Erich Koch: Wikis

  
  

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Erich Koch


In office
1928 – 1945
Leader Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Bruno Gustav Scherwitz
Succeeded by none

In office
August 20, 1941 – October 6, 1943
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Curt von Gottberg

Born January 16, 1896
Elberfeld, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died November 12, 1986 (aged 90)
Barczewo, People's Republic of Poland
Political party NSDAP
Religion Protestant

Erich Koch (June 19, 1896 – November 12, 1986) was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 to 1945 he was the Chief of Civil Administration (Chef der Zivilverwaltung) of the Bialystok district. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 until 1943. After the war, Koch stood trial in Poland and was convicted in 1959 of war crimes and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment a year later.

Contents

Early life and First World War

Koch was born in Elberfeld, today part of Wuppertal, as the son of foreman Gustav Adolf Koch (1862 – 1932) and his wife Henriette, née Matthes (1863 – 1939). 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.[1] A skilled trader, Koch joined the railway service as an aspirant for the middle level of the civil service.[1] He was dismissed from this position in 1926 for anti-republican activities.[1]

Rise in the Nazi Party

Koch joined the NSDAP in 1922 {NSDAP # 90}.[1] From 1922 he worked in various party positions in the NSDAP-Gau Ruhr. 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.[1] In 1927 he became Bezirksführer of the NSDAP in Essen and later the deputy Gauleiter of Gau Ruhr. Koch belonged to the left wing of the party and was a supporter of the faction led by Gregor Strasser.[1]

In 1928 Koch became Gauleiter of the Province of East Prussia and the leader of the NSDAP faction in the provincial diet.[1] From September 1930 he was a member of the Reichstag for East Prussia.[1] After the Machtergreifung, Koch became an appointed member of the Prussian State Council in July 1933.[1] He became Oberpräsident of East Prussia in September 1933, replacing Wilhelm Kutscher.[1] In 1938 Koch was appointed SA-Obergruppenführer.

Gauleiter of East Prussia

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.[1] He also had long-term plans of mass-scale industrialization of the largely agricultural province. These actions made him unpopular among the local peasants.[1] However, through publicly funded emergency relief programs concentrating on agricultural land improvement projects and road construction, The "Erich Koch Plan" for East Prussia allegedly made the province free of unemployment: On August 16 1933 Koch reported to Hitler that unemployment had been banished entirely from East Prussia, a feat that gained admiration throughout the Reich.[2].

Koch's industrialization plans led him into conflict with R. Walther Darré, who held the office of the Reich Peasant Leader (Reichsbauernführer) and Minister of Agriculture. Darré, a neopaganist rural romantic, wanted to enforce his vision of an agricultural East Prussia. When his Land representatives challenged Koch's plans, Koch had them arrested.[3]

Second World War

Erich Koch (right) and Alfred Rosenberg (center) in Kiev, Reichskommissariat Ukraine

At the commencement of World War II Koch was appointed Reich Defence Commissioner (Reichsverteidigungskommissar) for East Prussia (Military District I). 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 (previously Ciechanów). These new areas lay approximately between the rivers Vistula and Narew. Soon after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Koch was appointed "civil commissioner" (Zivilkommissar) on August 1, 1941, and later as Chief of Civil Administration in Bezirk Bialystok.

On September 1, Koch became Reichskommissar of Reichskommissariat Ukraine with control of the Gestapo and the police. His domain was extended from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea; it comprised ethnic German, Polish, Belarus and Ukrainian areas. As Reichskommissar he had full authority in his realm, which led into conflict with other elements of the Nazi bureaucracy. Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete), expressed his disapproval of Koch's autonomous actions to Hitler in December 1941.[4]

Koch's first act as Reichskommissar 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." [1] 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."[5] Koch worked together with the General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment (Generalbevollmächtigter für den Arbeitseinsatz) Fritz Sauckel in providing the Reich with forced labor. He was also involved in the persecution of Polish and Ukrainian Jews. Due to his brutal actions, Nazi rule in Ukraine was disturbed by a growing number of partisan uprisings.[1]

Koch was appointed as head of the Volkssturm of East Prussia on 25 November 1944. 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 Peninsula, Rügen, and Copenhagen he arrived at Flensburg, where he hid himself. He was captured by British forces in Hamburg in May 1949.

Trial and imprisonment

The Soviet Union 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 Room, although there is no evidence to support this claim. Koch appeared in a television report on Königsberg's history in 1986, interviewed by West German journalists in his Polish prison cell. He died of natural causes in prison at Barczewo, Poland at the age of 90.

Koch and Christianity

Koch was one of the few Nazi party leaders to consider himself a professing Christian.[6] In addition to his political career, Koch was also the elected president of the East Prussian Protestant Church Synod.[6] Although he gave preference to the Deutsche Christen movement over traditional Protestantism, his contemporaries regarded Koch as a bona fide Christian, whose success in his church career could be attributed to his commitment to the Lutheran faith.[6]

Koch officially resigned his church membership in 1943, but in his post-war testimony he stated: "I held the view that the Nazi idea had to develop from a basic Prussian-Protestant attitude and from Luther's unfinished Reformation".[6] On the 450th Anniversary of Luther's birth (10 November 1933), Koch spoke on the circumstances surrounding Luther's birthday. He implied that the Machtergreifung was an act of divine will and stated that both Luther and Hitler struggled in the name of belief.[6]

It has been speculated that Koch's conflicts with Rosenberg and Darré had a religious element to them:[3] both Rosenberg and Darré were anti-Christian Nordicists who did not belief that the Nazi Weltanschauung ("world view") was compatible with Christianity.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Robert S. Wistrich, Who's who in Nazi Germany, p. 142-143.
  2. ^ Dan P. Silverman (1993). "Fantasy and Reality in Nazi Work-Creation Programs, 1933-1936". The Journal of Modern History 65 (1): 113–151.  
  3. ^ a b Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich - Nazi conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945, p. 102.
  4. ^ http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/1517-ps.asp
  5. ^ Norman Davies: Europe at War, Macmillan, 2006.
  6. ^ a b c d e Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich - Nazi conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945, p. 1-2.

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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