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September 1, 2012

Did Ilse Koch really order human skin lampshades to be made at Buchenwald?

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:33 am

My blog post today is in answer to a comment made by The Black Rabbit in which he gave a link to a post on his blog here.

This quote is from the blog of The Black Rabbit:

Jack Werber who survived in Buchenwald for over 5 years, writes in his 1996 book that Ilsa Kock’s human skin lampshade – was one of his friends

“One day, Ilse Koch passed by the building we were putting up and noticed a bare-chested man, a German prisoner named Hans, who was working with me on the scaffold. She became intrigued by his tattoos and wrote down his number. That evening, at the appel (roll call), his number was called and he was told to come to the gate. There, he was taken away and executed.

His skin was removed and brought to the tannery to be made into parchment for a lampshade. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only ones who worked there and they refused to do this. So the Nazis hanged three of them, one after the other, to scare the others into obeying but it didn’t help and they gave up in their efforts. Instead, the skin was taken to Weimar to be made up…”

Ilse Koch, shown at her trial, August 19, 1947
Photo Credit: INP Soundphoto

The photo above shows Ilse Koch at her trial before an American Military Tribunal in 1947. Ilse had somehow become pregnant while she was a prisoner of the Allies.  I previously blogged about Ilse Koch here.

After World War II ended, Ilse Koch did not go into hiding. When former prisoners in the camp began telling stories about her behavior to the American military, it was easy to track her down and arrest her as a war criminal. Starting on April 11, 1947, she was put on trial by an American Military Tribunal, along with 30 men associated with the Buchenwald camp, who were charged with participating in a “common design” to violate the Laws and Usages of war under the Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention of 1929. The specific charge against Ilse Koch was the crime of selecting Buchenwald prisoners to be killed by her alleged lover, Dr. Waldemar Hoven, in order to have lamp shades made from their tattooed skin.  Dr. Hoven was put on trial at a later date.

The American Military Tribunal proceedings against the staff at Buchenwald included only crimes committed against Allied nationals between January 1, 1942 and April 11, 1945, the day that Buchenwald was liberated. This was roughly the period of time during which America was at war with Germany. The charges against the accused in the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal did not include Crimes against Humanity, Crimes against Peace, nor War Crimes, as defined in Control Council Law No. 10 at the Nuremberg IMT.

The Buchenwald camp had been in existence since July 1937, and Ilse Koch had been at the camp since August 1937, but there were no charges against her that involved crimes committed in the camp before January 1, 1942, nor were there any charges involving crimes committed against German citizens at Buchenwald. Any lamp shades made from human skin that came from prisoners killed at Buchenwald before January 1, 1942, if any existed, could not be included in the evidence against Ilse Koch at Buchenwald.

According to Jack Werber’s story, Ilse Koch ordered a lampshade made from the skin of a German prisoner.  Would Ilse Koch have ordered a lampshade made from a German citizen, even though this was not a crime, according to the ex-post-facto laws of the Allies?

Frau Koch had been previously investigated for 8 months by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS judge who had been assigned in 1943 to look into accusations of corruption and murder in the Buchenwald camp. She had already been put on trial in December 1943 in a special Nazi Court where Konrad Morgan was the judge. The rumor, circulated by the inmates at Buchenwald, that lamp shades had been made out of human skin, was thoroughly investigated by Dr. Morgen, but no evidence was found and this charge against Frau Koch had been dismissed by Morgen.

Even though Ilse Koch had been acquitted in Morgen’s court, the former inmates at Buchenwald were convinced that she had ordered prisoners to be killed, so that their tattooed skin could be made into lamp shades. When the American liberators arrived, they were told about the gory accessories found in Frau Koch’s home. A display table was set up and a film, directed by Billy Wilder, was made to document the atrocities in the camp.

The photograph below is a still shot from Billy Wilder’s film. It shows two shrunken heads, along with preserved pieces of tattooed skin laid out on a table, and a table lamp with a shade allegedly made from human skin.  Notice that there are no tattoos on the lampshade and the base is not made from a human bone.  This is not the lampshade described by Jack Werber.

Lampshades and shrunken heads made at Buchenwald

Ilse points to the location of her home on a map of the Buchenwald camp

In the photograph above, taken on July 8, 1947, Ilse Koch points out the location of the Commandant’s house, where she lived, just outside the Buchenwald camp. In the lower left-hand corner of the map, the buildings shown in a semi-circle are the barracks of the SS soldiers. To the right, down the hill from her home, are the barracks for the prisoners. Lt. Col. Denson, the chief prosecutor, is standing to her left, with his back to the camera. Members of the press are sitting at a table on the left. An interpreter is standing to the right of Frau Koch.

