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Nazi 'secretary of evil', 96, is FOUND after going on the run ahead of trial in Germany


A 96-year-old Nazi death camp secretary who went on the run in Germany ahead of a murder trail today has been caught, the court has said.

Irmgard Furchner, who has been dubbed the ‘secretary of evil’, had been due to stand trial in Itzehoe Regional Court on charges of assisting in the deaths of 11,412 prisoners of Stutthof concentration camp when she failed to appear.

Judge Dr Gross was forced to suspend the case and launch a manhunt for the nonagenarian, who was last spotted leaving her home in a taxi and heading in the direction of the local train station.

Furchner was located several hours later, court spokesperson Frederike Milhoffer announced, though it was not immediately clear where or how she was found.   

Irmgard Furchner, 96, was supposed to appear before the Juvenile Chamber of the Itzehoe Regional Court today, to face charged of assisting in the murder of 11,000 prisoners at Stutthof concentration camp, 33 miles east of Danzig in Poland.

Irmgard Furchner, 96, was supposed to appear before the Juvenile Chamber of the Itzehoe Regional Court today, to face charged of assisting in the murder of 11,000 prisoners at Stutthof concentration camp, 33 miles east of Danzig in Poland.

Irmgard Furchner (left and right, in 1944), 96, was supposed to appear before the Juvenile Chamber of the Itzehoe Regional Court today, to face charged of assisting in the murder of 11,000 prisoners at Stutthof concentration camp, 33 miles east of Danzig in Poland.

A judicial officer looks at his watch at the court room in Itzehoe, Germany, after 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner failed to show for her trial this morning

A judicial officer looks at his watch at the court room in Itzehoe, Germany, after 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner failed to show for her trial this morning

Irmgard Furchner was supposed to appear before the Juvenile Chamber of the Itzehoe Regional Court today, to face charges of assisting in the murder of 11,000 prisoners at Stutthof concentration camp (pictured), 33 miles east of Danzig in Poland

Irmgard Furchner was supposed to appear before the Juvenile Chamber of the Itzehoe Regional Court today, to face charges of assisting in the murder of 11,000 prisoners at Stutthof concentration camp (pictured), 33 miles east of Danzig in Poland

It later emerged that Furchner had written a handwritten letter to the court on September 8 saying she would not attend while asking to be tried in absentia – a legal impossibility in Germany. 

She wrote: ‘Due to my age and physical limitations I will not attend the court dates and ask the defense attorney to represent me. 

‘I would like to spare myself these embarrassments and not make myself the mockery of humanity,’ according to Bild.  However, it is thought that no one believed she would actually flee the trial. 

Prosecutors accuse Furchner of having assisted in the systematic murder of detainees at Stutthof, where she worked in the office of the camp commander, Paul Werner Hoppe, between June 1943 and April 1945.

The trial is taking place in a youth court because she was aged between 18 and 19 at the time.

This morning, the judge in the case issued an arrest warrant for the elderly fugitive’s arrest. Charges cannot be read unless Furchner is present in court in person. 

Around 65,000 people died at the camp, not far from the city of Gdansk, among them ‘Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war’, according to the indictment.

After long reflection, the court decided in February that Furchner was fit to stand trial.

The planned opening of the trial came one day before the 75th anniversary of the sentencing of 12 senior members of the Nazi establishment to death by hanging at the first Nuremberg trial.

Addressing her disappearance this morning, Frederike Milhoffer said: ‘I have received information that at some time before 7.30am this morning, the accused took a taxi to the underground station at Norderstedt. 

‘She is therefore officially missing and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

‘I am not able to say at this time, who provided this information, or whether the police will be able to find her.’

Speaking to MailOnline, lawyer Rajmund Niwinski, who is representing seven plaintiffs, said: ‘You just have to reckon with things like this happening now and again.

Judicial officers stand in the empty court room of the Langericht Itzehoe court prior to the trial against 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner

Judicial officers stand in the empty court room of the Langericht Itzehoe court prior to the trial against 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner

The secretary worked for Nazi commandant Paul Werner Hoppe (pictured), who was convicted by a West German court in 1957 and died in 1974

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

The secretary worked for Nazi commandant Paul Werner Hoppe (pictured left), who was convicted by a West German court in 1957 and died in 1974. The Nazis murdered around 65,000 people in Stutthof (pictured right) and its subcamps, which were operational from September 2, 1939 until May, 9, 1945

‘After all this is not just a mere history lesson, this is a murder trial so obviously some people just don’t want to turn up to trial.’

