Former Nazi camp secretary Irmgard Furchner, 97, is appealing for conviction for being an accessory to more than 10,000 murders

Irmgard Furchner, former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, awaits the continuation of her trial at a court in Itzehoe, northern Germany, where her verdict was announced on December 20, 2022.


A 97-year-old woman is appealing their conviction in Germany was an accomplice in more than 10,000 murders while she was secretary to the commander of the Stutthof Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

In a December 20 judgment, the Itzehoe District Court sentenced Irmgard Furchner to two years’ probation for being an accessory to murder in 10,505 counts and being an accessory to attempted murder in five counts. The court announced on Wednesday that both the defense and a lawyer for a joint plaintiff had appealed to the Federal Court of Justice.

It was not immediately clear when the federal court would consider the case.

Furchner was accused of being part of the apparatus that kept the camp near Danzig, now Gdańsk in Poland, running between June 1943 and April 1945.

The case drew on a German precedent set over the past decade that allows anyone who aided Nazi death camps and concentration camps to be prosecuted as an accessory to the murders committed there, even without evidence of involvement in a specific kill.

Germany Nazi Trial
This undated photo from 1945 shows the Stutthof Nazi concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland.

Stutthof Museum Archives / AP

The defense attorneys had demanded Furchner’s acquittal and argued that the evidence had not shown beyond a doubt that she had known about the systematic killings in the Stutthof camp, so that the proof of intent required for criminal liability was missing.

But the presiding judge Dominik Gross said at the verdict that it was “simply inconceivable” that Furchner had not noticed the murders in Stutthof.

Furchner was tried in juvenile court because she was 18 and 19 years old when the alleged crimes were committed and the court could not unequivocally establish her “mental maturity” at the time.

During World War II, the Nazis imprisoned more than 100,000, mostly Jews, in deplorable conditions at the Stutthof camp. According to historians, around 65,000 people died there.

The camp was notorious for its willful lack of care for the prisoners, and while most of those who died of disease, exhaustion or abuse died there, there was also a gas chamber and a facility for shooting in the throat.

Furchner worked directly for the commander of Stutthof, Paul-Werner Hoppe. He was imprisoned as an accessory to murder in 1955, but was released five years later.

When her trial began last September, Furchner, then 96, went on the run, disappeared from her retirement home. After an arrest warrant was issued, she was picked up by the police in Hamburg and spent five days in custody.

Furchner is one of only a few women for decades accused of Nazi crimes.

The court that sentenced them heard testimonies from several survivors of the camp, some of whom died during the trial.

Josef Salomonovic, a survivor who was 6 when his father was shot in Stutthof, told journalists outside court that Furchner was “indirectly guilty,” CBS News affiliate network BBC News reported. “Even if she just sat in the office and put her stamp on my father’s death certificate.”

Another key witness was historian Stefan Hördler, who traveled with judges to the Stutthof site to see that some of the camp’s worst conditions were visible from the commander’s office. Hördler told the court that 27 transports containing 48,000 people arrived at the camp between June and October 1944, when the Nazis decided to expand and speed up their killings through the use of gas. He described the commandant’s office as the “nerve center” of the camp, BBC News reported.

At the end of the trial, Furchner said in her only testimony in court: “I’m sorry about what happened and I regret that I was in Stutthof at the time. That’s all I can say.”

Another Stutthof survivor, Manfred Goldberg, spoke out against Furchner’s suspended sentence, which means she will not serve the sentence.

“No one in their right mind would send a 97-year-old to prison, but the verdict should reflect the seriousness of the crimes,” Goldberg told journalists, according to the BBC.

“If a shoplifter is sentenced to two years, how is it that someone convicted of aiding and abetting 10,000 murders gets the same sentence?”

— CBS News’ Anna Noryskiewicz and Haley Ott contributed coverage. Former Nazi camp secretary Irmgard Furchner, 97, is appealing for conviction for being an accessory to more than 10,000 murders

Rick Schindler

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