According to Joshua M. Greene, author of  the book Justice at Dachau, the prosecution introduced ten witnesses who testified against Ilse Koch. One of these witnesses, Kurt Froboess, testified that he had seen Frau Koch’s photo album, which he said had a tattoo on the cover. He said that he had seen this tattoo on a piece of preserved human skin, which he said had been removed from a fellow prisoner, in the pathology department at Buchenwald, and he later recognized this same tattoo on the cover of the photo album.

At least two witnesses testified about a lamp with a shade fashioned out of human skin and a base made from a human leg bone, which they claimed had been delivered to Frau Koch. One of these witnesses, Kurt Wilhelm Leeser, testified that he had previously seen the tattoos on this lamp shade on the arms of a fellow prisoner, Josef Collinette, before he died. This lamp was not introduced into evidence in the courtroom and there were no witnesses from the American military who testified about its existence.

The Jewish religion frowns upon tattoos and a Jew who is tattooed cannot be buried in consecrated ground, so it would have been unusual for a Jewish prisoner at Buchenwald to have had a tattoo. During the trial, it was pointed out by defense counsel that Dr. Wagner was doing a study of tattoos and criminal behavior at Buchenwald. Tattooed skin had been removed from dead criminals and preserved at the pathology department where autopsies were done.

Dr. Sitte testifies at the Buchenwald trial

In the photo above, prosecution witness Dr. Kurte Sitte identifies 3 pieces of tattooed skin

Three pieces of tattooed skin and a shrunken head were exhibited in the courtroom at Dachau as evidence of the ghastly crimes committed by the staff at Buchenwald. The photograph above shows Dr. Kurte Sitte, on the far right, who is identifying the three pieces of tattooed skin, found in the pathology department at Buchenwald. This same exhibit was shown at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on December 13, 1945 as evidence of Crimes against Humanity.

According to the forensic report prepared for the American Military Tribunal proceedings, the three pieces of skin were determined to be human. Joseph Halow, a court reporter for some of the other Dachau trials, claims that he saw a lamp shade that was part of the evidence at the proceedings against Ilse Koch, but if this lamp shade was tested, the results were not included in the forensic report. No one else, that I know of, ever mentioned seeing a lamp shade in the Dachau courtroom.

In the testimony given at Dachau, there was no reference by any of the attorneys to a lamp being on display in the courtroom during the proceedings. Dr. Sitte identified the shrunken head that was exhibited in the courtroom, but he did not mention a lamp being in the courtroom during his testimony.

Dr. Sitte, who had a Ph.D. in physics, was one of the star witnesses against Ilse Koch. He had been a prisoner at Buchenwald from September 1939 until the liberation. He testified that tattooed skin was stripped from the bodies of dead prisoners and “was often used to create lampshades, knife cases, and similar items for the SS.” He told the court that it was “common knowledge” that tattooed prisoners were sent to the hospital after Ilse Koch had passed by them on work details. Dr. Sitte’s testimony of “common knowledge” was just another word for hearsay testimony, which was allowed by the American Military Tribunal.

According to Joshua M. Greene, in his book Justice at Dachau, Dr. Sitte testified that “These prisoners were killed in the hospital and the tattooing stripped off.”

Under cross-examination, Dr. Sitte was forced to admit that he had never seen any of the lampshades allegedly made of human skin and that he had no personal knowledge of any prisoner who had been reported by Frau Koch and was then killed so that his tattooed skin could be made into a lampshade. He also admitted that the lampshade that was on the display table in the film was not the lampshade made from human skin that was allegedly delivered to Frau Koch. Apparently the most important piece of evidence, the lampshade made from human skin, was nowhere in sight during the trial.

During his cross examination of Dr. Sitte, defense attorney Captain Emanuel Lewis tried to introduce a plausible explanation for the removal of tattoos at Buchenwald when he asked:

“Is it not a fact that skin was taken from habitual criminals and was part of scientific research done by Dr. Wagner and into the connection between criminals and tattoos on their bodies?”

Dr. Sitte answered:

“In my time, skin was taken off prisoners whether they were criminal or not. I don’t think that a responsible scientist would ever call this kind of work scientific.”

American clergymen at the trial of Ilse Koch

The trial of Ilse Koch was a big event, which attracted world-wide attention.  I can remember seeing news reels about it.  The photo above shows 14 American Clergymen who traveled to Dachau, where the American Military Tribunal proceedings were held.

