Ilse Koch, ‘witch of Buchenwald,’ Serving Life, Seeks Pension

Ilse Koch, who became known as the “Witch of Buchenwald” when testimony at her Nazi war crimes trial revealed she had ordered lampshades made from the skins of victims of the Buchenwald death camp, renewed today her application for a government pension.

She is serving a life term for atrocities at the camp during the period when her husband, Karl, was commandant. He was shot by German troops the day before the Allies liberated the camp. Her first pension application was rejected. She filed a complaint against that rejection, contending that she was entitled to a pension because her husband was a member of the Waffen SS, and not of the General SS. The Waffen SS was made up of Hitler Elite Guard members who were in active military service. The General SS comprised the men who ran the Nazi concentration camps.

Ilse Koch was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment at hard labor by an Allied court in 1947. The sentence was reduced by American occupation officials a year later to four years. After a public outcry, a new trial was held in 1950, and she received the life term she is now serving.

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