A 97-year-old lady was found guilty on Tuesday by a German court of being an accessory to more than 10,000 deaths because of her work as the SS commander’s secretary at the Nazis’ Stutthof concentration camp during World War II.
Irmgard Furchner was charged with being a part of the machinery that made the camp at Danzig, today is known as Gdansk in Poland, run efficiently.
She received a two-year suspended sentence from the Itzehoe state court in northern Germany for being involved in 10,505 murders and five attempted murders.
Judges were convinced, according to the court, that Furchner “knew and, through her work as a stenographer in the commandant’s office of the Stutthof concentration camp from June 1, 1943, to April 1, 1945, deliberately supported the fact that 10,505 prisoners were cruelly killed by gassings, by hostile conditions in the camp, by transportation to the Auschwitz death camp, by being sent on death marches at the end of the war.”
According to a court document, “the accused promoted these crimes by completing paperwork” in the camp commander’s office.
“This effort was essential for setting up the camp and carrying out the vicious, organized killings.”
The verdict and sentencing complied with the demands of the prosecution. Furchner’s defense attorneys had sought for their client to be exonerated, stating that the lack of proof of intent necessary for criminal responsibility prevented them from proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Furchner was aware of the camp’s systematic executions.
Furchner apologized for what had occurred and expressed regret that she had been at Stutthof in her closing remarks at the time.
Furchner didn’t express any overt emotion, but she did appear to be paying close attention to the judgment.
Although her attorney, Wolf Molkentin, stated that the defense team believes the case exhibits “insurmountable questions” about her guilt, it was not immediately apparent whether she would appeal.
However, according to the German news agency dpa, presiding Judge Dominik Gross stated it was “absolutely beyond all comprehension” that Furchner didn’t observe the executions at Stutthof.
He claimed that she could see the collection area where newly arrived inmates had to wait from her office and that the incinerator was always in use in the fall of 1944, with smoke filling the entire camp.
Furchner was tried in juvenile court because she was between the ages of 18 and 19 when the alleged crimes were allegedly committed, and the court was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she had the “maturity of mind” to save the crimes.
Gross pointed out on Tuesday that she can leave her position anytime.
In an attempt to delay the start of her trial in September 2021, Furchner was apprehended by police and held in custody for several days.
Given that she was tried in a juvenile court, Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, claimed that “today’s verdict is the best that could be accomplished.”
Furchner recently told the court that she “regretted everything,” thus Zuroff expressed concern that the court could accept Furchner’s defense attorney’s request for an acquittal.
However, given that she claimed to be unaware of the murders in the camp, her sincerity was not convincing.
During the hearings, Itzehoe prosecutors stated that Furchner’s trial might be the last of its kind.
However, according to a special federal prosecutor’s office in Ludwigsburg charged with looking into Nazi-era war crimes, five cases are still ongoing with prosecutors in different parts of Germany.
There is no statute of limitations for murder and accessory to murder charges.
Initially utilized as a gathering place for Jews and non-Jewish Poles expelled from Danzig, Stutthof was eventually transformed into a “work education camp” where prisoners of war—mostly Poles and Soviet citizens—were made to perform forced labor and frequently perished.
Tens of thousands of Jews from Auschwitz and the Baltic ghettos and thousands of Polish citizens caught up in the violent Nazi repression of the Warsaw uprising flooded the camp in the middle of 1944.
Political prisoners, suspected criminals, homophobic suspects, and Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the other inmates housed there.
At the camp, more than 60,000 people died.