Ex-secretary at Nazi concentration camp says she’s ‘sorry,’ requests trial acquittal

Irmgard Furchner, 97, is being tried at German juvenile court for her role in assisting the SS commander of Stutthof concentration camp while she was a teen

Defendant Irmgard Furchner sits in the courtroom at the beginning of her trial in Itzehoe, Germany, November 9, 2021. (Christian Charisius/Pool via AP)
Defendant Irmgard Furchner sits in the courtroom at the beginning of her trial in Itzehoe, Germany, November 9, 2021. (Christian Charisius/Pool via AP)

Lawyers for a 97-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of Nazi Germany’s Stutthof concentration camp asked Tuesday for their client to be acquitted, arguing that she didn’t know about the atrocities committed at the camp located in what is now northern Poland.

Irmgard Furchner has been on trial for over a year at the Itzehoe state court in northern Germany. In her closing statement, Furchner said she was sorry for what had happened and regretted that she had been there at the time.

“I’m sorry about everything that happened,” Furchner said at the courthouse, her lawyer told AFP. “I regret that I was in Stutthof at the time,” she said, referring to the location of the concentration camp in occupied Poland where she worked.

Her lawyers requested her acquittal, arguing that the evidence hadn’t shown beyond doubt that Furchner knew about the systematic killings at the camp, meaning there was no proof of intent as required for criminal liability.

Prosecutors accused Furchner of being part of the apparatus that helped the Nazis’ Stutthof camp function during World War II. In their closing arguments last month, they called for her to be convicted as an accessory to murder and given a two-year suspended sentence.

According to the case against her, she took dictation of the SS officer’s orders and handled his correspondence.

Irmgard Furchner in her youth (Courtesy)

During the trial, several Stutthof survivors offered accounts of their experiences at the camp. Tens of thousands of people died at Stutthof and its satellite camps, or on death marches at the end of World War II.

Furchner, who made headlines last year when she absconded from trial, is being tried in juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes.

She managed to evade police for several hours before being apprehended in the nearby city of Hamburg and held in custody for five days.

Furchner is the first woman to be tried in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades, in what prosecutors have said could be one of the country’s last trials over crimes committed during the Holocaust.

The court said a verdict is expected on Dec. 20.

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