Authorities in Germany have located a 96-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary who did not appear at the start of her trial in Germany on Thursday, a court spokeswoman said.
Irmgard Furchner, who is accused of complicity in the murder of more than 10,000 people, “has been found,” said Frederike Milhoffer, a spokesman for the court, adding that the judge will determine whether to arrest her.
Furchner had not appeared for the start of his trial in Germany on Thursday, the judge said previously, issuing an arrest warrant for the “fugitive” at the dramatic hearing.
One of the first women to be prosecuted for Nazi-era crimes in decades, Furchner is charged with complicity in thousands of murders in the Stutthof concentration camp in occupied Poland.
He left his retirement home near Hamburg on Thursday morning and took a taxi to a subway station, said Frederike Milhoffer, a court spokesman in the northern German city of Itzehoe.
But he did not appear for the trial.
A spokeswoman for the Itzehoe police told AFP that they were looking for Furchner and “do not know where he is.”
The defendant’s lawyer, Wolf Molkentin, was present in the courtroom, but did not comment to reporters.
Prosecutors accuse Furchner of having assisted in the systematic murder of detainees at Stutthof, where he worked in the office of the camp commander, Paul Werner Hoppe, between June 1943 and April 1945.
The trial takes place in a juvenile court, as she was between 18 and 19 years old at the time.
About 65,000 people died in the camp, not far from the city of Gdansk, including “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.
“Healthy enough to run away, healthy enough to go to jail!” Tweeted Efraim Zuroff, an American-Israeli “Nazi hunter” who has played a key role in leading former Nazi war criminals to trial, he tweeted Thursday.
The secretary to the commander of Stutthof conc. The camp was supposed to face charges today for assisting in the murder of 11,000 inmates. Instead, she fled. Healthy enough to run away, healthy enough to go to jail!
– Efraim Zuroff (@EZuroff) September 30, 2021
Little time left
The scheduled opening of the Itzehoe trial came one day before the 75th anniversary of the death sentence by hanging of 12 senior members of the Nazi establishment at the first Nuremberg trial.
It also comes a week before separate proceedings at 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 eight other 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 dropped because the defendant died or could not be physically tried.
The latest guilty verdict was issued against former SS guard Bruno Dey, who received a two-year suspended sentence in July at the age of 93.
Furchner is the only woman to have been tried in recent years for crimes dating back to the Nazi era, as the role of women in the Third Reich has long been overlooked.
But since John Demjanjuk, a guard in a concentration camp, was convicted of serving as part of the Nazi killing machine in 2011, prosecutors have expanded the scope of their investigations beyond those directly responsible for the atrocities.
According to Christoph Rueckel, a lawyer representing Shoah survivors who are parties to the case, Furchner “handled all correspondence” for the Camp Hoppe commander.
“She typed out the deportation and execution orders” as dictated and initialized each message herself, Rueckel told public broadcaster NDR.
However, Furchner’s lawyer told the German weekly Spiegel before the trial that it was possible that the secretary had been “excluded” from what was happening in Stutthof.
At least three other women have been investigated for their role in the Nazi camps, including another secretary at Stutthof, who died last year before charges could be brought.
The prosecutor’s office in Neuruppin is currently investigating the case of a female employee at the Ravensbrueck camp, according to officials from the Head Office in Ludwigsburg.
Among the women held accountable for their actions during the Nazi era is Maria Mandl, a guard from 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 were tried before a British military court for their role in the Ravensbrueck women’s concentration camp.