Woman, 96, faces trial in Germany over claims she helped slaughter 11,000 wartime prioners

An elderly nursing home resident is to appear before a juvenile court in Germany for her alleged role in the systematic murder of more than 11,400 prisoners in a Polish concentration camp.

Irmgard Furchner, 96, was 18 when she worked as a secretary for the commander of Stutthof concentration camp between June 1943 and April 1945.

She currently resides in a nursing home in Quickborn, near the northern port city of Hamburg.

Furchner is due to stand trial in the Itzehoe regional court later this year. As happened in the trials of some other former Nazi camp workers, Furchner will appear before a juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time of her alleged crimes, so considered a minor.

The Nazis murdered about 65,000 people in Stutthof and its subcamps, which were operational from September 2, 1939 to May 9, 1945.

The use of gas chambers began in July 1944, while lethal injections were also used to kill prisoners. The appalling conditions in the camp also caused many to die of starvation, exhaustion and disease.

Furchner is charged with complicity in murder and attempted murder in 11,430 cases involving Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet POWs.

An elderly nursing home resident is to appear before a juvenile court in Germany for her alleged role in the systematic murder of more than 11,400 prisoners in a Polish concentration camp. Irmgard Furchner, 96, was 18 when she worked as a secretary for the commander of Stutthof concentration camp between June 1943 and April 1945 (pictured in 2016), during which time about 11,430 inmates were killed.

“In her position as shorthand typist and typist in the camp commander of the former concentration camp Stutthof, she is said to have assisted the camp leadership in the systematic killing of those who were imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945,” the indictment of the Itzehoe prosecutor’s office reads.

Furchner has claimed she was unaware that people were gassed in the camp, the BBC reported earlier this year.

Historian Janina Grabowska-Chalka, longtime director of the Stutthof Museum, described daily life in the camp as cruel.

‘In the Stutthof concentration camp, all prisoners, men, women and children, had to work. Hard work beyond human strength determined the rhythm of life and death in the camp.

“Stutthof was one of the camps where living conditions were very harsh,” she said.

Furchner, whose maiden name was Dirksen, was appointed secretary to camp commander Paul-Werner Hoppe at Stutthof from 1 June 1943 to April 1945 – shortly before the camp was liberated by the Red Army.

It was in the camp that Furchner met her future husband, the SS man Heinz Furchner.

Furchner claimed she was unaware that people were being gassed in the camp, the BBC reported earlier this year.  Pictured: a gas chamber in Stutthof

Furchner claimed she was unaware that people were being gassed in the camp, the BBC reported earlier this year. Pictured: a gas chamber in Stutthof

On July 22, 1944, SS-Obersturmbannführer Paul Maurer ordered that an unspecified number of prisoners from Stutthof be deported to Auschwitz for extermination.

Four days later, a list of prisoners to be transferred was drawn up in the commander’s office in Stutthof.

That same day at 6:05 p.m. Hoppe radioed that the transport was on its way. The prosecution argues that this confirmation must have been typed by Furchner.

Prosecutors began investigating Furchner’s SS record in 2019 and interviewed Stutthof survivors now living in Israel, ARD reported.

In April of this year, the International Auschwitz Committee, an association of Auschwitz survivors and their organizations, accused the German justice system of decades of failure regarding Nazi criminals.

“The fact that this is only happening now is a failure and a decades-long oversight of the German justice system,” said commission vice-chairman Christoph Heubner.

“The knowledge that the perpetrators from the camps could have lived their lives largely unhindered and unthreatened, without having to answer to a German court for their misdeeds, has burdened the survivors their whole lives.

“It seems almost bizarre to the survivors that these trials take place at a time when neo-Nazis are already inciting hatred and glorifying what happened in the camps.”

The Nazis murdered about 65,000 people in Stutthof (pictured in 1946) and its subcamps, which were operational from September 2, 1939 to May 9, 1945

The Nazis murdered about 65,000 people in Stutthof (pictured in 1946) and its subcamps, which were operational from September 2, 1939 to May 9, 1945

The main hearing will begin on September 30, 2021.

In March, a German court ruled that a 96-year-old former Stutthof guard named Harry S was unfit to stand trial on similar charges, despite a “high probability” that he was guilty.

Due to his physical condition, he was ‘no longer able to reasonably represent his interests within and outside the trial’, according to the court in Wuppertal.

Last year, a 93-year-old former Stutthof security guard, Bruno Dey, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for his complicity in mass murder.

Hoppe, the former camp commander, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1957. He was released after serving his sentence and died in Germany in 1974, aged 64.

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