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A 97-year-old German woman has been convicted for being complicit in over 10,000 deaths in the Holocaust

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Irmgard Furchner, 97, has been convicted as an accessory to 10,505 murders at the Stutthof concentration camp during the Holocaust.
A 97-year-old German woman has been convicted for being complicit in over 10,000 deaths in the Holocaust

Irmgard Furchner, 97, has been convicted as an accessory to 10,505 murders at the Stutthof concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Furchner worked as a typist at the camp. The judge in her trial said it was “beyond imagination” that she could have been unaware of the mass murders committed there.

She has been given a two-year suspended sentence. It’s believed this could be one of the last trials relating to Holocaust crimes.

Background

The Stutthof concentration camp, in present-day Poland, was used by the Nazis to kill Jewish prisoners, non-Jewish Poles and captured Soviet soldiers. It’s estimated 65,000 people were killed there in horrific conditions.

Furchner worked as a typist for camp commandant Paul-Werner Hoppe from 1943 to 1945, when she was a teenager.

The trial

Prosecutors and historians who testified at the trial argued Furchner could see some of the worst conditions of the camp from her office at Stutthof and that the staff there discussed what was happening.

The judges agreed she “knew” and “deliberately” supported the murders by continuing to do her work, which was “necessary for the organisation of the camp”. The presiding judge said she “could have quit at any time”.

The sentence

Furchner was under 21 when she committed the crimes, meaning she was tried as a juvenile in a German court. She was given a two-year suspended sentence (suspended means she is not expected to serve time in a prison).

Furchner, who tried to flee her retirement home last year to avoid trial, said very little during the trial, but did say she was “sorry about everything that happened. I regret that I was in Stutthof at the time – that’s all I can say.”

Holocaust crimes

The 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, a camp guard, was the first time someone had been convicted on the grounds of being complicit in deaths, rather than for directly committing murder.

Several others who worked for the Nazis have since been convicted, including the ‘bookkeeper’ of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oskar Gröning. However, few have served jail time, in many cases dying while their appeals were being heard.

While some other cases are being investigated, Furchner’s conviction is likely to be among the last, since most adults from the period are now dead.

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