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Ilse Koch on Trial

Making the “Bitch of Buchenwald”

«Scrupulous and unsettling, this is a vital reconsideration of a notorious figure from history.»

Publishers Weekly
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Harvard University Press
21 x 14 cm


«Scrupulous and unsettling, this is a vital reconsideration of a notorious figure from history.»

Publishers Weekly

«[Jardim] argues that Koch, convicted for her moral and ideological culpability in assaulting prisoners…received a gendered treatment by the American and German presses…This focus on the salacious, sensational, and extraordinary hindered an honest examination of the routinized and bureaucratized slaughter by a regime based on the popular support and participation of many ordinary people.»


«The definitive portrait of Ilse Koch, whose caricature as a sadistic nymphomaniac has for too long dominated representations of Nazi female perpetrators. In Jardim’s judicious hands, Koch’s story reveals much about the Nazi system, postwar justice, and the sexism that permeated both, while firmly establishing Koch’s guilt and paranoid antisemitism.»

Wendy Lower, author of <i>Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields</i>

«An indispensable, superbly researched contribution to the literature on postwar trials of Nazi crimes. Caught between her own obvious prevarications and lack of remorse, the US public’s thirst for sensationalism, and Germany’s need for a spectacular symbol of gender-violating deviance to serve as a convenient scapegoat, Ilse Koch was the rare case of a Nazi perpetrator who was over-prosecuted and over-punished.»

Christopher R. Browning, author of <i>Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solut

«Fascinating and highly original. Deploying a number of previously neglected sources, Jardim not only explores Koch’s life and trials, but also raises intriguing questions about how guilt can ever be established when all but the most circumstantial evidence is absent. A high-caliber contribution.»

Elizabeth Borgwardt, author of <i>A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights</i>

«A gripping account of a Nazi placed on trial after the war, both in court and in the press, for her gruesome acts at Buchenwald concentration camp. Looking closely at Koch’s life and motivations, Jardim offers a brilliant study of postwar Germany and America trying to come to grips with the barbarity of the Nazis, human wickedness, and the role of women perpetrators.»

Susannah Heschel, author of <i>The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany<

«In a stroke of genius, Jardim shows how the figure of Ilse Koch—popularly depicted as a bad wife, a worse mother, and a sexually threatening woman—helped frame the Holocaust as being, fundamentally, about psychological perversion and deviation from the gendered norms of civilization. In so doing, he makes the role of gender in postwar Nazi trials not only legible, but inescapable.»

Devin O. Pendas, author of <i>Democracy, Nazi Trials, and Transitional Justice in Germany, 1945–1950

«A fascinating, revelatory book. Jardim’s deft account of the trials of one of the most infamous Nazi defendants serves as a prism through which he examines such big themes as the postwar reckoning with the camps, the popular (mis)understanding of Nazi crimes, and the politics of memory.»

Nikolaus Wachsmann, author of <i>KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps</i>

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