Transfixed by an Image: Ilse Koch, the 'Kommandeuse of Buchenwald'

TitleTransfixed by an Image: Ilse Koch, the 'Kommandeuse of Buchenwald'
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsPrzyrembel, Alexandra
JournalGerman History
Date Published02/2001

Ilse Koch (1906-1967) was married to Karl-Otto Koch, commandant of the Nazi concentration camps Buchenwald (1937-1941) and Majdanek (1941-1943). In 1947, she became one of the first prominent female Nazis tried by the U.S. military.  The article introduces  the person of Ilse Koch and analyses the trials against her and their public perception, which was highly gendered. Ilse Koch became  to represent "the evil concentration camp murderess". After Ilse Koch’s pardon by the American military government in June 1948 a public consensus developed that demanded her prosecution. The Augsburg trial of the commandant’s wife, which ended in 1951 with a sentence of life imprisonment, thus ran counter to general developments in the Federal Republic of Germany, especially  the pardon of the majority of Nazi prisoners still in the war criminals’ prison at Landsberg by the American military government in January 1951, which occurred at the same time as Ilse Koch’s conviction. The article tries to explain this paradox.

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