Monday, September 26

Nazi concentration camp secretary told judge she would not attend trial | Germany

A 96-year-old woman who was arrested Thursday after failing to appear at the start of her trial in Germany on charges of aiding and inciting the murder of thousands of concentration camp prisoners had warned the judge beforehand that she would not appear. until.

Irmgard Furchner was discovered about 38 miles from the courtroom after escaping from her retirement home in a taxi, which dropped her off at a subway station in the early hours of the morning. She had written to the judge that to “avoid embarrassment” and due to her “advanced age and physical handicaps” she would not attend the trial.

Furchner, who worked as a secretary to a Nazi concentration camp commander in Stutthof, was captured six hours after fleeing her home in Quickborn, when police found her wandering down a residential street in northern Hamburg. She has now been detained by the police after a doctor determined that she was in good medical condition, and is expected to be held there until the date of the next trial in just under three weeks.

In a handwritten letter in early September to Judge Dominik Gross at the court in Itzehoe, near Hamburg, Furchner wrote: “Due to my advanced age and physical handicaps, I will not attend the court appointment and would request representation by my defense attorney. “

After listing his physical ailments, he continued: “I want to spare myself these embarrassments and I do not want to become the laughing stock of humanity.”

According to court officials, Gross responded to Furchner by warning him of the legal consequences if he did not attend his trial.

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However, it seemed that Furchner’s warning had not been taken seriously when, in fact, she did not appear. The authorities had wanted to avoid his preventive detention.

Frederike Milhoffer, a spokesman for the court, said “all necessary legal steps” would be taken to ensure that Furchner would appear at the next trial date.

Court sessions must be limited to a maximum of two hours.

Even if she is found guilty, the results of recent similar cases indicate that there is little chance that Furchner will go to jail, due to her age.

In the months leading up to the trial, Furchner had argued that his medical condition meant he was in no condition to appear. But a doctor who evaluated her ruled otherwise. It was widely reported that he had avoided receiving the coronavirus vaccine in the expectation that it would allow him to avoid the court case.

To protect her, a plexiglass shell had been erected around the area where she is supposed to sit throughout the trial, which will take place in an industrial logistics center. He moved there from the ordinary court to deal with considerable media interest.

Furchner was 18 when he started working at the camp near Danzig. She is charged with complicity and complicity in the murder in 11,412 cases, as well as complicity in 18 attempted murder cases. His trial has been listed as one of the last related to the Nazi regime, due to the advanced age of the defendants who still live. She is the first woman in decades to be tried for such crimes.

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Prosecutors will argue that in his administrative role he was part of the operation of the camp and thus helped facilitate the killings that took place there.

The prosecution against Furchner comes as a result of the trial of a former Sobibór death camp guard, who was found guilty of aiding and inciting the murder of 28,000 people, setting a new legal precedent. The judge at the time said that regardless of how small a person’s role may have been, as long as it can be proven that they have been “cogs” in the “machinery of destruction”, they could be held accountable for the crimes committed.

After she failed to attend court, Christoph Heubner of the Auschwitz International Committee, which represents concentration camp survivors and their families, said that Furchner had “shown incredible contempt for the rule of law as well as for the Holocaust survivors. “

Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Holocaust research institute with a history of hunting down Nazi criminals and bringing them to justice, told German media: “The trial of Irmgard Furchner is an important reminder that the crimes of the Nazis do not They were only carried out by men, but also by women who served in concentration camps and even in death squads. “

Onur Özata, a lawyer representing two co-plaintiffs, both survivors of Stutthof, at the trial, said: “The defendant is leading the judiciary in a joyous dance with her demeanor. Clearly, it does not feel bound by the law. “

Stutthof, 37 km east of Danzig, was established by the Nazis in 1939 as a prison camp for civilians. Later it was transformed into a concentration camp. More than 100,000 Jews and political prisoners from 28 countries were detained there, 65,000 of whom were murdered.

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