A 96-year-old Nazi criminal escaped and was captured at the opening of her trial

The trial of Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old German citizen, was scheduled to open yesterday in the German city of Itzhau. Forkner served as a secretary in the Stutthof concentration camp in occupied Poland during World War II, and is one of the very few women prosecuted for collaborating with Nazi crimes.

But Forkner’s trial did not open, because it did not come up for hearing. The court in Itzao declared her a fugitive. A few hours later, it was reported that the police managed to locate her, after “leaving her house in a taxi on the way to the train station.”

The charges against Forkner include complicity in the murder of more than 10,000 people in the camp. The trial date was set for the eve of the 75th anniversary of the death sentence of 12 senior members of the Nazi establishment at the First Nuremberg Trials. Furchner, who was 18 when she began working in the camp, now lives in a nursing home near Hamburg, but was due to stand trial in juvenile court, whose authority is valid until the age of 19.

Emergard Forkner. Photo: AP

The prosecution accused the pensioner of aiding and abetting the systematic murder of detainees in Stutthof while she was working in the office of the camp commander, SS Sturmbenfuhrer Paul Werner Hoffa, between June 1943 and April 1945. “Poles and POWs from Soviet Russia,” the indictment said. After a lengthy deliberation, the court ruled in February that Forchner was fit to stand trial, in hearings lasting several hours each day. The proceedings were expected to continue until June 2022.

Furchner is the only woman charged in recent years in Germany with her crimes during the Nazi era; For years the role of women in the death factories of the Third Reich was ignored. It was only after U.S. citizen John Ivan Demjanjuk was convicted in Germany in 2011 for his service as a guard in the Sobibor extermination camp that prosecutors extended the scope of their investigations beyond those directly responsible for the atrocities.

According to Christoph Roikel, a lawyer representing Holocaust survivors involved in the case, Forchner “handled all the correspondence” of the Hoffa camp commander: “She typed the deportation and execution orders” dictated by the commander and edited each post herself. Forkner’s lawyer, Wolf Molkentin, told German weekly Spiegel ahead of the opening of the trial that the secretary may have been “moderated” by what was happening in Stutthof.

At least three other women have been questioned about their roles in the concentration camps, including another secretary in Stutthof who died last year before being indicted. The prosecutor’s office in the city of Neuropin is currently investigating a case of a woman who was employed in the Ravensbrueck camp. Another woman who was prosecuted for her actions during the Nazi era was Maria Mendel, a guard in Auschwitz-Birkenau, who was sentenced to death in Krakow, Poland, and hanged in 1948.

76 years after the end of World War II, German prosecutors are now handling eight more war crimes cases against former workers in the Buchenwald and Ravensbrueck camps. The trial of a 100-year-old Nazi criminal is set to open next week in Neuropin.

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