60 years from sentencing Nazi German criminal

Erich Koch, the Nazi German war criminal was sentenced to death on March 9, 1959, by a court in Warsaw, but he was never executed.

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Mr Koch was accused of crimes against Polish, Jewish and Ukrainian people over the period of WWII. In 1933, he had become an Oberpräsident (the highest administrative official) of the East Prussia province of the Third Reich. In years 1941-1944 he was also the Chief of Civil Administration of Białystok region and the Reichskommissar of Ukraine.

After the end of WWII, he went into hiding in the western part of Germany, but in 1949, the British military police captured him. A year later he was handed over to Poland.

For nearly nine years he was held in prison without a trial. He faced the court in 1959 and at the first session he said that he “had never murdered anyone, and heard for the first time about all atrocities committed by Germans at the courtroom.”

The trial lasted for five months and Erich Koch was sentenced to death for having planned, prepared and organized the mass murder of civilians.

He was never executed. Erich Koch died in 1986 in prison in Barczewo, northern Poland. His penalty was commuted to life imprisonment due to ill health, but there are many controversies about it.

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It is said that he had some information about the location of missing Amber Room of Tsarskoye Selo palace near St. Petersburg. According to reports, Polish and Soviet secret services hoped that Mr Koch, as the former Oberpräsident of Eastern Prussia, could reveal its whereabouts.

The Amber Room was prepared by master craftsmen from Gdańsk on the assignment of Prussian King Frederick I Hohenzollern. It was a decoration of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors. King Frederick gifted it to Peter I the Great, the Tsar of Russia in 1716, as a proof of friendship and confirmation of Russian-Prussian alliance. In 1755, the chamber was installed in the Tsarskoye Selo palace.

When the Nazi German army surrounded St. Petersburg (called Leningrad at that time) in 1941, the Room was seized, disassembled, packed and moved to Königsberg in Eastern Prussia (today known as Kaliningrad in Russia). It was stored in the town’s castle.

In 1945, when Königsberg was captured by the Soviet Red Army, the Amber Room was lost. It has never been found.

In 2003, the reconstruction of Amber Room was inaugurated in the Tsarskoye Selo palace. It took 24 years to recreate it.