On April 16, 1947, five days after the start of the trial against the Buchenwald war criminals, an SS man named Werner Fricke took the stand to testify for the prosecution. Fricke had served as a clerk at Buchenwald from 1937 to 1945.

Fricke said the following in his testimony at the Buchewald trial, according to the book The Beasts of Buchenwald by Flint Whitlock:

When the action against the work slackers started in the fall of 1940, I believe, a prisoner was sent into the camp on account of Paragraph 175, Homosexuality. This prisoner, who was totally insane, did not, in my opinion, belong in a concentration camp but in an asylum.  That prisoner was tattooed all over his body from face to toe. In fact, even his sexual organs were tattooed.  Koch made a show out of this man in front of the camp gate, having him stand there nude.

About two or three weeks later, when I had to see the camp commandant on account of a matter of vital statistics [Fricke worked in the camp’s Vital Statistics office], I saw a book bound in human skin lying on his desk. The tattoos seemed so familiar to me that I suspected right away that it was the skin of the prisoner mentioned. The trusted friend of Koch, SS-Master SergeantMichael [and, according to Eugen Kogen, a nephew of Commandant Koch] confided to me upon a question after that prisoner that this book which I had seen in Koch’s place was actually bound with the skin of this prisoner. He said that the prisoner had died and that he had received instructions from Koch to have the skin tanned in camp and have a book bound with it.  I do not know about a lampshade or a hand bag, and I never saw those either.  However, I freely admit the possibility, for nothing was impossible with Koch.

Did I mention that hearsay evidence was allowed in all the trials before the American Military Tribunal, as well as at the Nuremberg IMT?

Apparently the infamous photo album, that was seen by the SS man and some of the prisoners, was confiscated by the American liberators, but it was not introduced into evidence in the courtroom.

In her plea for mercy from the court, Ilse Koch pointed out that Newsweek magazine had published an article in which it was stated that the US military government in Germany was in possession of her photo album. Frau Koch claimed that the album contained several photos of her home which showed lampshades made from dark leather; Frau Koch said the photos showed that the lampshades were clearly not made from human skin.



  1. I’ll believe a lot of things, but not the lugubrious stories of tattooed human skin being used for lampshades, human hair for mattress filling, human bodies rendered for tallow to make soap, extermination by gassing, or Anne Frank’s completely bogus post-WW2 diary, and the extraordinary amount of people who subsequently popped up claiming to have been valiant resistance fighters. It doesn’t make sense when you’re fighting for your life to exterminate slave labourers. I certainly believe that a concerted and despicable campaign was conducted against Jews, but also to capture fit, young men in occupied countries to be made to work in the German war effort. The vanquished Nazis were no angels, having viciously and maliciously caused a cataclysmic event in mankind’s history, but the origin of the gory stories belongs to equally destructive victors.

    Comment by brokenscimitar — November 14, 2016 @ 8:31 pm

  2. Btw, i did write a better comment at 1:57

    Comment by Nazi Hunter — August 27, 2015 @ 2:01 pm

  3. Did Ilse Koch actually kill prisoners herself or did she order guards to do it. I am trying to determine whether she was a mass-murderer or a serial killer.

    Comment by Kate — August 23, 2015 @ 1:54 am

  4. laughable. Jewish Fantasy and Torture Porn – all made up by sick Jewish minds. The whole Holocaust story is the biggest fraud of the last century. Normal work-camps were fictionalized into death-camps. The prisoners who died did so because of a Typhus epidemic (that’s why they got their hair shaved off, not to fill mattresses) and there was of course a food shortage after the Allies bombed all the railway tracks and transport ways. So basically you can blame the US and England for dead prisoners. Everybody imprisoned enemies of the state, US imprisoned Japanese.

    Comment by Snowflake — June 11, 2015 @ 6:00 am

    • That is so weird that you should use that term “torture porn”, as I was just thinking of that to describe what the jews allege that the Germans did to them, but, in fact, THEY did to the Germans! Check out the documentary ‘Hellstorm’, if you haven’t seen, it already! The disgusting anti-German film ‘Inglorious Basterds’ is a prime example of jewish torture porn, featuring (not surprisingly) Eli Roth, the king of torture porn! Sick fuckers, all!

      Comment by Bongofury361 — July 19, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

      • Its on YouTube.
        I’ve not watched it yet, I think it might be antisemitic German bullshit, but I’ll watch it later.

        Comment by philohio — November 3, 2015 @ 12:14 am

      • Hellstorm is German propaganda, there was no Israeli nation back during WW-2.
        So how could they declair war on Germany?

