Probation sought for German ex-Nazi camp secretary

Probation sought for German ex-Nazi camp secretary


German prosecutors on Tuesday called for a suspended sentence for a 97-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary in what they called one of the country’s final trials over the Holocaust.

Prosecutor Maxi Wantzen told a court in Itzehoe, northern Poland, that Irmgard Furchner was guilty of the “cruel and malicious murder” of more than 10,000 people in the Stutthof camp in occupied Poland.

She asked the judges to issue a two-year suspended sentence, the longest possible without a jail term.

“This trial is of outstanding historical importance,” Wantzen said, adding that it was “the last of its kind, possibly because of the passage of time.”

The first woman to be tried in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades, Furchner sat listlessly in a wheelchair in the courtroom, wearing a red beret and jacket.

She had attempted to flee when the trial was due to begin in September 2021, fleeing the retirement home where she lives and making her way to a subway station.

Furchner managed to evade police for several hours before being arrested in the nearby city of Hamburg and remanded in custody for five days.

The defendant was a teenager when her alleged crimes were committed and is therefore being tried in juvenile court.

Attorney Wolf Molkentin told AFP the sentencing motion was “no surprise” and said his client has no plans to speak to the court before the verdict is announced.

– ‘Absolute Hell’ –

The pensioner has refused to testify since her trial began last October, but several Stutthof camp survivors have provided harrowing accounts of her suffering.

Wantzen thanked the witnesses, many of whom are also acting as joint plaintiffs, and said they spoke of the “absolute hell” of the camp.

“They feel it is their duty, even if they have had to muster up pain time and time again to fulfill it,” she said.

Between June 1943 and April 1945, Furchner worked in the office of camp commander Paul Werner Hoppe. According to the case against her, she dictated the SS officer’s orders and handled his correspondence.

An estimated 65,000 people died in the camp near present-day Danzig, including “Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet-Russian prisoners of war,” Wantzen said in the indictment read out at the beginning of the trial.

Wantzen told the judges that the defendants’ clerical work “ensured the smooth running of the camp” and gave them “knowledge of all events and processes at Stutthof”.

In addition, “life-threatening conditions” such as food and water shortages and the spread of deadly diseases, including typhoid, were deliberately perpetuated and immediately apparent, she said.

Although the camp’s miserable conditions and hard labor claimed most lives, the Nazis also operated gas chambers and execution facilities to exterminate hundreds of people deemed unfit for work.

Wantzen said that despite the defendant’s advanced age, “it is still important today to hold such a trial” and to complete the historical record as survivors die.

– Hitler’s killing machine –

Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II, time is running out to bring Holocaust-connected criminals to justice.

In recent years, several cases have been dropped because the defendants died or were physically unable to stand trial.

The 2011 conviction of former security guard John Demjanjuk for being part of Hitler’s killing machine set a precedent and paved the way for multiple lawsuits.

Since then, courts have returned several guilty verdicts on these grounds, rather than murders or atrocities directly related to the individual accused.

In June, a court in the east German city of Brandenburg an der Havel convicted a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person ever charged with aiding and abetting war crimes.

Josef Schütz was found guilty of at least 3,500 counts of aiding and abetting murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg north of Berlin between 1942 and 1945.

He was sentenced to five years in prison.

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