Nazi secretary apologises for murdered Jews but denies responsibility

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A 97-year-old Nazi typist nicknamed the “secretary of evil” has apologised for the thousands of Jewish people killed at a Polish concentration camp during her time working there, but has denied her involvement in the killings. Irmgard Furchner, who was 18 when she began working as a secretary for the Nazis at Stutthof concentration camp in 1943, has been at the centre of a 14-month trial discussing her knowledge of the atrocities committed while she was in office. Furchner is the first woman to be tried in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades and disappeared at the start of her trial only to be arrested a few hours later. 

Addressing a regional court in Itzehoe in northern Germany earlier this week, Furchner said she was “sorry for everything that happened”. 

But, in her closing remarks, she added: “I regret that I was in Stutthof at that time. That’s all I can say.” 

Known as the “Secretary of Evil” because of her role in dealing with communications given by the commander of the concentration camp, the elderly woman faces a two-year suspended sentence if she is found guilty. She is being tried as a juvenile because of how old she was during her time working. 

Under the German legal system, she will be found guilty of being an accessory to all the murders that occurred during her time at Stutthof if prosecutors can persuade the judge that she had been aware of the systematic killings at the camp when she worked there, even if she was not directly involved in carrying them out. 

From 1943 to 1945, Furchner was a typist for the commandant of the Stutthof near the Polish port city of Gdansk.

She started working at the camp when she was just a teenager. Stutthof was the last concentration camp to be liberated by the Allies, a day after the Third Reich surrendered, and roughly 63,000 people, of which more than third were Jewish, are believed to have died there from forced labour, starvation, disease, medical neglect and execution.

Furchner claims she had no knowledge of the executions and her lawyer has argued that she never stepped foot in the camp, instead she operated exclusively from the first floor of the commandant’s office. 

Wolf Molkentin, the defending lawyer in the case, in his closing arguments called for Furchner’s acquittal on the basis that there were “insurmountable doubts” about the accusation she was aware of the killings. 

Maxi Wantzen, a prosecutor on the case, last month accused Furchner of typing up execution warrants, orders for the operation of the camp’s gas chambers and lists of prisoners earmarked for deportation to Auschwitz.

Furcher’s late husband had also testified in 1954 claiming that she did in fact know about Jews being placed into gas chambers at the camp.

Mr Wantzen said it was “utterly impossible” that Furchner had been unaware of the operations in Stutthof and that the argument she had never stepped foot in the camp was immaterial because the typist would have been able to see most of the camp grounds from her office on the first floor. 

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But defending lawyer Mr Molkentin suggested Furchner had been one of a number of typists in the commandant’s office and had not been in a particular position of trust.

While the prosecution claimed her name was on forms referring to, and even ordering, executions, Mr Molkentin argued that not a single letter mentioning mass murders with her signature on it had been shown to the court. 

The verdict for the trial, which has lasted over a year, is expected on December 20. 

Furchner has protested that she is unfit to stand trial. She may be the last person sentenced for Nazi-era war crimes. 

The trial continues.

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