A 97-year-old woman who worked as a secretary in a Nazi concentration camp was convicted on Tuesday of her role in the murder of thousands of people, in what could be one of the last judgments related to the Holocaust.
A court in the northern German city of Itzehoe has sentenced Irmgard Furchner to a suspended two-year prison sentence for aiding and abetting the murder of 10,505 people and the attempted murder of five others, according to a court spokesman. .
The prosecution originally charged Furchner with assisting in the murders of 11,412 people. After learning about the sentence, he highlighted the “exceptional historical significance” of the process, with a verdict that was above all “symbolic”.
She was convicted under juvenile law because she was aged between 18 and 19 at the time of the crimes.
Furchner was brought into court wearing a cream-colored winter coat and beret, with a blanket over her lap. She heard the verdict in a wheelchair. Her face was blurred in photographs sent to the press at the request of the court.
In a statement at the closing of the trial earlier this month, Furchner said he was sorry for what had happened and regretted having worked on the Stutthof concentration camp, located near Gdansk, Poland.
Between June 1943 and April 1945, Furchner worked in the office of camp commander Paul Werner Hoppe. According to the indictment, she wrote down and drafted the Nazi officer’s orders and delivered his mail.
The prosecutor pointed out to the judges that the accused’s administrative work “ensured the proper functioning of the camp” and gave her “awareness of all the events in Stutthof”.
About 65,000 people, including prisoners of war and Jews captured in the Nazi extermination campaign, died of starvation and disease or in the gas chamber at Stutthof.
The lawyers had asked for the acquittal of the elderly woman, claiming that the evidence presented during the trial did not prove beyond doubt that the woman had knowledge of the murders.
The start of Furchner’s trial was scheduled for September 2021, but was postponed after the accused fled the nursing home where she lives and headed to a subway station in an attempt to escape the court. She was arrested in the nearby city of Hamburg hours later and held for five days.
During trial hearings, survivors of the Stutthof camp gave moving accounts of their suffering. Prosecutor Maxi Wantzen thanked the courage of witnesses, including some who also appeared as co-plaintiffs, and said they spoke of the “absolute hell” of the camp.
“They feel it’s their duty, even though they have to repeatedly invoke pain to do this,” she said.
Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II, time is running out to bring Holocaust-linked criminals to justice. In recent years several cases have been abandoned because the accused died or were unable to appear in court.
A 2011 conviction of guard John Demjanjukbased on the fact that it was part of the killing machine of the Hitler regime, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several trials.