Nazi secretary Irmgard Furchner sentenced for her part in 10,000 murders at the Stutthof death camp
She was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence at the Itzehoe Regional Court in northern Germany, according to a court spokesperson. The trial was held in a juvenile court because Furchner was 18 and 19 years old when she worked as a secretary to the SS commander.
Furchner, who fled hours before the start of his trial in 2021, he remained silent for most of the trial. Her lawyers argued that the evidence presented had not proven beyond a doubt that she knew about the systematic killings at Stutthof, according to German news reports. He previously claimed that he did not know the details of the atrocities that took place in the camp where he worked.
“I’m sorry about what happened and I’m sorry I was in Stutthof at the time,” he said during his closing speech, according to the German news magazine. Mirror. “I can’t say more.”
The sentencing, which comes during Hanukkah, unfolds as prosecutors continue to rush to try people for Nazi-era war crimes before they die. At least two cases in recent years have resulted in people being found guilty of complicity in murder in German courts: Oskar Gröning, an accountant at Auschwitz, and John Demjanjuk, a guard at Sobibor. Furchner’s case is based on the landmark ruling from 2011 in the conviction of a former Nazi guard, which paved the way for prosecuting any staff member who ever played a role in the death camps as a accessory to murder
More than 60,000 people in total died in the Stutthof camp near Gdansk, according to data from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In the concentration camp, Polish and Soviet victims, including Jews, were surrounded by electric barbed wire fences in a secluded, wooded part of the Baltic coast of northern Poland. Many of the Stutthof victims died by lethal injection or by the camp’s gas chamber. Others died of starvation or disease.
The charges against Furchner stemmed from an investigation that began in 2016 and interviews with witnesses that spanned multiple countries. According to the public broadcaster. What am I talking about? last year, Furchner gave testimony as a witness in other cases in the 1950s. At the time, she said, she testified that she used to write death warrants for the commander, Paul Werner Hoppe, and that most of his letters crossed his desk.
A 96-year-old former Nazi camp secretary was supposed to stand trial. She tried to run away in her place.
Before fleeing before her trial, Furchner wrote a letter to the judge, saying she did not want to stand trial because of her age and health, in excerpt from a letter published by Der Spiegel. He added that he did not understand why he should go to court more than 76 years after the war.
During the trial, prosecutor Maxi Wantzen quoted a former colleague of Furchner’s, Ellen Steussloff, who said during cross-examination in the 1950s that it was common knowledge that Jewish prisoners were gassed at Stutthof, and anyone who said otherwise was not telling the truth. according to the German newspaper Die Welt.
Others, like Josef Salomonovic, who was 6 when he entered the camp, addressed the court in December 2021 while holding a photo of his murdered father.
“It’s hard to talk about these things” he told reporters afterward. “To me, she is indirectly to blame. Maybe she just stamped my father’s death certificate.
Wantzen also rejected Furchner’s claim that she was unaware of what was happening at the concentration camp.
“If the defendant looked out the window, she could see the new prisoners being selected,” Wantzen told the court during the trial. according to Die Welt. “No one could miss the smoke from the crematorium or miss the smell of burning corpses.”
Tuesday’s conviction was celebrated by Efraim Zuroff, the main Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who called the result “the best that could be achieved, given that she was tried in a juvenile court.”
“In light of Furchner’s recent statement in court that he was ‘sorry about everything,’ we were concerned that the court might accept his defense attorney’s motion for acquittal,” Zuroff said in a statement to The Associated Press. “However, given his claim that he had no knowledge of the murders taking place in the camp, his remorse was far from convincing.”
Ellen Francis and Sofia Diogo Mateus contributed to this report.