A German court on Tuesday found a 97-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary guilty of aiding in the killing of more than 10,000 people.
Irmgard Furchner, dubbed the “secretary of evil” by German media, was given a two-year suspended sentence for aiding the Stutthof concentration camp’s operations during World War Two in what may have been the last case of its kind.
Because Furchner was between the ages of 18 and 19 when she served as the SS commander of the camp’s secretary, the trial—which was briefly postponed when she fled in a taxi—was held in juvenile court.
A spokesman for the court confirmed in an email to NBC News that Furchner was given a two-year suspended sentence by the court in the northern town of Itzehoe early on Tuesday for being an accessory to 10,505 counts of murder and 5 counts of attempted murder.
In addition to claiming that it was not in their best interests for the 97-year-old to spend any time behind bars, death camp survivors and victims’ family members who appeared as joint plaintiffs also requested the same outcome as the prosecution.
Due to her employment as a shorthand typist/secretary in the Camp Commandant’s Office between June 1943 and April 1945, Furchner was accused of “assisting those in a position of responsibility at the former Stutthof concentration camp with the systematic killing of those imprisoned there,” according to a court press release.
According to a press release from the court, her defense attorney had asked for her to be exonerated, arguing that even though it was obvious that thousands of people were killed in Stutthof, the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Furchner was aware of the deliberate killing at the concentration camp. For criminal responsibility in Germany, proof of intent is necessary.
Furchner broke her silence earlier this month and made unanticipated closing remarks.
She apologized for what had occurred, expressed regret that she had been at Stutthof at the time, and said she was at a loss for words. Furchner had previously appeared at but kept quiet during 14 months of court hearings.
According to reports in German media, Furchner had been begged to testify during the trial by Holocaust survivors and their representatives.
In reference to “the banality of evil,” which Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt famously coined in 1963 while covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, German tabloid Bild dubbed Furchner the “secretary of evil.”
Furchner left her home in a taxi the morning her trial was scheduled to begin in September 2021, skipping the proceedings. She was detained for five days before being later released. Later, the court stated that the woman had not been anticipated to “actively evade the trial” due to her advanced age and health.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, more than 60,000 people perished in the camp near Gdansk in present-day Poland; many of them via lethal injection and in the camp’s gas chamber, while others perished from disease or starvation.
They included Jews, political prisoners, alleged criminals, homophobic suspects, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It has happened before, including in Furchner’s trial, for people who were not directly involved in killings in concentration camps to be found guilty of encouraging homicide.
Both John Demjanjuk, a guard at Sobibor, and Oskar Gröning, an accountant at Auschwitz, were previously found guilty of accessory to murder in German courts.
But as accused Nazi war criminals age and fall ill, the trial against Furchner might be the last of its kind.