detested Frau Koch, nothing could induce him to bear false witness."

Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen was far from being a Holocaust denier. After the war, he said in interviews that he believed that 6 million Jews had been killed by the Nazis. He testified at Nuremberg that Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz, and that he believed that the order had come from Adolf Hitler. Yet nothing could make him say that Ilse Koch had ordered prisoners to be killed in order to make lamp shades out of their tattooed skin.

The prosecution took the opportunity to prove their case when Morgan was cross-examined on the witness stand by Lt. Col. Denson. Under cross-examination, Morgen testified that Ilse Koch loved to make obscene remarks to the prisoners, that she wore clothes deliberately chosen to incite them and that she had been responsible for having prisoners beaten because they had looked at her. Morgen said that he believed that prisoners had died as a result of these beatings, although he had no proof of this.

The prosecution tried to establish evidence of a common design of abuses and corruption at Buchenwald and Morgen admitted that there had been abuses at Buchenwald. But when Lt. Col. Denson tried to lead the witness by asking if "Buchenwald was making criminals rather than correcting them," Morgen answered, "These were already the worst type of criminals. It was not possible to make these persons any worse." Buchenwald was a Class II camp, specifically intended for prisoners who were considered less capable of being rehabilitated than the prisoners sent to Dachau, which was a Class I camp.

The photograph below shows the sign over the gate into Buchenwald. This sign faced the inside of the camp. The slogan "Jedem das Seine" means "To Each his Own," or sometimes "Everyone gets what he deserves."

"Jedem das Seine" on gate into Buchenwald camp

Midway through the 1947 proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau against the 31 people accused in the Buchenwald case, Ilse Koch announced in the courtroom that she was pregnant. Frau Koch already had a reputation for being promiscuous. According to Dachau court reporter, Joseph Halow, in his book "Innocent at Dachau," there were unverified rumors that Frau Koch had engaged in numerous affairs with SS officers, and even with some of the inmates, at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Halow also mentions that he was shocked to learn that Ilse Koch may have turned to other men because her husband was a "homosexual." According to the Buchenwald Report, her husband had also suffered from syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease.

Ilse Koch walks to the witness stand in Dachau courtroom

Army Signal Corps photo

The photograph above shows Ilse Koch, visibly pregnant, as she approaches the witness stand in the Dachau courtroom to defend herself on a charge of participating in a "common plan" to violate the Laws and Usages of War during the time that she lived at the Commandant's house in the Buchenwald concentration camp from December 1941 to August 1943, the period when America was at war with Germany. Any crimes that she might have committed between 1937 and the end of 1941 came under the jurisdiction of the German courts.

Frau Koch's announcement of her pregnancy stunned the court because she was 41 years old at the time and was being kept in isolation with no contact with any men except the American interrogators, most of whom were Jewish. According to Halow, there was speculation among the court reporters that the father was Josef Kirschbaum, a Jewish interrogator who was one of the few men who had access to her prison cell.

Halow wrote: "At Dachau many of them (the Jews) scarcely concealed their hatred for the Germans. Their feelings may have been understandable, but it was unconscionable for American authorities to put men such as Harry Thon, Josef Kirschbaum, and Lt. William Perl in positions where they had their enemies at their mercy."

These same three Jewish interrogators were also involved in the proceedings against the SS soldiers accused of shooting American POWs at Malmedy, and they were the subject of a Congressional investigation after they were accused of having used torture to force the SS soldiers to confess in the Malmedy Massacre case.

The following quote, regarding Ilse's pregnancy, is from the book "Justice at Dachau," by Joshua M. Greene, published in 2003:

One of Ilse's former lovers, an officer from Buchenwald, worked in the prisoner's kitchen at Dachau. They met in the kitchen by chance, and Ilse told him where she was being held. The officer dug a hole to her barracks, and when she finally walked up to the witness chair in the Buchenwald trial, she was visibly pregnant. The press had a field day.

In his book, Greene did not give any hint about the identity of the father, nor did he give a source for this information about how Ilse had become pregnant.

Buchenwald accused are brought from the barracks to the courtroom

Frau Koch could hardly be blamed for seeking out other men as lovers, since her husband was notorious for his cruelty, according to The Buchenwald Report, written by officers from the American military after getting information from the former prisoners.

The following information about Karl Otto Koch, from "The Buchenwald Report," is quoted from "Justice at Dachau":

In 1924, when both the bank and his first marriage failed, he (Koch) joined the Nazi Party, then the SS, and distinguished himself by particularly bloody conduct in some of Germany's first concentration camps. As the camps became more brutal, Koch was promoted: from Sachsenhausen to Esterwegen to Lichtenburg to Dachau, then to Columbia Street prison in Berlin, renowned for its excesses of torture. Prisoners there were locked in the doghouses, chained by the neck, and forced to lap up their food from a bowl. Anyone failing to bark when Koch walked by received twenty-five lashes with a cane. Koch had one prisoner beaten senseless, then ordered guards to stop up his anus with hot asphalt and force him to drink castor oil.



Back to Buchenwald trial

Back to Buchenwald home page

Back to Dachau Trials


This page was last updated on September 16, 2009