Ilse Koch and the Double Standard

Allan Callaban


Ilse Koch, the so-called “Bitch of Buchenwald,” was probably the best known female accused of war crimes during WW II. To the revisionist historian today, the most important thing is how much guilt, if any, can be attributed to her. She was the key figure in the celebrated “lampshade” imbroglio, where, allegedly, lampshades were made from the tattooed skins of murdered concentration camp inmates.

Her husband had been a commandant at Buchenwald. Both were arrested in 1943 by German authorities. He was charged with embezzlement, tried and convicted, and executed by the authorities.

Ilse survived the war and was tried before a U.S. military court in 1948. Some lampshades and similar articles were “discovered” (maybe planted) in the Buchenwald commandant’s home when the camp was captured at the end of hostilities. Ilse received a life sentence for her alleged complicity. Later, the American military High Commissioner, General Lucius Clay, reviewed her case and decided that she could have had no part in the “human skin business,” because, for one thing, she had not lived at Buchenwald since 1943. Clay then commuted her sentence to four years, for other brutalities, and she was released in October of 1949.

This brought strong protests from American Jewry; so much so that the German authorities themselves moved against her. She was made to stand trial on the same “lampshade” charges, even though it violated the rule of double jeopardy. Discrepancies were also found in some of the prosecution witnesses’ testimony, but this made no difference, and Ilse received another life sentence. In 1967 she hanged herself in her cell.

The big fuss raised over the “lampshade” business had one main theme. It implied that anyone who would do such a thing is depraved, that the régime it took place under was depraved, and that all the German people themselves were depraved because they allowed such a régime to take over.

Now, making objects out of human skin or bones is not as rare as is commonly supposed. The National Geographic magazine, in its November 1976 issue, pg. 653, relates the tale of Big Nose George Parrot, an outlaw who was arrested and jailed in Rawlins, Wyoming, in Frontier days. A lynch mob broke into the jail, took him out, and hanged him from a telegraph pole. It was a rather bungled job. On the first try, the rope broke. On the second try, he had managed to untie his hands, so that when they jerked the ladder out from under him he was able to grab the people and thus prolong his life briefly – until he slowly slid down to the end of the rope. A local doctor dissected and partially skinned George, using the skin to make himself a pair of shoes, which he proudly wore. Later on, this physician became governor of Wyoming. (The National Geographic obviously decided it was best not to give his name.)

An old dentist I knew, who died a few years ago, said that in dental school they used to do a lot of work on cadavers, much like medical students do. He said that occasionally, after finishing up with the dissection of a particularly fine looking black buck, one of the students would cut off a piece of his skin and make a wallet out of it.

During WW II, an American soldier sent President Roosevelt a letter opener which he had made out of a Japanese skull (Roosevelt declined the gift).

In 1853, the noted Mexican bandit, Joaquin Murieta, was killed in California. His head was cut off, preserved in spirits, and put on display in San Francisco. On 18 August 1853, and for several days following, this notice appeared in the city newspapers: “Joaquin’s Head! is to be seen at King’s, corner of Halleck and Sansome Streets. Admission one dollar.”

And what of the Jews themselves? Have they ever been guilty of using parts of human bodies in ways that are “not nice”?

There has never been an historian more famous than Edward Gibbon (1737-1794). In commenting on one brief period of time in the history of Yahweh’s Darlings, he related that,

“Humanity is shocked at the recital of the horrid cruelties which they committed in the cities of Egypt, of Cyprus, and of Cyrene, where they dwelt in treacherous friendship with the unsuspecting natives …. in Cyrene they massacred 220,000 Greeks; in Cyprus 240,000; in Egypt, a very great multitude. Many of these unhappy victims were sawed asunder, according to a precedent to which David had given the sanction of his example. The victorious Jews devoured the flesh, licked the blood, and twisted the entrails like a girdle around their bodies.” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XVI.)

While such displays are seldom witnessed, and the making of objects from human skin and bone an uncommon thing in civilized societies, still they have happened often enough in the past so that anyone, if he put enough time and effort into it, could turn up a bushel of related incidents. They are only of passing interest and should not be given undue importance. Usually they aren’t, but the case of Ilse Koch offered a golden opportunity for the Jews to pounce upon and hold up to the world as one more example of “German depravity.” And this, in turn, increases the stream of shekels flowing into the pockets of Jews through misguided sympathy.

The double standard is the most shameful thing about the whole “lampshade” affair. If a German (as was alleged) does something of this nature, it is very bad, but if someone else does something similar, or even worse, it is downplayed. And if the “chozzen pipple” themselves do something bad, far too many people simply overlook it entirely.

But really now, which is the best example of “depravity,” a few Germans (allegedly) making a handful of clean lampshades out of human skin, or a bunch of Jews killing and eating their victims, and then running around with dirty, stinking, bloody, fly-blown human guts wrapped around their bodies?

SOURCE: The Liberty Bell, December 1985

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