A 97-year-old woman who worked at a Nazi concentration camp was convicted on Monday after undergoing a trial that lasted longer than a year.
Between 1943 and 1945, when Irmgard Furchner was 18 and 19 years old, she worked as a secretary for Paul-Werner Hoppe, the Stutthof concentration camp’s commandant. Because of her age at the time, she was put on trial in a juvenile court.
Furchner was given a two-year suspended jail sentence after being found to be an accessory to the murder of 10,505 prisoners and the attempted murder of five other people.
“The promotion of these acts by the accused took place through the completion of paperwork” in the camp commander’s office, a court statement reportedly said. “This activity was necessary for the organization of the camp and the execution of the cruel, systematic acts of killing.”
By January 1942, Stutthof was a typical concentration camp. More than 60,000 people ultimately died there. They were either killed in gas chambers or by lethal injections, and many died from typhus epidemics.
Furchner’s trial was held in northern Germany in the town of Itzehoe. In September last year, the proceedings were delayed because she had fled from her nursing home. She didn’t appear in court and was later taken into custody by law enforcement and given an electronic tag.
The trial included testimony from 30 survivors, as well as family members of Stutthof camp prisoners. Historians said Furchner was fully aware of prisoners being tortured and killed.
The judge, along with court authorities, went to the camp’s site and saw where Furchner would have sat and worked at the time. They found that she fully understood what was happening to people at the camp and therefore was an active participant in the atrocities.
Furchner’s role “was necessary for the organization of the camp and the implementation of these cruel and systematic killing acts,” the court noted.
She said she was sorry for what had happened and had regrets about working at the Stutthuf camp in a closing remark.
“In view of Furchner’s recent statement to the court that she ‘regretted everything,’ we were concerned that the court might accept her defense attorney’s plea for an acquittal,” Efraim Zuroff, the leading Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement. “Yet given her claim that she had no knowledge of the murders being committed in the camp, her regret was far from convincing.”