Friday, May 29, 2009


We've all heard the stories of how the Nazi officers created lampshades made of human skin from their Jewish prisoners. I always assumed this was a fact considering the barbaric nature of the Nazis but this may not be true after all. Cecil Adams from The Straight Dope has the story:

(1) Even by Nazi standards, Buchenwald was out of control. Its original commandant, Karl Koch, was by all accounts corrupt and cruel. Inmates loathed him and his apparently sadistic wife, Ilse, whom they dubbed "the Witch of Buchenwald." Meanwhile, medical personnel were keeping human souvenirs — in 1942 SS higher-ups ordered them to quit making "gifts" such as shrunken heads. A story arose that Ilse had had tattooed prisoners killed so lampshades and other articles could be made from their skin.

(2) In 1943 the SS conducted an internal investigation and tried the Kochs on charges including embezzlement and incitement to murder. (Karl had arranged for the shooting of two inmates who knew he'd contracted syphilis — the SS brass, if not necessarily the rank and file, paid at least lip service to the notion that prisoners weren't to be killed frivolously.) The SS judge, Konrad Morgen, found Karl guilty and ordered his execution, but acquitted Ilse. Later at her war crimes trial Morgen testified that a thorough search of her home found no human-skin lampshades or the like. Ilse didn't live at Buchenwald after 1943.

(3) Shortly after U.S. troops liberated Buchenwald in 1945, director Billy Wilder made a documentary about the camp to publicize Nazi atrocities. A widely circulated still photo from the film showed a table covered with preserved human remains, including two shrunken heads; several pieces of what appears to be tattooed skin; and an ordinary-looking table lamp. The film's narration says that among the items found was "a lampshade, made of human skin, made at the request of an SS officer's wife." The press went nuts, and soon the lampshade became emblematic of Nazi barbarism.

(4) Ilse Koch and others from Buchenwald were tried in 1947 for war crimes. Prosecutors submitted as evidence a shrunken head and three pieces of tattooed human skin but apparently no lampshade. Much of the testimony against Koch was hearsay, although at least one former inmate said he'd seen a tattooed-skin lampshade. Koch was convicted, but her life sentence was commuted on review, in part because of doubts about the witnesses' credibility. She was later tried by a German court, again sentenced to life, and committed suicide in prison in 1967.

From the books and articles I've read about the Nazis and their horrific accounts, I still have to believe they made a few lampshades of human skin. Why would they stop with a shrunken head when their depravity would demand more.

1 comment:

dikhed58 said...

Very informative article,I to beleive lampshades were made.As you said why stop at shrunken head's!!!
Nice job.Sincerely,

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