German Nazi war crimes suspect, 96, faces court
Irmgard Furchner is accused of having contributed to the murder of 11,412 people at the Stutthof concentration camp between 1943-1945.
A 96-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary appeared before a German court on Tuesday on charges of committing war crimes during World War II, weeks after she fled from an earlier hearing.
Irmgard Furchner tried to skip the start of her trial at the end of September but was later picked up by police and placed in detention for several days.
On Tuesday, she appeared before the court in the northern town of Itzehoe, near Hamburg.
Furchner, accused of having contributed as an 18-year-old to the murder of 11,412 people when she was a typist at the Stutthof concentration camp between 1943-45, was taken into the sparse courtroom in a wheelchair.
Her face was barely visible behind a white mask and scarf pulled low over her eyes. Security was heavy as the judge and legal staff made their way into the court.
Between 1939 and 1945, about 65,000 people died of starvation and disease or in the gas chamber at the Stutthof death camp near Gdansk, in today’s Poland. They included prisoners of war and Jews caught up in the Nazis’ extermination campaign.
Prosecutors have argued Furchner worked in the office of camp commander Paul Werner Hoppe, taking dictation of the SS officer’s orders and handling his correspondence.
Public prosecutor Maxi Wantzen said her clerical work at Stutthof “assured the smooth running of the camp” and gave her “knowledge of all occurrences and events at Stutthof”, including mass killings.
Furchner is being tried in juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time. She did not respond to the allegations levelled against her on Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to continue on October 26.
Furchner is the latest nonagenarian to have been charged with Holocaust crimes in what is seen as a rush by prosecutors to seize the final opportunity to enact justice for the victims of some of the worst mass killings in history.
Although prosecutors convicted major perpetrators – those who issued orders or pulled triggers – in the 1960s “Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials”, the practice until the 2000s was to leave lower-level suspects alone.