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Categories: Tattoo Crosses | Author: admin 03.04.2015

Over the course of the past 3 years working on the history of preserved tattooed human skin, I have frequently met with difficult questions: Material and conservation concerns pose the question how were they preserved? Ilse Koch was the wife of Karl Otto Koch,Kommandant of the Buchenwald and Madjanekconcentration camps. The Nazis did not just collect the tattoos of prisoners as grotesque trophies of war, however – they also used tattooing as a weapon of dehumanization and control. I was offered by various surgeons to remove it, and they were very glad to do it, but I wanted to keep it on.
Tattoos carry with them a powerful capacity to evoke memory, and this quality is often a motivating factor for many people who choose to become tattooed with marks commemorating important life events or rites of passage.
Lester wanted to look like he was moving faster so he decided to tattoo flames on his side.
Please do not ask for permissions to use these images in your projects, as we do not own the copyrights for them. This is certainly the case for tattoos collected during the late 19th century by physicians and criminologists, who studied the tattoos of criminals and military personnel in prisons, barracks and hospitals. Reports emerged from Buchenwald of the manufacture of everyday items such as gloves, knife sheaths, book-bindings and lampshades from the skins of murdered inmates.[1] In particular, stories of the collection of tattooed human skin, removed from the bodies of inmates at the behest of Ilse Koch, the wife of Kommandant Karl Otto Koch, caused a scandal in the Allied press. From May 1940, prisoner numbers were introduced for all concentration camp prisoners deemed capable of work at the Auschwitz concentration camp complex – those sent directly to the gas chambers were not registered and did not receive numbers.


One of these women was Holocaust survivor Henia Bryer, who was liberated from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
For those, like Henia, who have been forcibly tattooed, the mark may come to stand as testament to a personal and collective history of suffering and survival. Over the past 25 years, UCL pathology collections have absorbed a number of collections belonging to other London medical institutions. All images displayed on the site are provided only for personal use as wallpaper on computers, cell phones and other personal electronic devices. The criminals, soldiers and common men in these institutions very likely did not give consent for their tattoos to be excised and preserved after death; a practice that was rarely questioned during the late 19th century. Although photographs documenting some of these objects were taken when the camps were liberated, no other material evidence of them was recovered to be entered into Koch’s trial at Dachau in 1947, or later at her second trial at Augsburg in 1950. For other Holocaust survivors, these marks became unwelcome reminders of trauma, and were removed by surgeons after the war.
Many Nazi records were destroyed at the end of the war, and the many thousands of files that do remain are scattered across Europe – even today, it is difficult to trace the identities of inmates based on their tattooed prisoner numbers. A large number of the pathology specimens received by UCL arrived in a state of neglect, requiring intensive conservation and re-cataloguing – a task made all the more difficult for the lack of associated documentation. You can download this funny wallpaper for your smart phone, laptop, desktop or even you tablet.


In case of an error where you are the owner of an image and feel it is used unknowingly, please contact us so we can immediately remove it from our website. Without material proof, Koch could not be convicted of the charges relating to the human skin objects.
However, as the daily mortality rate increased and clothes were removed, this soon proved impractical as a way of identifying the dead.
Specimens such as the one pictured above may make us uneasy, particularly when they are unprovenanced and inherited.
Their histories are lost and fraught with ethical entanglements – but they cannot simply be discarded, and perhaps should not be hidden away. Tattoos were applied to either the inner or outer side of the left forearm on registration at the camp.
Henia reminds us of the need to remember past trauma, and of the role that material culture can play in this process.



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