The former Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland

German 96-year-old Nazi war crimes suspect detained after fleeing trial

Irmgard Furchner is accused of having contributed as an 18-year old to the murder of 11,412 people when she was a typist at the Stutthof concentration camp between 1943 and 1945

Reuters |
Updated: 09.30.21, 15:47
A 96-year-old woman whom a judge declared to be on the run after she failed to turn up for the start of her trial on charges of committing war crimes during World War Two has been caught, a spokesperson for the court said on Thursday.
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  • Irmgard Furchner is accused of having contributed as an 18-year old to the murder of 11,412 people when she was a typist at the Stutthof concentration camp between 1943 and 1945.
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    German Nazi concentration camp Stutthof
    German Nazi concentration camp Stutthof
    The former Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland
    (Photo: AFP)
    But her trial in the far northern town of Itzehoe could not begin in her absence.
    "The defendant left her home in the early hours of this morning and took a taxi to an unknown location," court spokesperson Frederike Milhoffer said.
    The spokesperson said an arrest warrant had been issued. Itzehoe is some 100 km (60 miles) from the Danish border.
    Milhoffer later confirmed that Furchner had been detained and that a doctor was now assessing whether her health would allow her to be imprisoned.
    The next hearing was scheduled for Oct. 19, she said.
    Lawyers milled around the makeshift courtroom that had been rigged up in a nearby industry park because of the immense media interest. But Furchner's chair, marked with her name tag, remained empty.
    Charges cannot be read until Furchner, who faces trial in an adolescent court because of her young age at the time of the alleged crimes, is present in court in person.
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    Irmgard Furchner during her time as secretary at Stutthof
    Irmgard Furchner during her time as secretary at Stutthof
    Irmgard Furchner during her time as secretary at Stutthof
    (Photo: Bild)
    She is the latest in a series of nonagenarians to have been charged with Holocaust crimes in what is seen as a rush by prosecutors to seize the final opportunity to enact justice for the victims of some of the worst mass killings in history.
    Although prosecutors convicted major perpetrators - those who issued orders or pulled triggers - in the 1960s "Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials", the practice until the 2000s was to leave lower-level suspects alone.
    According to Der Spiegel, Furchner transcribed execution orders dictated to her by camp commandant Paul-Werner Hoppe, who was convicted of accessory to murder in 1955. The magazine reported that Furchner had written to the judge asking to be tried in absentia - a legal impossibility in Germany.
    Oskar Groening, known as the "accountant of Auschwitz" for his job recording valuables seized from deportees on their arrival at the extermination camp, was sentenced to four years in 2016 for accessory to murder, though he died before his sentence could start.
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    Bruno Dey, 93-year-old former SS security guard from the Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk sits in a courtroom behind a plexiglass window in the regional court on July 23, 2020 in Hamburg
    Bruno Dey, 93-year-old former SS security guard from the Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk sits in a courtroom behind a plexiglass window in the regional court on July 23, 2020 in Hamburg
    Bruno Dey, 93-year-old former SS security guard from the Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk sits in a courtroom behind a plexiglass window in the regional court on July 23, 2020 in Hamburg
    (Photo: Getty Images )
    Bruno Dey, was convicted last year, aged 93, of abetting the murder of 5,230 people as a guard at Stutthof. He too was tried in a youth court despite his age because he was still a juvenile at the time of the crimes.
    Some 65,000 people died in the concentration camp, near Gdansk in today's Poland, between 1939 and 1945, of starvation and disease or in the camp's gas chamber, including prisoners of war and Jews caught up in the Nazis' war of extermination.
    First published: 12:27, 09.30.21
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