Germany: ‘Secretary of evil’, 97, says she is ‘sorry for everything’ as she breaks her silence

A 97-year-old former Nazi death camp secretary accused of being an accessory to the murder of more than 10,000 people commented for the first time on the allegations against her as her trial drew to a close on Tuesday, saying she was “sorry for everything”. .

Irmgard Furchner is the first woman to stand trial in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades, in what prosecutors have said could be one of the country’s last trials for crimes committed during the Holocaust.

“I’m sorry for everything that happened,” Furchner said in court in the northern city of Itzehoe, his lawyer said, breaking his 14-month silence.

“I’m sorry I was in Stutthof at the time,” he said, referring to the location of the concentration camp in occupied Poland where he worked.

Irmgard Furchner (pictured in court on Tuesday) is the first woman to stand trial in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades, in what prosecutors have said could be one of the country’s last trials for crimes committed during the Holocaust.

Prosecutors accuse Furchner of complicity in the “cruel and malicious murder” of more than 10,000 people at the Stutthof camp and have asked judges to hand down a two-year suspended sentence, meaning he could avoid jail time.

Furchner’s lawyers sought her acquittal last week, saying the evidence presented in the course of the trial had “failed to demonstrate beyond any doubt” that she knew of the murders, according to a court statement.

The verdict will be announced on December 20, the court said.

Furchner Was A Teenager When Her Alleged Crimes Were Committed And Has Therefore Been Tried In Juvenile Court.

Furchner was a teenager when her alleged crimes were committed and has therefore been tried in juvenile court.

Furchner had attempted to elope when the trial was scheduled to begin in September 2021, fled the retirement home where he lives and headed for a subway station.

She managed to evade the police for several hours before being arrested in the nearby city of Hamburg and held in custody for five days.

The defendant was a teenager when the alleged crimes were committed and, therefore, has been tried in a juvenile court.

He has claimed that despite working in the camp command block, he knew nothing of his murderous regime.

But during her trial it was revealed that her husband, who was a Nazi SS soldier during World War II, testified in 1954 that he knew people had been gassed in the concentration camp.

During the trial, several Stutthof survivors offered accounts of their experiences in the camp. One survivor, Risa Silbert, 93, said at the trial on August 30 that cannibalism was common among starving prisoners.

Speaking via video link from Australia, where he now resides, Silbert told the Itzehoe district court in the state of Schleswig-Holstein: “Stutthof was hell.

‘We had cannibalism in the camp. People were hungry and they cut up the corpses and wanted to remove the liver. Silbert, born in 1929 to a Jewish family in Klaipeda, a Lithuanian port city, added: “It was every day.”

In her grim testimony, she recounted how her father and brother were assassinated by German collaborators in Kaunas, a city in her homeland, in 1941. She was ghettoized with her mother and sister before being sent to Stutthof in August 1944. .

Every morning, the prisoners had to report at 4 or 5 in the morning. Those who couldn’t sit still were mercilessly whipped by SS guards, he said at the trial.

Furchner Has Claimed That Despite Working In The Camp Command Block, He Knew Nothing Of His Murderous Regime.  Pictured: She Is Seen In Court On December 7, 2021

Furchner has claimed that despite working in the camp command block, he knew nothing of his murderous regime. Pictured: She is seen in court on December 7, 2021

‘None of us were called by that name. They just called us ‘bastards’,’ he said.

Silbert was 15 when she and her older sister hid from SS guards under the dead bodies, she recalled. Due to an epidemic of typhoid fever, corpses were scattered throughout the camp.

Russian POWs were ordered to collect the bodies, but she and her sister were left lying there. Silbert told the court that prisoners just disappeared all the time and she was never seen again, so it was not unusual for them to disappear.

Their mother had died of typhus in January 1945, and in mid-April 1945, as Germany withdrew at the end of the war, the prisoners were forced to march to Danzig before being taken across the Baltic Sea to Holstein on barges. .

In the town of Neustadt, they were finally liberated by British soldiers on May 3. He reportedly still bears scars from the beatings he received in the camp.

