POOL / REUTERS
Germany: Irmgard Furchner, ex-secretary of a Nazi camp, sentenced for complicity in more than 10,000 murders
GERMANY – A 97-year-old former secretary of a concentration camp was sentenced on Tuesday December 20 to a two-year suspended prison sentence in one of the final trials on nazi era in Germany who sends a « signal important » to the last survivors of the crimes then committed.
Irmgard Furchner, accused of complicity in murders in more than 10,000 cases at the Stutthof concentration camp, in present-day Poland, had been on trial since September 2021 before the Court of Itzehoe, in northern Germany.
This condemnation is in accordance with the requisitions of the prosecution which had underlined the “outstanding historical significance” of this trial, with a judgment above all “symbolic”.
The nonagenarian, wearing a white beret, was present at the reading of the verdict, which she listened to sitting in her wheelchair. She had not spoken before this court, except during one of the very last hearings, in December, where she had expressed regrets. “I’m sorry for everything that happened. I regret having been in Stutthof at that time”she said.
A statement proving that “The trial had an impact on her”, said Judge Dominik Gross on Tuesday, while regretting his silence. Irmgard Furchner is the first woman to be tried in Germany in decades for crimes committed under the Nazis.
Secretary to Camp Commandant Paul Werner Hoppe
She had fled on the day of the opening of the hearings: leaving her accommodation in a home for the elderly in a taxi, she had not appeared in court. The nonagenarian was found a few hours later.
Aged 18 to 19 at the time, Irmgard Furchner was employed as a typist and secretary to the camp commandant, Paul Werner Hoppe. According to her defence, the trial did not prove that she had knowledge of the systematic murders in Stutthof. The argument was dismissed by the judges.
Refuting the idea that she had been, as she claimed, “a naive young secretary”the Court held that ” nothing “ had not been “hidden from the accused”. Elle “had a relationship of trust” with the commander, continues the verdict. Typing the letters of the latter, Irmgard Furchner had access to the “confidential information”. Irmgard Furchner’s support for the Nazi machine “consisted in putting in writing the commanding officer’s orders”explained Judge Gross.
Due to her age at the time of the events, she was appearing before a special court for young people. In Stutthof, a camp near Gdansk (Dantzig at the time) where approximately 65,000 people perished, Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet prisoners of war were systematically murdered.
During the trial, several survivors testified to their ordeal in an inhumane system designed to kill them slowly. This verdict is for them “an important signal”assured Stefan Lode, the lawyer for three of these survivors residing in the United States. “Our rule of law is pursuing this case after so many decades and sending the signal outside that murder is not statute barred”he added.
“Pervasive smell of corpses”
Most of the prisoners perished from hunger, thirst, diseases, such as typhus, and exhaustion. To execute the weakest, the camp had gas chambers and another place where they were killed with a shot in the back of the neck.
“In the immediate vicinity of the prisoners, the smell of corpses was omnipresent”adds the verdict, considering “unimaginable that the accused did not notice anything”. Her husband worked as an SS in the camp.
Seventy-seven years after the end of the Second World War, Germany continues to search for former Nazi criminals still alive, illustrating the increased, albeit belated, severity of its justice.
Very few women implicated in Nazi crimes were prosecuted. Adolf Hitler’s private secretary, Traudl Junge, was never bothered until her death in 2002.
The case law of the conviction in 2011 of John Demjanjuk, a guard of the Sobibor camp in 1943, to five years in prison, now makes it possible to prosecute for complicity in tens of thousands of assassinations any auxiliary of a camp of concentration, from guard to accountant.
In June, a 101-year-old former guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (north of Berlin) was sentenced to five years in prison.
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