April 1, 2023

A 97-year-old woman, Irmgard Furchner has been convicted by a German court for being an accessory to murder in over 10,000 cases.

She was a secretary to the SS commander of the Nazis’ Stutthof concentration camp during World War II.

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Mrs Furchner, who was found guilty on Tuesday, was accused of being a component of the equipment that kept the camp running. According to the German news agency DPA, she received a two-year suspended sentence from the Itzehoe state court in northern Germany.

She was said to have “aided and abetted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant’s office.”

The verdict and sentencing were consistent with the prosecutors’ requests. Defence counsel had requested for Furchner’s acquittal, stating that the evidence had not demonstrated beyond question that she was aware of the systematic executions at the camp, implying that there was no proof of intent as required for criminal responsibility.

Furchner apologised for what had happened and expressed regret for being at Stutthof at the time in her closing statement.

Furchner was tried as a juvenile because she was under the age of 21 at the time of the alleged acts.

The defendant attempted to avoid the commencement of her trial in September 2021 but was apprehended by police and detained for many days.

Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that “today’s verdict is the best that could be achieved, given the fact that she was tried in a juvenile court.”

“In view of Furchner’s recent statement to the court that she ‘regretted everything,’ we were concerned that the court might accept her defence attorney’s plea for an acquittal,” Mr. Zuroff said in a statement. “Yet given her claim that she had no knowledge of the murders being committed in the camp, her regret was far from convincing.”

Prosecutors in Itzehoe said during the proceedings that Furchner’s trial may be the last of its kind. However, a special federal prosecutors’ office in Ludwigsburg tasked with investigating Nazi-era war crimes says another five cases are currently pending with prosecutors in various parts of Germany, where charges of murder and accessory to murder aren’t subject to a statute of limitations.

Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles removed from nearby Danzig, now the Polish city of Gdansk, Stutthof from about 1940 was used as a so-called “work education camp” where forced labourers, primarily Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve sentences and often died.

The Nazi concentration camp was established by Nazi Germany in a secluded, marshy, and wooded area near the village of Stutthof (now Sztutowo) 34 km (21 mi) east of the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) in the territory of the German-annexed Free City of Danzig. The camp was set up around existing structures after the invasion of Poland in World War II and initially used for the imprisonment of Polish leaders and intelligentsia.

The actual barracks were built the following year by prisoners. Most of the infrastructure of the concentration camp was either destroyed or dismantled shortly after the war.

In 1962, the former concentration camp with its remaining structures, was turned into a memorial museum.

Tens of thousands of Jews from Baltic ghettos and Auschwitz joined the camp beginning in mid-1944, along with thousands of Polish citizens caught up in the Nazi suppression of the Warsaw uprising.

Political prisoners, alleged criminals, those suspected of homosexual conduct, and Jehovah’s Witnesses were among those imprisoned there.

More than 60,000 individuals were slaughtered there by being shot, starved, or given lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly into their hearts. Others were forced to remain outside in the cold without clothing until they perished from exposure or were gassed to death, IsL source, SaharaReporters gathered.


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