An arrest warrant has been issued for the former secretary of a concentration camp SS commander after she missed the start of a trial to determine whether she “aided and abetted” the murders of thousands of prisoners during the Second World War.
The 96-year-old, who was named as Irmgard Furchner by German media, is being tried on charges of more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder in a juvenile court in Itzehoe, northern Germany.
However, a court spokesperson said this morning she did not turn up for the start of proceedings, despite leaving her home in a taxi this morning, which was reportedly heading for a subway station in Hamburg,
Presiding Judge Dominik Gross said the court issued an arrest warrant on Fuchner for failing to show up.
It is still not yet known where she is.
German news agency DPA reported Furchner claimed she was not aware of the killings that took place when she worked as a stenographer and typist for Nazi Paul-Werner Hoppe at the Stutthof camp in Poland more than 75 years ago.
Wolf Molkentin, a lawyer for Furchner, added that the trial would focus on whether she was aware of the crimes that happened at the camp.
He told Der Spiegel magazine: “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.”
The case was brought to trial due to German law stating that anyone who helped Nazi death camps and concentration camps function could be prosecuted as an accessory to the murders committed there, even without evidence of participation in a specific crime.
The state court in Itzehoe said in a statement that Furchner 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”.
Other media outlets reported she was previously questioned as a witness at other Nazi trials, where she recalled that Hoppe dictated daily letters and radio messages to her.
More than 60,000 people were killed at Stutthof between 1940 and 1945, by being given lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly to their hearts, or being shot or starved.
The camp originally started as a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Polish people who were removed from Danzig, which is now the Polish city of Gdansk.
But from 1940 the camp was known as a “work education camp”, where forced labourers, who were mostly Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve deadly sentences.