The Stutthof Camp Was Established In 1939 When Germany Invaded Poland And Was Expanded In 1943 With A New Camp Surrounded By Electrified Barbed Wire Fences.

The Stutthof camp was established in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and was expanded in 1943 with a new camp surrounded by electrified barbed wire fences.

An estimated 65,000 people died in the camp near present-day Gdansk, including “Jewish prisoners, Polish guerrillas and Soviet Russian prisoners of war,” prosecutors said. It is estimated that six million Jews were killed in total during the Holocaust.

Between June 1943 and April 1945, Furchner worked in the office of camp commandant Paul Werner Hoppe. According to the case against him, he took dictation of the SS officer’s orders and handled his correspondence.

Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II, time is running out to bring suspected Holocaust-linked criminals to justice.

In recent years, several cases have been dropped because the defendants died or were unable to physically appear for trial.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk on the grounds that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine set a legal precedent and paved the way for several trials.

Since then, courts have handed down a number of guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly related to the individual defendant.

In June, a court in the eastern city of Brandenburg an der Havel sentenced a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person yet to be tried for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Josef Schuetz was convicted of accessory to murder in at least 3,500 cases while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

He was sentenced to five years in prison.

‘Torture shows, gas chambers and mass hangings’: the horrors of the Nazi camp where Jews were sent to die

The Stutthof camp was established in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and was expanded in 1943 with a new camp surrounded by electrified barbed wire fences.

The camp went through several iterations, initially being used as the main gathering point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles retiring from the nearby city of Danzig on the Baltic Sea coast.

From about 1940 onwards, it was used as a so-called “labor education camp” where forced laborers, mainly Polish and Soviet citizens who had stood up to their Nazi oppressors, were sent to serve sentences and often died.

Others incarcerated there included criminals, political prisoners, homosexuals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

From mid-1944, it was filled with tens of thousands of Jews from the ghettos being cleared by the Nazis in the Baltics, as well as from Auschwitz, which was overflowing, and thousands of Polish civilians swept up in the brutal suppression of the Warsaw uprising.

Up to 100,000 people would eventually be deported there, some of them transferred from other camps abandoned by the Nazis in the later stages of the war.

The Secretary Worked For Nazi Commander Paul Werner Hoppe (Pictured), Who Was Convicted By A West German Court In 1957 And Died In 1974.

The Nazis Murdered Some 65,000 People At Stutthof (Pictured In 1946) And Its Subcamps, Which Were In Operation From September 2, 1939 To May 9, 1945.

The secretary worked for Nazi major Paul Werner Hoppe (pictured left), who was convicted by a West German court in 1957 and died in 1974. The Nazis murdered some 65,000 people at Stutthof (pictured left right) and its subcamps, which had been operational since September. 2, 1939 to May 9, 1945

In addition to the gas chambers and lethal injections, many prisoners died of disease in the horrible conditions of the camp under SS supervision.

Around 60,000 people are believed to have died in the camp, while another 25,000 perished during the evacuation in the chaotic final weeks of the Third Reich.

Finally liberated by Soviet forces in May 1945, the camp is now once again within the borders of Poland, with the Polish name for the city of Sztutowo.

Historian Janina Grabowska-Chalka, long-time director of the Stutthof Museum, described everyday life in the camp as brutal.

‘In the Stutthof concentration camp, all prisoners, men, women and children, were forced to work. Hard work that exceeded human strength determined the pace of life and death in the camp.

‘Stutthof belonged to the fields where very harsh living conditions prevailed,’ he said.

Holocaust survivor Abraham Koryski gave testimony in 2019 detailing the horrors he endured in the Stutthoff concentration camp in World War II.

“They beat us constantly, all the time, even while we were working,” Koryski told the Hamburg District Court, according to DW.

He added that SS guards staged sadistic “torture shows”, including one in which a son was forced to beat his father to death in front of other inmates.

Koryski said: ‘You didn’t know if the officers were acting on orders or if they were acting on their breaks.’

Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg told the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2017: “Jewish lives just didn’t count.” We had to meet in a square. They had erected a huge gallows from which hung eight nooses, and then one by one we had to watch these innocent men being hanged.

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