Koch, Karl Otto.

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Koch, Karl Otto.

Karl Otto Koch, born 02-08-1897 in Darmstadt, Grand Duchy of Hesse. His father worked in local registrar’s office and died when Karl was only eight years old. After completing elementary school in 1912, Koch attended Mittelschule and completed a commercial apprenticeship. The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine, or the Grand Duchy of Hesse between 1806 and 1816, was an independent country and member state of the Confederation of the Rhine as of 1806, when the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to a Grand Duchy which it remained until 1918, when the monarchy was overthrown

In 1916, Karl Otto volunteered to join the army and fought on the Western Front until he was latter captured by the British. Koch spent the rest of the war as a POW and returned to Germany in 1919. As a soldier, he conducted himself well and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class, the Observer’s Badge  and the Wound Badge in Black . Following World War I, Koch worked as a commercial manager, an authorised signatory and insurance agent and became unemployed in 1932. In 1931, Karl-Otto Koch joined as early member the NSDAP  NSDAP-nr.: 475 586, on 01-03-1931 and the Schutzstaffel. in September 1933, SS-nr.: 14 830.

Koch was sentenced to prison for forging certificates and embezzlement. After serving this sentence he became unemployed. In September of that year he divorced his first wife, Marie Sophie Elisabeth Josephine Margarethe Katharina Müller, who he married 06-09-1924 and with whom he had had a son Manfred Koch worked at desk jobs and in the SS police apparatus before beginning a career as an administrator within the Nazi concentration-camp system, where he gained a reputation for ruthlessness and cruelty. Koch served with several SS-Standarten 35th Regiment Kassel, SS Special Detachment Saxony.. After he ran a number of small camps, he was promoted in 1936 to become commandant of a large new camp, Sachsenhausen,   built at Oranienburg, on the outskirts of Berlin.

In 1937, during his tenure at Sachsenhausen, he married Ilse Köhler  , a woman nearly 10 years his junior whom he had met  while he was stationed in Darmstadt. So well did he perform his duties at Sachsenhausen that he was rewarded with the command of another new camp, Buchenwald,   being constructed on a hill near Weimar, Germany.

Buchenwald was a concentration camp in Nazi Germany during World War II in a wooded area near the city of Weimar. The camp, almost completely closed off from the outside world, was built in 1937 by SS men and prisoners. Buchenwald was liberated on 11-04-1945 by the Sixth Armored Division of the Third American Army. under command of the famous General George Smith. Patton Jr. “Old Blood and Guts”.   The camp was initially called Konzentrationslager Ettersberg after its location, but was soon renamed to Konzentrationslager Buchenwald/Post Weimar at the suggestion of the Weimar cultural commission. During the existence of the concentration camp, 238,979 people were imprisoned in Buchenwald. Of these, 56,545 died, including 11,000 Jews.

The new inmates had heard stories of the devilish conditions in the camp and the satanic behavior of the guards. They had heard stories, which turned out to be terrible truth, of prisoners being thrown to the bears at Commander Koch’s private zoo at Buchenwald, where they were brutally mauled. Of prisoners thrown into the large open latrines.


Under Koch’s reign at Buchenwald (1937–41), prisoners  were mistreated to a degree that was unusually severe even by Nazi standards. A variety of punishments—dangerous work in the camp’s quarry, beatings, torture, starvation, whippings, death by hanging—were meted out by the SS guards.     Living conditions were abominable: the camp was overcrowded; prisoners barely existed on starvation rations; sanitation was primitive; disease was rampant; and medical care was virtually nonexistent. (Under the next commandant, SS Oberführer Hermann Pister  , Buchenwald would be used as a laboratory where medical experiments were carried out on live prisoners.) Koch’s wife also allegedly engaged in abusing the prisoners. Inmates felt that she was as much responsible for their terrible situation as he was, and they referred to her as the “commandeuse,” or “lady commandant.”  Ilse Koch “The Witch of Buchenwald” in the camp was notorious for her sadism; she is said to have often whipped prisoners while riding her horse. Morgen learned from witnesses that the commander’s wife often walked around provocatively in “a short skirt and transparent blouse”. She had male prisoners who dared to look at her punished by the sadistic camp guard Walter Gerhard Martin Sommer. The victims usually received twenty-five lashes; one prisoner is said to have died as a result of this beating. Tomorrow, Ilse Koch was arrested on suspicion of complicity in her husband’s crimes on 25-08-1943. She then spent sixteen months in pre-trial detention in the Weimar police prison until she was acquitted by the SS court. In June 1945 she was arrested by the American army.

