German police arrest 96-year-old Nazi suspect who tried to escape court

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BERLIN – The 96-year-old woman, a former secretary in a concentration camp, due to appear in court to face charges of complicity in the deaths of more than 11,000 people, in what could be one of the last trials Nazis in Germany.

But instead of taking a taxi from his assisted living outside Hamburg to the nearby court, Irmgard Furchner, who was 18 when she started working in 1943 at the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland, s instead, it is directed to a nearby metro station, according to the court. .

It was not immediately clear where Ms Furchner was headed, who had previously told reporters and the judge that she did not want to be part of the trial, but she was quickly apprehended by police after the court reported her missing . Itzehoe City Court said she was under a medical investigation.

Ms Furchner was indicted in February after a five-year investigation into her work as secretary to the commander of the Stutthof camp, located near Gdansk, then known as Danzig, between June 1943 and April 1945. The act prosecution was part of an effort by German prosecutors over the past decade to hold lower-ranking people to account for their actions during the Holocaust.

But they ran against time to bring aging suspects to justice. Last year, a Hamburg court convicted a 93-year-old man who was a guard at the same concentration camp on 5,230 counts of aiding and abetting murder.

Ms Furchner had written to the judge asking for a trial in absentia, which is not allowed under German law, and had been warned that she would face legal consequences if she did not appear in court.

Ms Furchner was due to hear the charges against her Thursday morning and be given a chance to respond. But the court, which had been moved to a local warehouse to accommodate more spectators and media due to the great interest in the case, was put on hold before the judge ordered police to locate the woman. and bring her in.

The court had previously determined that Ms Furchner would not be able to sit for full days of court proceedings due to her advanced age, and had agreed to hold shorter sessions for her, although she was classified as being fit enough to stand trial. .

The trial revolves around the question of what Ms Furchner knew about the murders that took place in the camp where she worked. Ms Furchner had acted as a witness in Nazi trials in post-war Germany, including the one that led to the conviction of camp commander Paul-Werner Hoppe, who was her direct boss.

The Auschwitz International Committee, a group founded by Auschwitz survivors, condemned the woman’s flight. Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the group, said: “It shows an incredible disregard for the rule of law and also for the survivors.”

His next scheduled court date is October 19.


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