Furchner was aged between 18 and 19 when she worked as a former secretary for the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp.

She was set to go on trial today on charges of more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder. 

Prosecutors argue that she was part of the apparatus that helped the Nazi camp function more than 75 years ago.

In a previous interview with NDR, she claimed she had never actually set foot in the camp itself and insisted she had only learned about the atrocities after the war.

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

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

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

From about 1940 onward, it was used as a so-called ‘work education camp’ where forced laborers, primarily Polish and Soviet citizens who had run afoul of 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 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. 

As many as 100,000 people would eventually be deported there, some of them moved from other camps abandoned by the Nazis in the later stages of the war.

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

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

Finally liberated by Soviet forces in May 1945, the camp is now once again within Poland’s borders, with the town going by the Polish name 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 obliged to work. Hard work that exceeded human strength determined the rhythm of life and death in the camp.

‘Stutthof belonged to the camps where very hard living conditions prevailed,’ she said.

Holocaust survivor Abraham Koryski gave evidence in 2019 in which he detailed the horrors he endured at the Stutthoff concentration camp in World War II.

‘We were beaten constantly, the whole time, even while working,’ Koryski told the Hamburg District Court, according to DW. 

He added that SS guards would put on 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 did it on their breaks.’ 

Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg told the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2017: ‘Jewish lives just did not count. We had to assemble in a square. They had erected an enormous gallows with eight nooses hanging down, then one by one we had to watch these innocent men being hanged.’ 

Her boss, SS officer Paul Werner Hoppe, was convicted for his role at the camp and sentenced to nine years in prison by a West German court in 1957. He died in 1974.

In evidence during that investigation, given nearly 70 years ago, the woman acknowledged working for Hoppe but said she knew nothing of the gas chambers.

She also claimed at the time that she was aware of executions taking place but thought they were a punishment for specific crimes, rather than the systematic genocide they really were. 

The state court in Itzehoe in northern Germany said in a statement that the suspect allegedly ‘aided and abetted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant’s office.’

Despite her advanced age, she was set to be tried in juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes. 

The case against Furchner will rely on German legal precedent established in cases over the past decade that anyone who helped Nazi death camps and concentration camps function can be prosecuted as an accessory to the murders committed there, even without evidence of participation in a specific crime.

A lawyer for the defendant told Der Spiegel magazine that the trial would centre on whether the 96-year-old had knowledge of the atrocities that happened at the camp.

‘My client worked in the midst of SS men who were experienced in violence – however, does that mean she shared their state of knowledge? That is not necessarily obvious,’ Wolf Molkentin said.

According to other media reports, the defendant was questioned as a witness during past Nazi trials and said at the time that the former SS commandant of Stutthof, Paul Werner Hoppe, dictated daily letters and radio messages to her.

Still, Furchner testified she was not aware of the killings that occurred at the camp while she worked there, the German news agency dpa reported.

Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles removed from Danzig – now the Polish city of Gdansk – from about 1940 Stutthof was used as a so-called ‘work education camp’ where forced laborers, primarily Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve sentences and often died.

From mid-1944, tens of thousands of Jews from ghettos in the Baltics and from Auschwitz filled the camp, along with thousands of Polish civilians swept up in the brutal Nazi suppression of the Warsaw uprising.

Others incarcerated there included political prisoners, accused criminals, people suspected of homosexual activity and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

More than 60,000 people were killed there by being given lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly to their hearts, or being shot or starved. Others were forced outside in winter without clothing until they died of exposure, or were put to death in a gas chamber.  

Furchner is the only woman to stand trial in recent years for crimes dating to the Nazi era, as the role of women in the Third Reich has long been overlooked.

But since John Demjanjuk, a guard at a concentration camp, was convicted for serving as part of the Nazi killing machine in 2011, prosecutors have broadened the scope of their investigations beyond those directly responsible for atrocities.

According to Christoph Rueckel, a lawyer representing survivors of the Shoah who are party to the case, Furchner ‘handled all the correspondence’ for camp commander Hoppe.

