Concentration Camp Secretary, 96, Flees Before Trial Begins

Irmgard Furchner was detained hours later
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2021 9:20 AM CDT
Nazi War Crimes Suspect, 96, Flees Before Trial Begins
The wooden main gate leads into the former Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

Some 76 years after the end of World War II, an alleged Nazi war criminal made one last effort to escape justice Thursday. A warrant was issued for the arrest of 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner and she was declared a fugitive after she failed to appear at her trial for aiding and abetting mass murder, the BBC reports. Furchner—who's being tried in juvenile court because she was a teenager when she worked as a secretary at the Stutthof concentration camp—left her nursing home in a taxi Thursday morning and took a train to a Hamburg-area station, a court spokesperson said. Reuters reports that she was caught hours later.

The International Auschwitz Committee, which represents Holocaust survivors and the descendants of victims, said her escape shows "incredible contempt for the rule of law and survivors," per the BBC. Prosecutors say that in her role as secretary to camp commander Paul Werner Hoppe, Furchner "assisted those responsible at the camp in the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans, and Soviet Russian prisoners of war," reports the Guardian.

Some 65,000 people are believed to have died at the camp in what is now Poland, where prisoners were shot or killed in gas chambers or by lethal injection. Many others died from starvation or disease. Furchner is charged with aiding and abetting 11,412 murders. She has claimed she knew nothing of the mass killings at Stutthof. The prosecution's evidence includes deportation orders for Auschwitz that Furchner compiled and signed. Prosecutors say she also typed out execution commands.

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Furchner—who married a former SS sergeant she knew from the camp after the war—is the first woman to go on trial for Nazi war crimes in decades. Holocaust survivors, including some who were at Stutthof, are expected to testify at her trial. Furchner was declared fit to stand trial, but hers is expected to be one of the final trials of people accused of involvement in the atrocities of the Third Reich, the Times of Israel reports. Next week, a 100-year-old former camp guard is due to stand trial in Berlin. (More Nazi war crimes stories.)

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