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A former secretary of a Nazi concentration camp, now 96 years old and whose trial was to open Thursday morning in Germany, “is on the run,” announced the President of the Court.
A former secretary of a Nazi concentration camp, now 96 years old, fled before the opening of her trial, Thursday, September 30, in Germany, causing consternation in the court where she must answer for the complicity of murder in more than 10,000 cases.
“The accused is on the run (…) An arrest warrant has been issued,” soberly announced the President of the Court nearly twenty minutes after the scheduled opening of the first hearing this Thursday in Itzehoe, in the northern Germany.
“She left her home (for the elderly) this morning. She took a taxi,” Itzehoe court spokeswoman Frederike Milhoffer said.
His lawyer, Wolf Molkentin, was however present in the courtroom but he did not make any statement to journalists.
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So far, the four former guards or employees of Nazi camps who have been sentenced for ten years in Germany had all sat in the defendants’ box.
Due to the planned presence of more than 130 journalists as well as numerous civil parties, the Itzehoe Magistrates’ Court was moved to a building in a warehouse area outside the city.
The only woman involved in Nazism to be tried for decades in Germany, Irmgard Furchner did not speak out on the charges against her before the start of the trial.
Typist and secretary to the camp commander
The latter, if it finally opens, must be followed by that, a week later, of a centenarian, a former guard of the Nazi camp of Sachsenhausen, near Berlin.
Never before has Germany, which has long shown little eagerness to find its war criminals, tried such elderly former Nazis.
The case is also examined on the eve of 75e anniversary of the death sentences by hanging by the Nuremberg Tribunal of 12 of the main leaders of the Third Reich.
Irmgard Furchner, who lives in a retirement home near Hamburg, is to be tried by a special court for “complicity in murder in more than 10,000 cases”, according to the prosecution.
The prosecution accuses her of having participated in the murder of detainees in the Stutthof concentration camp in present-day Poland, where she worked as a typist and secretary to the camp commander, Paul Werner Hoppe, between June 1943 and April 1945.
In this camp near the city of Gdansk where 65,000 people perished, “Jewish detainees, Polish partisans and Soviet prisoners of war” were systematically murdered, according to the prosecution.
According to lawyer Christoph Rückel, who has represented Holocaust survivors for years, “she kept all the correspondence of the camp commander”. “She also typed the execution and deportation orders and affixed her initials,” he said on the public regional channel NDR.
Eight cases involving former camp workers under review
At the end of a long procedure, justice had estimated in February that the nonagenarian was fit to appear despite her great age.
Hearings, scheduled to last until June 2022, should be limited to a few hours per hearing day.
Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, German justice continues to search for surviving former Nazi criminals.
Eight cases involving former employees of the Buchenwald and Ravensbrück camps in particular are currently being examined by various German prosecutors, the Central Office for the Elucidation of the Crimes of National Socialism told AFP.
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In recent years, several cases have had to be abandoned due to the death of the suspects or their physical inability to be brought to trial.
While Germany has condemned in the last ten years four former guards or accountants of the Nazi camps of Sobibor, Auschwitz and Stutthof, it has judged very few women involved in the Nazi machinery, according to historians, who estimate the number at 4,000. of women having served as guard in concentration camps.
The jurisprudence of the conviction in 2011 of John Demjanjuk, a guard of the Sobibor camp in 1943, to five years in prison, now makes it possible to prosecute for complicity in tens of thousands of assassinations any auxiliary of a camp of concentration, from guard to accountant.