Sommer was the son of a farmer in Schkölen. He attended primary school and, like his father, became a farmer. In 1931 he joined the NSDAP and the SA. In the summer of 1933 he became a member of the SS and in 1934 of the SS Sonderkommando Saxony under battalion commander Karl Koch. From 1935 he was a supervisor in the Sachsenburg concentration camp and from 1937 in Buchenwald. From 1938 to 1943 he tortured prisoners with extremely painful methods. He killed, among others, the pastor Paul Roberts Schneider   and the politician Ernst Heilmann  by means of a lethal injection. He also killed approximately 100 others in this way. He was infamous for hanging prisoners from trees with their wrists behind their backs. This happened in the forest near Buchenwald concentration camp. The forests became known as the “singing forest” because of the cries that emanated from the forests when prisoners suffered.In 1943, Sommer was convicted by an SS judge of cruelty and corruption. He was sent to the Eastern Front, where he lost his left arm and right leg in a tank explosion. He was captured by the Red Army and remained a prisoner of war. In 1950 he was declared a ‘war criminal’. In 1955 he was released and returned to West Germany, where he married and had a child. In 1958, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a West German court for his role in the deaths of 25 concentration camp victims. He died in a prison hospital in Schwarzenbruck, Nürnberger Land, on 07-06-1988, age 73.

According to camp survivor Morris Hubert, there was a cage in the camp with a bear and an eagle in it. Every day the guards threw a Jewish prisoner into the cage. The bear would tear him apart and the eagle peck the flesh from his bones.

Born in Berlin, then in Prussia, Heilmann attended the University of Berlin and majored in law and political science.

During the First World War, Ernst Heilmann was a proponent of the German party truce (Burgfriedenspolitik). He gained a seat in the Reichstag in the 1928 German federal election. Not long after Hitler and the Nazis seized power (Machtergreifung), Heilmann was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the first of a series of concentration camps in which he was to spend nearly seven years.

From February 1937, Heilmann was kept in Dachau concentration camp until he was transferred in September 1938 to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was executed in 03-04-1940, age 58..

The trial against Hermann Pister began on 11-04-1947. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Pister died in Landsberg Prison of an acute heart attack on 28-09-1948.

Prisoners arrested during Kristallnacht   lining up for a roll call at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, November 1938.

The Kochs, who had three children (although one died in infancy)  lived exceedingly well at Buchenwald and enriched themselves through various schemes.

Daughter Gisela Koch was born on 15-04-1945 in Berlin Germany. She had two siblings, a brother and a sister. She was married to a man named Hans Koch and had two children. Her parents were Ilse and Karl Koch. Gisela Koch was a successful business woman. She had a degree in business administration and worked in the banking industry. She was also involved in charity work and was a member of several organizations. Among the most notable events in Gisela Koch s life was her mother’s trial for war crimes. Her mother, Isle Koch was a notorious Nazi war criminal who was tried and convicted for her crimes. Gisela was a witness at the trial and testified against her mother. Gisela died 15-10-2018 (age 73) in Berlin.

Even much of the gold extracted  from the mouths of dead inmates before they were sent to the camp’s crematorium ended up in the Kochs’ possession. The couple was investigated and tried by the SS, but the charges went unproved. Koch’s actions at Buchenwald first caught the attention of SS-Obergruppenführer Josias, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont   in 1941. In glancing over the death list of Buchenwald, Josias had stumbled across the name of Dr Walter Krämer, a head hospital orderly at Buchenwald, which he recognized because Krämer had successfully treated him in the past. Josias investigated the case and found out that Koch, in a position as the Camp Commandant, had ordered

Walter Krämer  and Karl Peix   of, a hospital attendant, killed as “political prisoners” because they had treated him for syphilis and he feared it might be discovered. Waldeck also received reports that a certain prisoner had been shot while attempting to escape.

Death and burial ground of Koch, Karl Otto.


At the end of 1941, Karl received orders to report to Lublin, Poland, to take charge of the Majdanekcamp, which, had it been finished, would have been the largest concentration, slave-labour, and extermination camp in the Nazi system. Leaving his wife and their children behind at Buchenwald, Koch ran Majdanek for only a few months before more evidence of his corruption surfaced. He was relieved of his command and eventually jailed in the SS prison at Weimar. On 05-04-1945, with the Allies coming ever closer to Weimar, Koch, age 47, was taken from his cell, driven up to Buchenwald, and executed by an SS firing squad. His body was disposed of in the camp crematorium.

His ashes are probably ironical buried with his victims in the prisoners ash graves, like the Americans did with the ashes of SS Obergruppenführer and Chief of the Chancellery of the Führer of the NSDAP . Responsible for the Nazi Action T4 euthanasia program, Philipp Bouhler   and his wife Helene “Heli”  in a mass grave of Dachau Concentration Camp . In 1944/45, the SS had ashes from the crematorium dumped into a natural depression in the earth near the SS officers’ colony. The ash grave was rediscovered in 1965, landscaped and dedicated in 1967, and later neglected. After being uncovered once again in 1993/94, it was furnished with MEMENTO stones from the 1949 “Grove of Honour”.



Message(s), tips or interesting graves for the webmaster:    robhopmans@outlook.com

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