German authorities were on the hunt Thursday for a 96-year-old German woman after she failed to appear in court and stand trial for her role in Nazi war crimes.
A former secretary for the SS Commander Paul Werner Hoppe of the Stutthof concentration camp, Irmgard Furchner, was set to face over 11,000 counts of accessory to murder that occurred during the Nazi regime between June 1943 and April 1945.
According to The Associated Press, a court statement alleged that Furchner “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.”
Furchner was seen leaving her care home Thursday morning, taking a taxi to a subway station. She had previously expressed that she didn’t want to show up for trial, but the statement alone wasn’t enough to consider her a flight risk.
A warrant was immediately issued for her arrest when she failed to appear at her trial in Itzehoe. It didn’t take police but a few hours to locate her after that.
The secretary of the commandant of Stutthof conc. camp was supposed to face charges today for assisting in the murder of 11,000 inmates. Instead she fled. Healthy enough to flee, healthy enough to go to jail!!
— Efraim Zuroff (@EZuroff) September 30, 2021
The head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, Efraim Zuroff, tweeted, “The secretary of the commandant of Stutthof [concentration] camp was supposed to face charges today for assisting in the murder of 11,000 people. Instead, she fled. Healthy enough to flee, healthy enough to go to jail!!”
Furchner is the first woman to stand trial in decades for her role in the Third Reich. She is being tried in juvenile court because she was less than 21 years of age when the crimes occurred.
According to attorney Christoph Rueckel, Furchner “handled all the correspondence” for camp commander Hoppe. Rueckel represents survivors of the Shoah who are party in the case.
Rueckel told public broadcaster NDR, “She typed out the deportation and execution commands” at his dictation and initialed each message herself.
Furchner’s attorneys argue that it is possible that she was “screened off” from what was going on, simply fulfilling the role of secretary while unaware of the tragedies occurring around her.
“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,” expressed her attorney Wolf Molkentin.
Furchner’s next scheduled hearing is October 19.