Karl Otto Koch

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Karl Otto Koch (August 2, 1897 – April 5, 1945), a Standartenführer (Colonel) in the German Schutzstaffel (SS), was the first commandant of the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, and later also served as a commander at the Majdanek concentration camp.


Early life

Koch was born in Darmstadt, Grand Duchy of Hesse on August 2, 1897. His father worked in local registrar's office and died when Karl was only eight years old. After completing elementary school in 1912, Koch began studying business and worked as a messenger and a apprentice in a bookkeeping department in a local factory. In 1916, he volunteered to join the army and fought on the Western Front until he was captured by the British in 1918. Koch spent rest of the war as a POW and returned to Germany in 1919. As a soldier he conducted himself well and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class, the Observer's Badge and the Wound Badge in Black. Following WWI, Koch worked as a accounting supervisor in a bank and later also in the same role in an insurance company. In 1931, Karl Otto Koch joined the NSDAP and the Schutzstaffel.

Service with the SS

Koch served with several SS-Standarten until June 13, 1935, when he became commander of the Columbia concentration camp in Berlin-Tempelhof. In April 1936 he was assigned to the concentration camp at Esterwegen. Four months later he was moved to Sachsenhausen, and on August 1, 1937, he was given command of the new concentration camp at Buchenwald. He remained at Buchenwald until September 1941, when he was transferred to the Majdanek concentration camp for POWs. That was largely due to an investigation based on allegations of his improper conduct at Buchenwald, which included corruption, fraud, embezzlement, drunkenness, sexual offences and a murder. Koch commanded the Majdanek camp for only one year; he was relieved from his duties after 86 Soviet POWs escaped from the camp in August 1942. Koch was charged with criminal negligence and transferred to Berlin, where he worked at the SS Personalhauptamt and as a liaison between the SS and the German Post-Office.

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