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Erich Koch (June 19, 1896 – November 12, 1986) was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945, and Reichskomissar in Ukrainemarker from 1941 until 1943. His orders caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

Early life and First World War

Koch was born in Elberfeld, today part of Wuppertalmarker, as the son of foreman. In World War I he served undistinguishedly as a soldier from 1915 till 1918 and later fought as a member of Freikorps Rossbach in Upper Silesia. A skilled trader, Koch joined the railway service as an aspirant for the middle level of the civil service. He was dismissed from this position in 1926 for anti-republicanmarker activities.

Rise in the Nazi Party

Koch joined the NSDAP in 1922 {NSDAP # 90}. During the Occupation of the Ruhr, he was a member of Albert Leo Schlageter's group and was imprisoned several times by the French authorities. In 1927 he became Bezirksführer of the NSDAP in Essenmarker and later the deputy Gauleiter of NSDAP-Gau Ruhr. Koch belonged to the left wing of the party and was a supporter of the faction led by Gregor Strasser.

In 1928 Koch became Gauleiter of the Province of East Prussiamarker and the leader of the NSDAP faction in the provincial diet. From September 1930 he was a member of the Reichstag. Koch became an appointed member of the Prussian State Council in July 1933. After the Machtergreifung, he became Oberpräsident of East Prussia in September 1933. Koch's pre-war rule in East Prussia was characterized by efforts to collectivize the local agriculture and ruthlessness in dealing with his critics inside and outside the Party. These actions made him unpopular among the local peasants. In 1938 Koch was appointed SA-Obergruppenführer.

Second World War

At the commencement of World War II Koch was appointed Reichsverteidigungskommissar for East Prussia. On October 26, 1939, after the end of the Invasion of Poland, he was transferred from East Prussia to the new Reichsgau Westpreußen, later renamed to Danzig-West Prussia. East Prussia was compensated with Regierungsbezirk Zichenau. These new areas lay approximately between the rivers Vistula and Narew. Soon after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Koch was appointed Zivilkommissar on August 1, 1941, and later as Chief of Civil Administration in Bezirk Bialystok.

On September 1, Koch became Reichskomissar of Reichskommissariat Ukraine with control of the Gestapomarker and the policemarker. His domain was extended from the Baltic Seamarker to the Black Seamarker; it comprised ethnic German, Polish, Belarus and Ukrainian areas. Koch's first act as Reichskomissar was to close local schools, declaring that "Ukraine children need no schools. What they'll have to learn will be taught them by their German masters." His brutality is best exemplified by his remark, "If I meet a Ukrainian worthy of being seated at my table, I must have him shot." Due to his brutal methods of repression and Germanization, Nazi rule in Ukraine was disturbed by a growing number of partisan uprisings.

As the Red Army advanced into his area during 1945, Koch escaped through the Baltic Sea between April 23, 1945, and May 7, 1945, on the icebreaker Ostpreußen. From Pillau through Hel Peninsulamarker, Rügenmarker, and Copenhagenmarker he arrived at Flensburgmarker, where he hid himself. He was captured by British forces in Hamburgmarker in May 1949.

Trial and imprisonment

The Soviet Unionmarker demanded Koch's extradition, but the British government decided to pass him on to the Polish government instead. Extradited to Poland, he was sentenced to death on March 9, 1959, for war crimes against the Poles, but was never put on trial for crimes committed in Ukraine. His death sentence was never carried out, and many people believed that he traded his life for information about art looted by the Nazis during the war, including parts of the famous Amber Roommarker, although there is no evidence to support this claim. Koch appeared in a television report on Königsbergmarker's history in 1986, interviewed by West Germanmarker journalists in his Polish prison cell. He died of natural causes in prison at Barczewomarker, Poland.

References

  1. Norman Davies: Europe at War, Macmillan, 2006.


Sources

  • Медведев Д.Н. Сильные духом /Вступ. ст. А. В. Цессарского; Ил. И. Л. Ушакова. — М.: Правда, 1985. — 512 с, ил.
  • Hans-Erich Volkmann (Hrsg.), Das Russlandbild im Dritten Reich (Образ России в Третьем Рейхе), Köln 1994.
  • Robert S. Wistrich, Who's who in Nazi Germany (2001), Routledge, 2001.



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