97-year-old Nazi secretary on trial speaks out for first time

Irmgard Furchner, who played a crucial role in the death of over 11,000 people, has sat in silence since her trial began in October 2021.

 Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, arrives in a wheelchair as her lawyers Niklas Weber and Wolf Molkentin look on at the beginning of her trial in a courtroom, in Itzehoe, Germany, October 19, 2021. (photo credit: CHRISTIAN CHARISIUS/REUTERS)
Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, arrives in a wheelchair as her lawyers Niklas Weber and Wolf Molkentin look on at the beginning of her trial in a courtroom, in Itzehoe, Germany, October 19, 2021.
(photo credit: CHRISTIAN CHARISIUS/REUTERS)

A 97-year-old woman on trial for Nazi crime who served as a secretary at a concentration camp during World War II spoke out for the first time during her trial at Itzehoe Regional Court on Tuesday.

Irmgard Furchner, who worked at Stutthof Concentration Camp in Poland from June 1943 through April 1945, is the first woman to be tried in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades. She played a crucial role in the death of over 11,000 people.

Furchner previously denied any knowledge of Stutthof during her trial, though her own husband’s 1954 testimony showed that he was aware that people were being gassed to death in the camp. 

Furchner’s trial, which began in October 2021 and has seen her face criticism for denying wrongdoing in such harrowing crimes, finally saw a breakthrough on Tuesday. “I’m sorry for everything that happened,” she finally declared at her trial. “I regret that I was at Stutthof at that time,” Furchner continued.

'Death Gate' at Stutthof Concentration Camp (credit: Wikimedia Commons)'Death Gate' at Stutthof Concentration Camp (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Furchner wrote a letter to the presiding judge ahead of the beginning of the trial where she questioned the point of the proceedings. Then she fled before the first day of trial proceedings and was briefly arrested. She has been silent in court ever since.

“Secretary of Evil”

Deemed the “Secretary of Evil” by media covering the trial, Furchner was 18 years old when she started working at the camp and has been on trial for the last year at the youth court. She is being tried as a juvenile due to her age at the time the crimes were committed. Prosecutors are seeking a two-year suspended sentence, meaning she would not face any prison time if convicted.

Furchner’s lawyers called for her acquittal last week – in what could be the last trial of a Nazi official who participated in war crimes – saying that evidence failed to prove “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that she was aware of the killings.

"Be a human being! Look back at your actions. Was everything really correct?” Lawyer Ernst Freiherr von Münchhausen demanded at the trial earlier this month. “We all have the right to get answers to our questions from you,” he continued.