        Comment by philohio — November 3, 2015 @ 12:44 am

    • How do you account for the many many first person accounts of what went on in Germany, Poland Austria, etc. because of the germans and their “ethnic cleansing” and the demonizing of Jews? How do you dismiss the accounts of the people that were hidden, escaped, etc. and all the things they saw? What about the ones that escaped while people were being shot in the streets and business looted and shut down?How could so many thousands of people conspire to tell similar stories? How do you account for video footage taken by the ss themselves? Why werent the soldiers skin and bones if there really was a food shortage that caused their cruel starvation. Why do we not see footage of regular nazi citizens that were wasting away and the piles of bodies of the citizens that were not deemed as disposable? Why have Germans long been ashamed of this history – Why would it be disgustingand shameful if it was just work camps where disease and famine broke out? Funny the guards that worked at the camps didnt seem to get the diseases these people supposedly all died from.
      What about the shootings in mass that there is footage and stills of? Clearly they are ss. What about the workers that openly admitted the people put in the gas chambers that were healthy and had just arrived at the camps.
      How did the US get Russia to join in the “LIE and propaganda” you profess? How is it that after all these years there is so much proof.
      The Nazis believed that jews were the main problem as well as the aryan race being supreme. They believed that resources were being used on “undesirables and defectives” and that they should be exterminated so that there was more room for the perfect race. They didnt want inter breeding of the races or of those that had defects to the point that bed wetting and minor defects were worthy of execution.
      So even if one chose to believe that the nazis simply hand picked the jews, gays, handicapped, old non aryan, gays, etc. and began to turn citizens against them to the point that they were violent, lost their business, etc. (as if that alone isnt evil), then they forcefully evicted them from their homes, put them on trains packed in so badly that some died, (also no food, water or sanitation), then took them off the trains at the camps. Now if you were to believe all this “innocent intentions” then how would you condone the footage of the killings of women and old men there at the trains???? They were UNARMED. How would you justify then them lined up naked and shot? How would you explain the gas chambers? They were fat and healthy, pregnant, etc. so they were not diseased many times when they went into the chambers, they were told they were getting showers to kill any lice, typhus, etc.? How on earth would you justify or explain the murder of completely healthy people? How could you justify the pictures and testimonies of the cruel separations of women from their children? The experiments which there are pictures of as well as first hand testimonies. Did all these people lie? Why on earth would they lie? Did they all get tattoos after the end of the war just so they could be apart of the lie, the little kids too?
      Hitler and the others were very bold and clear on their desire to cleanse and purge society of the undesirables (jews, handicapped, elderly, non aryan and anyone that stood in their way or protested). Of their desire to create a perfect race. So did all hitlers speeches, his book he wrote in jail, etc. were all those made up too?

      Comment by ja kra — July 20, 2015 @ 9:46 pm

    • Your fucking Nazi bastards. Don’t worry when you die you’ll meet you Nazi death camp and experience every horror. Rotten in hell with your brother Adolf!

      Comment by Nazi Hunter — August 27, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

      • The comments section is not intended for insults. It is intended for serious debate. I will give you one more chance to write something intelligent before I ban you from commenting here.

        Comment by furtherglory — August 27, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

    • Too bad you don’t have a life.

      Comment by Nazi Hunter — August 27, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

      • Do you really want people like this discussing things on your site?

        Comment by Nazi Hunter — August 27, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

    • You holocaust deniers, I would kill you with my bare hands if I could.

      Comment by Reginald Allouchery — January 14, 2018 @ 1:03 pm

      • You wrote: “You holocaust deniers, I would kill you with my bare hands if I could.”

        What is stopping you? How many do you think you could kill every 24 hours? If that is too many for you to kill, it means that there are lots of deniers. Maybe you should do some research and find out why there are so many deniers.

        Comment by furtherglory — January 16, 2018 @ 8:14 am

  5. By God this is the most degrading act I ehave ever heard of. Ilsa’s skin should have been made to a lampshade too afetr she died but then it would make us the same as she was …. They always seem to be getting of easy cuz we are not wanting to be like them. I must admit it makes perfect sense but then why is the death penalty still in vigor in the US? Isn’t premedited murder the worst crime possible?? If giving out the death sentenceafter several appeals at a precise time and before witnesses the perfect exemple of it??? Of course I can understand the desire for revenge by the family’s victim but shouldn’t they reflect on the idea of becoming monsters themselves too??? Butt it’s not up to them ..It’s in the hands of the justice system who obviously donù,t care even if it costs more money to have the death penalty. I’m not defending those killers but what’s more is each year it is proven without the shadow of a douubt that mistakes have been made very often an innocent have been sent to death….. Now I’m canadian and Harper wants to reinstate the death penalty…..Sorry but I just can’t get it even in this case. Since when has men been granted the power of life and death over another human being. Sorry about a little but out of the subject but I do wanna reblog this but I stil am against the death penalty. Let them reflect of what they have done and have a chance of repenting and redee, their soul. Plus stop using the holocaust as an excuse to kill civilains livng in Gazza, only bringing more hatred into this world. I’m sure you will hate me for this but just give it a thought?

