NewsIrmgard Furchner: the former secretary of a Nazi concentration...

Irmgard Furchner: the former secretary of a Nazi concentration camp on the run at the age of 96 before being tried

This Thursday a former secretary of a Nazi concentration camp, Irmgard Furchner , has fled in Germany. At 96, this woman who was in charge of the management of one of the death camps that the Nazis created to exterminate Jews, has escaped before being tried, as announced by the president of the court. “The defendant fled (…) and an arrest warrant has been issued,” announced the person in charge before the court in Itzehoe, in northern Germany, where Furchner was to be tried for complicity in the murder of more than 10,000 people.

Furchner was the only woman involved in Nazism to be tried for decades in the country. This trial before a court in Itzehoe (north) precedes that of a centennial, a former guard at the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen , near Berlin.

Until now Germany, long lazy to find its war criminals, had never tried such elderly former Nazis. It is also carried out on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the death sentence by hanging in Nuremberg of 12 of the main leaders of the Third Reich.

The nonagenarian Irmgard Furchner was between 18 and 19 years old when the events occurred. Until her escape, she lived in a nursing home near Hamburg and was to be tried by a special court for young people for “complicity in the murder of more than 10,000” people, according to the prosecution.

The prosecution accuses her of having participated in the murder of detainees in the Stutthof concentration camp, in present-day Poland , where she worked as a typist and secretary to the camp commander, Paul Werner Hoppe, between June 1943 and April 1945. Some 65,000 people died in the camp near the city of Gdansk, including “Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war,” according to the prosecution.

Execution orders

The lawyer Christoph Rückel , who has represented the survivors of the Shoah for years, assures that “she handled all the correspondence of the camp commander”. “He also typed the execution and deportation orders and put his initials,” he told the public regional network NDR.

After a lengthy procedure, the court ruled in February that the nonagenarian was fit to appear despite her advanced age. But court hearings, which can last until June 2022, should be limited to a few hours a day. Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, the German courts are still searching for former Nazi criminals still alive.

Different German prosecutors are currently examining eight cases involving, in particular, former employees from the Buchenwald and Ravensbrück camps , the Central Office for the clarification of crimes of National Socialism told AFP.

Death of suspects

In recent years, several processes had to be abandoned due to the death of the suspects or their physical inability to appear in court. But while Germany has convicted four former guards or employees of the Nazi camps at Sobibor, Auschwitz and Stutthof in the past ten years, it has tried very few women involved in the Nazi machine, according to historians.

The justice has analyzed the cases of at least three other Nazi camp employees, especially another secretary who worked in Stutthof, but this one died last year before the process ended.

The Neuruppin prosecutor’s office near Berlin is currently examining the case of another woman employed in the Ravensbrück camp, according to the Ludwigsbourg-based head office.

Some 4,000 women worked as guards in the concentration camps, according to historians, but few were tried after the war.

Among those who answered for crimes committed during the Third Reich is the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp guard Maria Mandl, nicknamed “the ferocious beast”, who was hanged in 1948 after her death sentence by a Krakow court.

Between 1946 and 1948, in Hamburg, 38 people, including 21 women, appeared before British military judges for having worked in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, especially reserved for women.

The jurisprudence that led to the conviction in 2011 of John Demjanjuk, a guard from the Sobibor camp in 1943, to five years in prison, now allows any concentration camp auxiliary to be prosecuted for complicity in tens of thousands of murders, from a guard to an accountant.

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