Ilse Koch

Nazi Officer; Death by suicide
Born: September 22, 1906
Died: September 1, 1967

ILSE.
i have heard what they call me
the Jews
i have heard the whispers and sometimes
sometimes i will let them whisper
but if they’re old and they whisper
or frail and they whisper
they’re wasting breath
they’re wasting it talking about me when they should be working
and everyday we need more beds more potatoes
more room because they are coming in droves
the Fuhrer is sending them in droves for
extermination
and so when the frail and the old whisper
when i hear them call me names
when they call me the Bitch
the Bitch of Buchenwald
i walk up real close and ask
“what
what did you say?”
and sometimes
most times
they get real quiet except for this little whisper of a sound almost like bugs like insects but it’s just their bones
it’s just their bones rattling
and sometimes if i’m
if i’ve had a bad day or if i’m tired or if the weather is awful sometimes i’ll say “spit it out
spit it out or i’ll cut out your tongue and feed it to the dogs for dinner”
and they’ll say it
just like that they’ll say it
and before i’ve gotten my pistol out i can smell it
they’ve shit themselves
these rats these
vermin
they’ve shit themselves right here in front of me
in my presence
and i can smell it
and usually i’ll shoot them right here
right between the eyes
point blank
but sometimes i’ll shoot them in the stomach and i’ll wave my pistol around and i’ll say
“if anyone helps this pig i’ll shoot them too”
and i’ll ask for my coat
or a cup of coffee
and i’ll wait
i’ll drink my coffee with cream and two spoonfuls of sugar and i’ll wait
i’ll wait for the pig to bleed out before i move in for inspection
but i don’t want to
ultimately obviously i don’t want to do this sort of a thing
but someone has to
there has to be people willing
and the cowards
the cowards and they’re coward husbands that haven’t joined that haven’t sworn
they might not say it
they might not say
“we want the Jews out
we want to exterminate them all”
they might not say it out loud or in the papers
but the Jew stores
the Jew tailors and the Jew cooks no one wants their food or their shirts no one wants them but the Jews have money
they have money and so the stores never close and we have to look at them day after day we have to see them on our streets from our windows we have to hear them on the radio
because in america
in america they listen to the Jews and they clap
oh they clap and they cheer for those pigs
those Gershwin pigs
but here
no one wants them
no one wants to see them or hear them or smell them
so we are doing the deed
we are doing what we have to do to survive
for our people to survive
and for our children
because i wouldn’t want my children
my babies
i wouldn’t want them eating Jew food or wearing Jew clothes.

but it wasn’t always
i
wasn’t always this sort of a person because Ava
Ava Bergmann
she was my friend when we were children and we would play and i suppose
i suppose i was 8 or 9
or 10 perhaps
and my parents were throwing me a birthday party and i was allowed to invite five children from school and immediately i said “papa
papa i’d like to invite Ava Bergmann with the pretty brown hair” and mama
oh i remember she looked so sad
she looked so dreadfully sad and scared
i think i remember her eyes looking wide and scared but also sad
and papa he said
“Bergmann is a Jew name”
but i was only 8 or 9 or 10 and i didn’t know what a “Jew name” was or wasn’t and papa dragged me upstairs when i asked
and he beat me with his belt
he lifted my skirt and he beat my bare ass again and again with his leather belt and each time made me say
“Bergmann is a Jew name and Jews are pigs”
made me say it between screams and i remember mama soaked my 13 welts
i remember that number because i never liked 13
it was unlucky
evil
and mama soaked my 13 welts and they stung but i knew
i knew and i didn’t invite Ava Bergmann to my party and i didn’t talk to her in school ever again because Bergmann was a Jew name and Jews were pigs.

and a few nights later
the night after my birthday party
where mother still looked sad because i didn’t invite anyone i didn’t have any other friends because i didn’t understand
i didn’t understand that you weren’t supposed to befriend the Jews
and that night after my birthday party papa sat me down and he said
“Ilse”
and he explained.

you see
papa was a butcher and he was well-loved well-respected sold only the best cuts and the wives
often they’d line up on pork day because papa could only get it once a week sometimes twice and the wives would line up and it became a ritual because on sunny days they’d have a parasol parade and i loved to go with papa to the store and see the parade
all these beautiful, rich women with their parasols and they would gossip
i never knew what they were talking about but they would gossip
about the new boy the new man working for the tailor
how he was so handsome and hung
and i would sit outside papa’s shop and i would listen and wonder and then one day
one day papa hired a new man because he couldn’t run the business himself anymore
especially on pork days
a Jew
Isaac
and Isaac worked with papa for several months and papa taught him
he taught him how to make the best cuts
how to flirt the wives just enough and not too much
how to be the best butcher you could be and one night this man
this Jew
he said he would close up
that papa should get back to his family
that he was ready for the responsibility
and papa let him
papa trusted him
and this man stole
this Jew stole money and meat and papa never saw him again never heard from Isaac again and the money and meat were all gone

and “Ilse” papa said that night
“Ilse you must understand
they’re pigs
these Jews they’re pigs”
and so i believed
i understood as papa asked.

but when i was 31 and Karl-Otto first touched me down there and the next morning he said
“Ilse you must understand
i am going to join
i am going to join the Third Reich because my father taught me
he taught me Ilse that the Jews are not to be trusted
and we must exterminate them”
i kissed him because i knew we had a connection
a deeper understanding
and i married him and oh
Karl-Otto
oh he could be cruel
and rough
but when we got to the camps
when we got to Buchenwald suddenly
suddenly he wasn’t quite so rough because he had his punching bags he had his fun
he would come home tired
and drunk
and sometimes he’d come horny
but mostly he was tired and he’d sleep and when he gave me the gun
when he gave me the gun one morning and told me i could use it whenever i liked
wherever i liked
we fucked
we fucked with his uniform still on and after he came i found mine hanging in the closet
i’d wanted it so badly
i’d craved it
my uniform
and he put it on me, buttoned me in, dressed me up like his little doll like his toy
and we left together and I saw her
i saw her skinny and frail and black and blue all over isaw Ava
Ava Bergmann
trying to carry a bag of potatoes
but she fell under the weight of it
and one
two
three
Karl-Otto had exterminated her.
one minute she was there and the next minute she was there.
somehow she looked larger dead than she did alive.
and i heard someone whisper maybe her friend
i heard her whisper
“there she is, the butcher’s wife”
and when i turned on her this woman ava’s friend when i shot her dead right there
my husband looked at me with admiration in his eyes and the rest of the camp these Jew pigs they looked at me with fear and the butcher’s wife became the Bitch
the Bitch of Buchenwald.

I’m not proud.
I was just doing my duty.
I was more than Karl-Otto’s wife and papa’s daughter.
I was the wife and daughter of the Third Reich.

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