The Techniques of Holocaust Denial: Documents concerning Ilse Koch

Researchers:, John Drobnicki, Stephan Bruchfeld, Mark Van Alstine

This page contains exerpts from sources concerning the case of Ilse Koch and the the issue of human skin ornaments at Buchenwals.

The Buchenwald Report, trans. and edited by David A. Hackett (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995).

In April 1945, an Intelligence Team from the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Forces went to the newly liberated Buchenwald Camp, and interviewed survivors and attempted to document what had happened there. The team was headed by 2nd Lt. Albert G. Rosenberg, and the Main Report (history of the camp) was written by survivor Eugen Kogon.

Kogon used the report as the basis of his 1946 book, Der SS- Staat (English ed.: The Theory and Practice of Hell, 1950).

Although the report’s existence was known of by scholars, it was supposed that it was lost or buried in some archive. Kogon had lost his copy in a flood at his home. But Rosenberg has saved a carbon copy for himself. This edition is the first time that the entire report has been published, in any language. The original plan was that it would be translated into English and published, but nobody knows what happened to the original report.


page 43n:

Ilse Koch, known in the popular press as ‘the bitch of Buchenwald,’ was tried at the Buchenwald camp guards trial. Her collection of human skin and tattoos received extensive publicity. She was sentenced to life, but the sentence was reduced to four years. A public furor resulted, including an investigation in 1948 by a U.S. Senate committee headed by Homer Ferguson of Michigan. Koch was released in 1949, rearrested by German authorities, retried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. She committed suicide at Aichach prison in Bavaria in 1967. NA, RG 338, case 000-50-9, box 426, ‘Review,’ 62-65, 94-95; Frank M. Buscher, The U.S. War Crimes Trial Program in Germany, 1946-1955, (New York: Greenwood, 1989), 54-55; Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976), 198.

page 44:

Frau Koch took baths in Madeira that was poured into the bathtub.

page 64:

Dr. Wagner wrote a doctoral dissertation on tattooing, had the entire camp searched for people with tattoos, and had them photographed. The prisoners were later called to the gate by Commandant Koch, selected according to the splendor of their tattooed skin, and sent into the infirmary. Soon thereafter the best examples of skin appeared in the pathology department, where they were prepared and were shown to SS visitors as special treasures for years. Koch had an ‘artistic’ table lamp made for himself out of human bones stretched over with human skin. Hundreds of prepared human skins were sent to Berlin on orders of the chief doctor for the concentration camps, SS Colonel Dr. Lolling.

–From the “Individual Reports” Section of the book:

page 143: Excerpt from “The Early Years of the Camp,” by Fritz M”annchen, Dresden:

…One Sunday in February 1938 the prisoners had to stand naked in the square for three hours while SS men searched their clothes. During this time the wife of the mass murderer Koch and four other SS officers’ wives stood at the barbed wire fence and stared lewdly at the naked prisoners.

page 224: Excerpt from “Pathology” by Gustav Wegerer, Vienna:

Beginning in fall 1940 SS Captain Mueller worked in the pathology department…On orders from Berlin, Mueller initiated the project of peeling off the tattood skin from the bodies of dead or murdered prisoners, tanning it, and producing lampshades out of it. How many lampshades were produced from human skin I can no longer say precisely today. But on many occasions several hundred pieces of tattooed human skin, tanned in various manners, were sent to SS Colonel Lolling, the chief of Section D III of the Main Economic and Administrative Office of the SS in Oranienburg

..Mueller also gave Stoeckel and Werner Bach the assignment of producing sheaths for pocketknives and other objects out of tanned human skin. [Ed. note: Wegerer also mentions that “a sizable number of heads” were shrunk at Buchenwald.]

page 337: Excerpt from “Valet for Koch,” by Kurt Dietz, Tiefenau über Riesa:

I was called by Dr. [Konrad] Morgen, who led the investigation, to make a deposition as a witness. Of course I avoided all damaging testimony because I knew that otherwise I myself would be condemned to death. In particular, I was asked whether Frau Koch had satisfied her perverse desires with me (she would use a small stick to beat the penis she forced a prisoner to show her); I could answer no in good conscience.

page 338: Excerpt from “Sidelights on the Koch Affair,” by Stefan Heymann, Manheim:

The fact that Koch had lamps made of human skin, which of course had to be decorated with ‘artistic’ tattoos, did not distinguish him from the other SS officers: They had the same ‘artworks’ made for their family homes. It is more interesting that Frau Koch had a lady’s handbag made out of the same material. She was just as proud of it as a South Sea island woman would have been about her cannibal trophies.



From Laurie, Clayton D. The Propaganda Warriors: America’s Crusade Against Nazi Germany (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996), p. 285, note 6:

6. Letter, Creedy to Sioux, 27 Apr. 1945, and Creedy to Wintle, 12 Mar. 1948, both in Box 15, Entry 99, RG 226. In his 27 April letter, Wintle wrote that ‘the planning staff in Washington used to cut out most of the best human sausage meat and human skin decorations stories as implausible. And yet, reading the Belsen concentration camp account, I noted some women had made a lamp shade out of pretty tatoo [sic] marks, having preserved the skin of victims. So once again we’ve turned out to be nearer the truth with out wildest flights of imagination than with some of our more modest creations.’


Seventh Medical Laboratory
APO 403, c/o PK, New York, N.Y.
Section of Pathology

25 May 1945

SUBJECT: Identification of Tattoed Skin Hides



1. There were submitted to this laboratory section for examination three tanned pieces of skin by Lt. Col. GIVIN from Buchenwald Camp with office record designation of Case 81 T.J.A.

2. The description follows:


PIECE C: Is truncated, measures 44 cm. at the base. The upper portion is 30 cm. long and the sides measure 46 cm. The skin is transparent, and shows two nipples in the upper area. These are 16 cm. apart. From the nipple level to the umbilicus is 23 1/2 cm. ….

MICROSCOPIC: The tissue consists of bundles of collagen showing occasional epithelial and sweat gland remnants. Granular black pigment granules are seen between some of the bundles.

3. Based on the findings in paragraph 2, all three specimens are tattooed human skin.

For the Commanding Officer,

(signature) REUBEN CARES
Major M.C.
Chief of Pathology buchenwald02.jpg

     PARIS              [Seal]              PARIS

                                27th April, 1945.

No. 548


Will you please refer to my telegram No. 299, dated 24th April, which relates to my visit to Buchenwald camp.

2. In company with eight members of the United States Congress, I left London for Weimar on Sunday morning, the 22nd. April. The names of the Congressmen, and of the States for which they sit, follow:


9. A lampshade was found – and this I saw – made from tattooed human skin.



                        I have the honour to be,
                        Your obedient servant,
                        [s/ Georges Vanier]
                        CANADIAN AMBASSADOR


It is apparent that even some of the SS thought that these kinds of things are going too far, because a letter to the Buchenwald Pathology Department asks that the manufacturing of shrunken heads etc. will stop.