Saturday, December 4

Former secretary of a Nazi concentration camp accused of assisting in the murder of more than 11,000 people

Correspondent in Berlin



He arrived at the court in an ambulance and in a wheelchair. Last month, when the judgment, she escaped from the nursing home in a taxi, so this time she was also escorted. With sunglasses, a mask and a headscarf tied around his neck, Irnmgard Furchner his face was not seen by journalists and onlookers. She is 96 years old but is well aware of the great attention that her process arouses, as she is one of the few women who have responded in court for nazi crimes.

Despite her advanced age, she appears before a juvenile court, because she was at the time of the crimes for which she is accused to a degree of complicity. She was 17 when she was hired as Secretary by the direction of Sutthof Nazi concentration camp, where he did typing work.

It is represented by a public defender, while 14 lawyers represent the civil party, with 30 witnesses, including several survivors from the camp. In the car reading, he was silent on Tuesday, although in previous statements, taken since the 1950s, he has assured that he was never aware of the massacres. His lawyer points out that a 17-year-old girl, in the Third Reich, he could not refuse to collaborate with the Nazi state for the sake of survival.

Irnmgard has made repeated excuses for not attending the trial. He fears ridicule and ridicule. She herself expressed this in a letter to the presiding judge of the Itzehoe District Court. But the defendants have to endure it, their presence in criminal trials is essential. With her escape at the end of September, she only managed to draw even more attention to herself. When the court-ordered ambulance was supposed to pick up the defendant at the nursing home from Quickborn, she had already left the building in a taxi to an unknown destination. Hours later, she was found by a police patrol wandering the streets of the city, lost and disoriented. The judge sent her to the Lübeck prison and only suspended the arrest warrant four days later.

Itzehoe's courtroom at the start of the 96-year-old Furchner trial
Itzehoe’s courtroom at the start of the 96-year-old Furchner trial – Reuters

Since then, Irmgard Furchner has had to wear a electronic bracelet on the wrist. It is the first trial for Nazi crimes that takes place in the era of social networks and Irmgard’s case has sparked a debate about whether an elderly woman in her conditions can receive this treatment for facts in which, if she can be tried to her, a whole country would have to be judged. The prosecutor Maxi Wantzen, however, assures that there is no room for compassion. During the car reading, he insisted that the secretary, with her typewriter, helped in the insidious and gruesome murder in 11,412 people and was an accessory to the attempted murder of others.

During this first session in June, Irmgard Furchner avoided eye contact with the public. He rested his chin on his left hand, tilted his head, and seemed to be listening. For her protection, she is sitting in a plexiglass box, because she has not been vaccinated against the coronavirus of her own accord. According to a medical report, you are able to consciously attend to your own judgment for no more than two hours a day.

According to the prosecutor, the accused assured “the proper functioning” of the concentration camp

For almost two years, Irmgard Furchner worked at the Stutthof concentration camp headquarters, Department 1. From June 1, 1943 to April 1, 1945, he wrote what was dictated by the SS-Sturmbannführer Paul Werner Hoppe. “One of his tasks was, in particular, the recording, classification, preparation and writing of all correspondence from the camp commander,” Wantzen has described. With his work, Furchner would have ensured “the proper functioning of the camp”, according to the prosecutor, who considers that he had “partial knowledge of the details” of the crimes in Stutthof.

The accused arrives in a wheelchair to the courtroom
The accused arrives in a wheelchair to the courtroom – Reuters

The 65,000 murdered camp inmates were shot in the neck, hanged, or gassed with Zyklon B. They were tortured, frozen to death or starved. Wantzen has taken the trouble to explain to the court how the injection system in the neck worked: how the prisoners were led to believe that it was a medical examination; how they had to stand against the wall, unsuspecting, before receiving a guy from behind; how their corpses were hastily disposed of: piece rate murders.

He has also stopped to explain how prisoners, mostly women, were led to believe that they went to the showers for hygiene reasons, for their own good, in a series of massive murders bureaucratically verified and of which, he is completely sure, the accused had to know something.

After the war, when she testified, it was clear that she had not committed any crime with her own hands and was acquitted of any wrongdoing, but the prosecution was able to reopen the case thanks to the Demjanjuk judgment of 2011, which established jurisprudence to try for Nazi crimes not only against those who personally committed the murders but also those who, with their work or collaboration, were part of the machinery that made them possible.

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