97-year-old Nazi camp secretary found guilty

A 97-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary was found guilty of contributing to the murder of tens of thousands of Jews at the Stutthof concentration camp.

Irmgard Furchner, a 97-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary was found guilty for her role in what prosecutors called the “cruel and malicious murder” of tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners at the Stutthof concentration camp in occupied Poland.

One of Germany’s last Holocaust trials was held on Tuesday, December 20, which Ms Furchner attended in a wheelchair, covering her face with a white cap and a medical mask. The court also ordered her face to be blurred in media photographs, reports The Telegraph. Since the defendant was a teenager when she committed her crimes, she had been tried in a juvenile court.

Between June 1943 and April 1945, Ms Furchner worked for commander Paul Werner Hoppe in the office of the Stutthof camp, where an estimated 65,000 people lost their lives. According to the case, Ms Furchner took dictation of the SS officer’s orders and handled his correspondence. Although her lawyers had called for her acquittal, claiming that the evidence “had not shown beyond doubt” that she knew of the killings, public prosecutor Maxi Wantzen told the judges the defendant’s clerical work “assured the smooth running of the camp” and gave her “knowledge of all occurrences and events at Stutthof”.

During the proceedings, Ms Furchner sat impassively in her wheelchair, while several Stutthof camp survivors offered wrenching accounts of their suffering. She was not compliant at first, when the proceedings were set to begin in September, 2021. She fled the retirement home where she lives, and evaded police for several hours before being intercepted. However, as the trial’s date was approaching, Ms Furchner broke her silence for the first time, expreesing regret. “I’m sorry about everything that happened,” she told the regional court in the northern town of Itzehoe.

Public prosecutor Maxi Wantzen late last month had asked the judges to hand down a two-year suspended sentence – the longest possible without jail time. By having been found guilty, Ms Furchner is the first woman in decades to be tried in Germany for Nazi-era crimes.

“This trial is of outstanding historical importance, Mr Wantzen said, adding that it was “potentially, due to the passage of time, the last of its kind”. He expressed how important it is (despite the defendant’s advanced age) to complete the historical record, since survivors of the Holocaust are dying off.

He said that despite the defendant’s advanced age, it was important to complete the historical record as survivors die off.