Trial of former Nazi camp secretary may not go forward

A German court had previously ruled the 96-year-old woman who served as a secretary to the commandant at the Stutthof concentration camp as fit to stand trial.

Guard tower at Stutthof concentration camp (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Guard tower at Stutthof concentration camp
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The trial of a 96-year-old woman who served as a secretary to the commandant at the Stutthof concentration camp that is scheduled to begin tomorrow may not proceed as planned.

Irmgard Furchner has been charged for being complicit in the murders of 11,000 people, most of them Jews, at the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) between June 1943 and April 1945. As she was 18 or 19 at the time, German law dictates that she be tried in juvenile court.

In a handwritten letter, Furchner expressed to the court in northern Germany that she does not intend to appear, citing her age and ill health, according to the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.

German criminal law obliges that the accused be present at their trial, and cannot proceed in their absence.

The court had previously ruled that she was fit to stand trial.

THE FORMER Nazi concentration camp in Sachsenhausen on the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet and US troops, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) near Berlin, Germany, on April 17. (credit: REUTERS)THE FORMER Nazi concentration camp in Sachsenhausen on the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet and US troops, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) near Berlin, Germany, on April 17. (credit: REUTERS)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has expressed concern at this development and urged German authorities to ensure the trial will proceed as planned.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a historian at SWC, said: "The trial of Stutthof secretary Furchner is of unique importance due to the identity and gender of the defendant. The important role played by female Nazi war criminals in the implementation of the Final Solution is often overlooked or forgotten." Very few female Nazis have been brought to trial.

Approximately 65,000 people died in the Stutthof concentration camp. Furchner is accused of "having assisted those responsible at the camp in the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war in her function as a stenographer and secretary to the camp commander," according to prosecutors. 

If the trial proceeds as intended on September 30th, it will come a day before the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials.