The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Deceit & Misrepresentation
The Techniques of Holocaust Denial

Frau Ilse Koch, General Lucius Clay, and human-skin atrocities

In any case, the claim that "the collection of medical specimens thus gathered was the source of the tattooed skin" was quietly forgotten.

Furthermore, the unspoken implication in these articles is that one should not merely disbelieve that Ilse Koch specifically was involved in atrocities, but that one should disbelieve all Nazi atrocities. This is obviously an irrational leap of logic.

To obtain a clear picture, it is necessary to see why General Clay was incorrect in his assertion that the ornaments were not made of human skin. The explanation is fairly simple, but in the interest of providing a through refutation, we will examine the historical record with some thoroughness (and in roughly chronological order).

General Clay did indeed feel, in 1948, that Ilse Koch had been unjustly sentenced to a life term the previous year by the international American military court. On September 16, he commuted that sentence to four years' time. As he explained on September 23rd: "There was no convincing evidence that she selected inmates for extermination in order to secure tattooed skin or that she possessed any articles made of human skin."[5]

That was reported in the New York Times, Sept. 24, 1948, p. 3. On the next day, the paper quoted Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall: "Mr. Royall's final word on the fate of the woman who was accused of atrocities, including the use of tattooed human skin to make household articles, was that such charges had not been proved." [6]

This sentence-reduction was rather unpopular, and it was questioned whether she could be retried or resentenced. The U.S. government gave up after a while, declaring that it would wash its hands of the matter. Eventually, she was tried by a German court on charges of her having abused and killed German inmates; her previous trial had included only inmates of other nationalities. In this second trial, she was convicted and sentenced to life, again. She spent the rest of her life in prison until she committed suicide in 1967.

It appears that the reason General Clay concluded that sufficient evidence had not been presented is that a crucial piece of evidence was missing. According to a witness, her family album was bound in skin from a man's chest with a prominent tattoo of a four-masted ship[7] The album, which Koch insisted was bound only in black cloth, was never found.

Additional atrocity charges might have been brought against her in the first trial, but for a technicality in the conduct of the prosecution. This conduct was, in fact, incorrect. A U.S. prosecutor explained, in the Times on October 15th: [8]

The making of lampshades and novelties from human skin and other mass atrocities committed by her could not be judicially established because the majority of Ilse Koch's crimes were committed during the period which the American Army, in violation of Law No. 10, refused to include in its trials. [9]

Law No. 10 indicated that the Allies would consider all crimes committed between1933 and 1945. The order was apparently given by Colonel C.E. Straight and Colonel A.H. Rosenfeld to ignore all Buchenwald crimes committed before Pearl Harbor, though the camp had existed for four years prior.

A week later, General Clay commented on this matter:[10] "My examination of the record, based upon reports which I received from the lawyers, indicated that the most serious charges were based on hearsay and not on factual evidence. For that reason the sentence was commuted." He went on to say:

I hold no sympathy for Ilse Koch. She was a woman of depraved character and ill repute. She had done many things reprehensible and punishable, undoubtedly, under German law. We were not trying her for those things. We were trying her as a war criminal on specific charges.

Note that General Clay makes reference to the fact that he is relying upon the "reports which [he] received from the lawyers." This becomes important later.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.