‘She typed out the deportation and execution commands’ at his dictation and initialled each message herself, Rueckel told public broadcaster NDR.

However, Furchner’s lawyer told the German weekly Spiegel ahead of the trial that it was possible the secretary had been ‘screened off’ from what was going on at Stutthof.

At least three other women have been investigated for their roles in Nazi camps, including another secretary at Stutthof, who died last year before charges could be brought.

The prosecutor’s office in Neuruppin is currently looking into the case of a woman employed at the Ravensbrueck camp, according to officials at the Central Office in Ludwigsburg.

Among the women to be held to account for their actions during the Nazi era was Maria Mandl, a guard at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, who was hanged in 1948 after being sentenced to death in Krakow, Poland.

Between 1946 and 1948, in Hamburg, 21 women went on trial before a British military tribunal for their role at the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women.

Prosecutors are currently handling a further eight cases, including former employees at the Buchenwald and Ravensbrueck camps, according to the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes.

In recent years, several cases have been abandoned as the accused died or were physically unable to stand trial.

The last guilty verdict was issued to former SS guard Bruno Dey, who was handed a two-year suspended sentence in July at the age of 93. 

In a separate case, a 100-year-old man is going on trial next week in Brandenburg for allegedly serving as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp just outside Berlin during World War II.

The man, whose name wasn’t released in line with German privacy laws, is charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder. The suspect is alleged to have worked at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing.

The Bookkeeper of Auschwitz, Ivan the Terrible and the Angel of Death: Former Nazi guards who faced justice years after their crimes

The planned opening of the trial in Itzehoe came one day before the 75th anniversary of the sentencing of 12 senior members of the Nazi establishment to death by hanging at the first Nuremberg trial.

It also comes a week before separate proceedings in Neuruppin, near Berlin, against a 100-year-old former camp guard.

Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, time is running out to bring people to justice for their role in the Nazi system.

Prosecutors are currently handling a further eight cases, including former employees at the Buchenwald and Ravensbrueck camps, according to the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes.

In recent years, several cases have been abandoned as the accused died or were physically unable to stand trial.

The last guilty verdict was issued to former SS guard Bruno Dey, who was handed a two-year suspended sentence in July at the age of 93.

Furchner is the only woman to stand trial in recent years for crimes dating to the Nazi era, as the role of women in the Third Reich has long been overlooked.

But since John Demjanjuk, a guard at a concentration camp, was convicted for serving as part of the Nazi killing machine in 2011, prosecutors have broadened the scope of their investigations beyond those directly responsible for atrocities.

Here, MailOnline looks at others who have faced justice years after their alleged crimes 

John Demjanjuk – ‘Ivan the Terrible’ 

John Demjanjuk during his trial in Munich in 2009 over the murder of 27,900 Jews at a Nazi death camp following 30 years to try prosecute him after he moved to Ohio

John Demjanjuk during his trial in Munich in 2009 over the murder of 27,900 Jews at a Nazi death camp following 30 years to try prosecute him after he moved to Ohio

Ukrainian-American Demjanjuk was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of nearly 30,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland in 1943. He died while his appeal was pending.

The court ruled that as a guard at the camp, he was automatically implicated in killings carried out there at the time.

The case set a legal precedent and prompted several further convictions of Nazi officers.

It took 30 years to extradite him from Ohio, where he had worked as an autoworker. He had previously been extradited to Israel and sentenced to death 1988 after Holocaust survivors identified him as feared Treblinka guard ‘Ivan the Terrible’.

However, this was overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court when Soviets documents claimed another guard as the sadistic gas chamber operator. 

Demjanjuk then returned to the US to carry on living his life, before being extradited to Germany to face different charges.

The ruling 2011 opened the way to prosecuting anyone who worked at a concentration camp, from soldiers to accountants, as an accomplice in mass murder. 

Oskar Groening – ‘The Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ 

Oskar Groening, a 94-year-old former SS sergeant looking up as he listens to the verdict of his trial at a court in Lueneburg, northern Germany in 2017

Oskar Groening, a 94-year-old former SS sergeant looking up as he listens to the verdict of his trial at a court in Lueneburg, northern Germany in 2017

The former Auschwitz-Birkenau guard Oskar Groening as a young man in an SS uniform

The former Auschwitz-Birkenau guard Oskar Groening as a young man in an SS uniform

Groening coined his nickname because of his role as an SS accountant at the Nazi death camp. 

