German Court Sentences Ex-Concentration Camp Secretary to Probation
BERLIN — A court in Germany on Tuesday sentenced a 97-year-old woman to two years’ probation for her role in abetting over 10,000 murders committed during her tenure as a teenage concentration camp secretary in World War II, as prosecutors race to bring justice to the last surviving participants of the Nazi killing machine.
The woman, Irmgard Furchner, was convicted of abetting the thousands of murders that took place while she worked at the Stutthof concentration camp, 20 miles from Gdansk, in Nazi-occupied Poland, from June 1943 to April 1945.
Prosecutors were not able to link her to specific murders, but they were able to prove that she knew about the killings and that she willingly supported the running of the camp by fulfilling her duties as secretary.
Because the offenses took place when Ms. Furchner was 18 and 19, while she worked as a civilian employee of the camp commander, she was convicted in youth court in the northern German town of Itzehoe.
Ms. Furchner was quiet for most of the 40 days that the court was in session, but she broke her silence at the end of the trial. “I am sorry for everything that happened,” she said, according to news reports, adding, “I regret that I was in Stutthof at that time.”
During the trial, judges heard testimony from a historian and from eight other witnesses.
Ms. Furchner, who had testified against the camp commander in the 1950s when he was tried, did not want to appear in the court and wrote to the judge asking to be tried in absentia. When that request was denied, she refused to show up to the first day of the trial, and the judge had to order police officers to find her and take her to the court for the proceedings.
In recent years, German prosecutors have redoubled their efforts to chase down lower-ranked helpers in concentration camps, hoping to secure convictions before the last of those who helped to carry out the Holocaust die.
This summer, a 101-year old former guard was sentenced to five years in prison for his role as an SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, north of Berlin, from 1942 to 1945.