A 97-year-old former SS Nazi death camp secretary has broken her silence in court and said she was sorry for the over 11,000 murders known to have been carried out there.
Irmgard Furchner, 97, who worked as a secretary to SS commander Paul Werner Hoppe of Nazi Germany’s Stutthof concentration camp, said her first words in the 14-month-long trial at the Itzehoe Regional Court on Tuesday, 6th December.
She said: “I’m sorry about everything that happened. I regret that I was in Stutthof at the time. I cannot say more.”
The so-called ‘secretary of evil’ was charged with aiding the systematic murder of over 11,000 prisoners at the camp, where she worked from June 1943 to April 1945.
Stutthof was established by Nazi Germany on 2nd September 1939 near what is now the village of Sztutowo, in Poland’s Pomeranian Voivodeship.
It accommodated over 110,000 people at one point before it was liberated by the Red Army in May 1945,
Between 63,000 and 65,000 prisoners, of which 28,000 were Jews, were murdered or died of starvation, disease, and after being worked to death in the camp.
Throughout the trial, Furchner claimed she was not aware of the mass killings, despite her job as secretary of the camp’s commander meaning that she reported directly to the SS.
She was set to walk free from the trial after the public prosecutor requested that she be sentenced to just two years probation if found guilty, in November 2022.
Furchner’s lawyers requested her acquittal and argued that there was no clear evidence that the 97-year-old woman had any knowledge about the systematic killings at the camp.
This, according to them, signified that there was no proof of intent as required for criminal liability.
One of the co-plaintiffs’ representatives argued: “It’s clear that we, as representatives of the victims, assume that those who worked in the camp also knew what was happening there, because there were corpses lying around, because there was a smell of death.
“A verdict would be important for our clients, because they assume that everyone who worked there knew what was happening.”
The ex-secretary made headlines last year in September after she left her retirement home in Quickborn, Hamburg, jumped into a taxi and went on the run.
But the police arrested her just hours later and held her in custody for five days. It was not revealed where she had gone.
The final ruling is expected on Tuesday, 20th December.