He was tried and convicted in the northern German city of Lueneburg in 2015 as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people.

As a result of this prosecution Rommel said in 2016 that his office would go after more civilian camp workers who were employed as secretaries and telephone operators and put them on trial as accomplices to mass murder.  

Helmut Oberlander  

Helmut Oberlander served as an interpreter for a Nazi death squad that killed at least 20,000 people during World War II

Helmut Oberlander served as an interpreter for a Nazi death squad that killed at least 20,000 people during World War II

Oberlander, who worked as a translator for the roaming Nazi killing squads used by the regime before the development of concentration camps, had his Canadian citizenship revoked in 2020.

The 95-year-old had been fighting to stay in Canada since 1995 after it was discovered he had lied about his involvement in the Einsatzkommando squad. 

Many have criticised the comparatively small number of Nazi war criminals ever brought to justice, and by 2012 around 6,498 people had been convicted for their part in the Holocaust.

Jakiw Palij 

Jakiw Palij, a 95-year-old worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp in what was then German-occupied Poland, was sent to Germany from the US to face war crimes charges

Jakiw Palij, a 95-year-old worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp in what was then German-occupied Poland, was sent to Germany from the US to face war crimes charges

Jakiw Palij (left and right during WWII), a 95-year-old worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp in what was then German-occupied Poland, was sent to Germany from the US to face war crimes charges

In August 2019 the 95-year-old Jakiw Palij, who US authorities had been trying to deport since 2005, was sent back to Germany to face prosecution.

Palij, who died in January, had worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp in what was then German-occupied Poland. He claimed he and other men were coerced into working for the Nazis. 

Palij entered the US in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act, a law that was meant to help refugees from leave post-war Europe. 

He passed away in a home for the elderly in the German town of Ahlen, according to local media at the time.

Hans Werner H 

Hans Werner H, whose last name was not released due to German privacy rules, was accused of serving as an SS guard in the Mauthausen camp in northern Austria from 1944 to 1945.

But in 2019 a German court declined to put the 95-year-old on trial, saying it did not see enough evidence to support charges of accessory to murder. 

The Berlin state court said prosecutors have appealed against its decision. Charges against the suspect were filed in October 2018 and prosecutors are awaiting the next date for the appeal process.

He is alleged to have served as a guard when prosecutors say 36,223 people were killed at Mauthausen. 

He wasn’t accused of a specific killing, but prosecutors argued that as a guard he helped the camp function.

Johann Rehboden 

Johann Rehbogen, 94, is a former SS guard who is being tried on hundreds of counts of accessory to murder at the Stutthof concentration camp

Johann Rehbogen, 94, is a former SS guard who is being tried on hundreds of counts of accessory to murder at the Stutthof concentration camp

Rehbogen, 94, is another former SS guard who is being tried on hundreds of counts of accessory to murder at the Stutthof concentration camp.

Since the war the extent of Nazi’s who fled to the US was not widely known.

Proceedings were launched against 137 alleged war criminals with around 67 being deported, extradited or voluntarily leaving.

Out of the remaining 70, 28 died while their cases were pending and nine died in the US because no other country would take them.

Bruno Dey 

Last year 93-year-old Bruno Dey, pictured, was convicted for his part in the Holocaust after serving as an SS guard at Stutthof

Last year 93-year-old Bruno Dey, pictured, was convicted for his part in the Holocaust after serving as an SS guard at Stutthof 

The last guilty verdict was issued to former SS guard Bruno Dey, who was handed a two-year suspended sentence in July at the age of 93. 

He was accused of complicity in the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

Dey acknowledged last year that he had been aware of the camp’s gas chambers and admitted seeing ’emaciated figures, people who had suffered’, but insisted he was not guilty.

Unnamed 

In a separate case, a 100-year-old man is going on trial next week in Brandenburg for allegedly serving as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp just outside Berlin during World War II.

The man, whose name wasn’t released in line with German privacy laws, is charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder. 

The suspect is alleged to have worked at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing

 

 



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