96-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary flees after skipping trial

A 96-year-old German woman facing charges in juvenile court for aiding and inciting the murder of thousands of Nazi concentration camp prisoners fled her nursing home Thursday just as her trial was about to begin.

Irmgard Furchner, who worked as a secretary in the Stutthof concentration camp when she was 18 years old, did not make it to a local court, even though she had left her nursing home in Quickborn, Pinneberg, in a taxi. An arrest warrant has been issued.

“The accused suspect is on the run,” Friederike Milhoffer, a spokesman for the court in Quickborn, told reporters. “She took a taxi in the morning and was on her way to the train station.” Authorities say they were unable to trace his trip after that.

There were more than 50 journalists and spectators awaiting the start of the trial inside the court, including 12 people representing the joint plaintiffs. The trial was set for 37 days of testimony and was expected to last until next June.

“The defendant is leading the court by the nose with her behavior,” said Onur Ozata, a lawyer representing two of the joint plaintiffs. “She does not feel bound by the law. The authorities have to do everything possible because anything less would be unbearable for the survivors in the camp.

In one of the latest trials of people accused of complicity in murder in Nazi camps, prosecutors charged Furchner with assisting in the murder in 11,387 cases and complicity in seven attempted murder cases while working as the first secretary of Stutthof’s concentration. camp commander, SS Major Paul Werner Hoppe.

In an unusual twist, Furchner is on trial in the district court juvenile chamber because she was only 18 when she began working at the camp in 1943. She had previously worked in a similar capacity for the Dresdner Bank in Marienburg, which is now Malbork. In Poland.

Only in the last decade have German prosecutors brought charges against various former merger supervisors, even if they had only played minor roles. It is seen as a last chance to obtain justice for the millions who died during the Holocaust.

Efforts to track down support figures began in earnest after the precedent-setting trial of John Demjanjuk, a former guard at the Sobibor death camp, who was convicted in 2011 of aiding and inciting the murder of 28,000 people.

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged a 100-year-old man with being an accessory to 3,518 murders while allegedly a guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during World War II.

Furchner has insisted to prosecutors that he was not aware of any executions in the field or the systematic murder of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet prisoners of war despite the fact that, according to German media reports, his office had a view of the field crematorium. . More than 65,000 prisoners died in the camp, according to the German Nazi documentation center in Ludwigsburg.

Her attorneys were expected to defend Furchner in court saying that she was simply a little cog in the machinery, an office worker who simply wrote and read letters for Hoppe, but never hurt anyone in the field or was aware of it. What was happening.

(AFP / Getty)

“I was the stenographer for Major Hoppe and his assistants, but I did most of my work for Hoppe,” Furchner testified as a witness in 1954 in an earlier trial against the camp leaders, adding that he knew nothing of the murders of the camp. countryside. “I handled all correspondence with the SS Office of Economic Administration.”

However, state prosecutor Maxi Wantzen has said that Hoppe was responsible for executing execution warrants at the camp, compiling deportation lists for Auschwitz-Birkenau, and ordering poison gas mass killings in the Stutthof gas chamber. Others in the field were shot, hanged or tortured to death on his orders.

Furchner had passed a recent physical exam after a previous test postponed any trial because he was found to be suffering from cardiovascular problems.

She met her future husband at the camp, an SS officer named Heinz Furchtner who was two decades her senior. They were married in 1954. He died in 1972. She moved into the nursing home in 2014.

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