Markus Schreiber / AP
BERLIN – A former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp was wanted on Thursday under an arrest warrant after ignoring the scheduled start of her trial in Germany for more than 11,000 counts of aiding and abetting murder, announced officials.
The 96-year-old left the house where she lives in a taxi on Thursday morning, heading for a metro station on the outskirts of Hamburg, German news agency dpa said, citing the court spokeswoman for State of Itzehoe, Frederike Milhoffer. His destination was not known.
Presiding Judge Dominik Gross said the court had issued an arrest warrant and it remained to be seen whether she would be arrested.
Prosecutors argue that the woman was part of the apparatus that helped the Nazi camp operate during World War II more than 75 years ago.
The court said in a pre-trial statement that the accused allegedly “aided and encouraged camp officials to systematically kill those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 as part of her duties as a stenographer and typist in the camp. camp commander’s office. . “
Despite her advanced age, the German was due to be tried in a juvenile court as she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes. German media identified her as Irmgard Furchner.
Efraim Zuroff, the main Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, said the defendant claimed in a recent letter to the court that she was too fragile to appear in court.
“Apparently that’s not exactly the case,” he said.
“If she is healthy enough to flee, she is healthy enough to be incarcerated,” Zuroff told The Associated Press. His flight, he added, “should also affect the punishment.”
The case against Furchner builds on a German legal precedent set in cases over the past decade that anyone who aided Nazi death camps and concentration camps can be prosecuted as an accomplice in murders committed there, even without proof of participation in a specific crime.
A defense lawyer told Der Spiegel magazine that the trial will focus on whether the 96-year-old is aware of the atrocities that have taken place in the camp.
“My client has worked among SS men who have been experienced in violence – but does that mean she shared their state of knowledge? It is not necessarily obvious,” said the lawyer. Wolf Molkentin.
According to other media reports, Furchner was questioned as a witness in previous Nazi trials and said at the time that Stutthof’s former SS commander Paul Werner Hoppe dictated daily letters and radio messages to her.
Furchner said she was not aware of the killings that took place in the camp while she was working there, dpa reported.
Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles withdrawn from Danzig – now the Polish city of Gdansk – Stutthof from around 1940 was used as a so-called “labor education camp” where forced laborers, mainly Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve sentences and often died.
From mid-1944, tens of thousands of Jews from the Baltic and Auschwitz ghettos filled the camp, along with thousands of Polish civilians swept away by the brutal Nazi repression of the Warsaw Uprising.
Other people were held there, including political prisoners, accused criminals, people suspected of homosexual activity and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
More than 60,000 people have been killed there by receiving lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly into their hearts, or being shot or starved. Others were forced to go out in the winter without clothes until they died of exposure, or were put to death in a gas chamber.