    Comment by Tobe Damit — August 24, 2014 @ 11:42 am

  6. David Irving reproduces the results of forensic tests in 1982, ordered by the Washington National Archives, on the “human skin” photo album:

    “We regret that since the sample was sueded, we could only conclude that it originated from some large animal, but that a specific species identification was impossible.”

    Comment by The Black Rabbit of Inlé — September 3, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  7. Yes you are correct in how long myths will last . When I was growing up I would attend religious instruction most days and the old testament stories of David and Goliath as well as Noah and his ark were drilled into my consciousness. The goat herders who invented these fables thousands of years ago are long gone, however their fables will be told for years to come. Likewise the ” holocaust” will be around and being drilled into generations of kids for centuries to come.

    Comment by Pete — September 1, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    • You’ll also die in hell, not worried!

      Comment by Nazi Hunter — August 27, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

  8. I am commenting on my own blog post because I have just realized that young people, who were not alive in 1945, might have trouble understanding why, at the end of World War II, America went to such extremes to accuse the Germans of perpetrating horrible war crimes.

    I was 12 in 1945, and I recall how happy Americans were that the war had ended. People in America did not suffer during the war, except for the rationing of food and the fact that no new cars were being built. For me, the greatest tragedy of the war was that I could not get film for my camera. My family didn’t have enough money to buy all the food that was allowed under rationing, but we weren’t starving.

    At the end of the war, there were news reels showing the destruction of Berlin and other German cities. I particularly remember seeing the bomb damage in Nuremberg. Some people were beginning to feel sorry for the Germans. Was it really necessary to destroy the historic city of Nuremberg?

    Keep in mind that 25% of the American people were German-American at that time. In Missouri, where I lived, most people were German American. Something had to be done to show Americans that the Germans deserved their fate. A film showing the dead bodies at Bergen-Belsen being shoved into mass graves by a bulldozer was the first thing that caused Americans to hate the German people. Of course, nothing was mentioned in the film about the typhus epidemic at Bergen-Belsen, nor that Belsen was an exchange camp for prisoners who were available to be exchanged for German-Americans in American internment camps. To this day, it is not generally known that the Belsen camp was voluntarily turned over to the British.

    But the main thing that caused Americans to believe that the German people were evil was the Buchenwald tour where the citizens of Weimar were shown the lampshades and the shrunken heads. Buchenwald was the first camp to be liberated by American troops, so that is why such an effort was made to show the crimes committed there. The news reels about Buchenwald made a big impression on the American people. That’s why the myth about the Buchenwald lampshades lives on. The human skin lampshade story will continue to be told for thousands of years, even after there are no longer any ethnic Germans alive.

    Comment by furtherglory — September 1, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

    • I understand your comment and I totally agree. People have to know. Holocaust was real and it happened and not without the help of civilians in Europe (especially Poland) and also with the help of the US. IBM had a contract with the Nazis and actually invented and put to work the marking system of the Jewish prisonners, numbers engraved on so many ones who were sent to death. This is no secret. The Bush fortune was made doing what is considered acts of high treason, hiding people and money related to the Holocaust and the Nazis. This is no secret. Anyone can have acccess to the documents that proves it. Now as a French-Canadian, it makes me VERY scared that a guy like Harper is the prime minister of a country that once wanted to be closer to Switzerland than to the US but now it’s obvious that we are becoming something like an extension of the US and the Us are becoming more and more like everything and everyone they faought against so hard. ”America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” -Hunter S Thompson

      Comment by Tobe Damit — August 24, 2014 @ 11:56 am

      • Im a proud american but not proud of what we did to the Jews from 1939 to the end of the war. The US and the top people in gov’t were a bunch of anti-semites and still are. Henry Ford THE BIGGEST! But this time they wont get away with it.

        Comment by Nazi Hunter — August 27, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

        • I know there’s a lot of people who think like you but are afraid to say it loud and clear and that in itself is a proof the US are not what they used to be..or rather aimed to be..

          Comment by Tobe Damit — August 27, 2015 @ 4:18 pm

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