Former Nazi Death Camp Secretary Flees Before Trial, Is 'on the Run'

A 96-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary, who was due to stand trial on charges of complicity in the murder of thousands of prisoners, has fled and is now considered a fugitive.

Irmgard Furchner was due to be the first woman in decades to stand trial in Germany in connection to the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II. She was set to appear at an Itzehoe court, north of Hamburg, Germany, on Thursday but failed to show.

The president of the court in Itzehoe said "the accused is on the run" and that an arrest warrant has been issued, reported the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"She left her home early in the morning in a taxi in the direction of a metro station," court spokesperson Frederike Milhoffer said, via Reuters.

Even if she had appeared as scheduled, the 96-year-old would still have needed to undergo a medical examination to determine if she is able to take part in the proceedings.

Furchner, who was just 18 when she started work as a typist at the Stutthof camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, charged with aiding and abetting 11,412 murders committed a between 1943 and 1945.

Despite her current age, Furchner was set to be tried in youth court because she was under 21 at the time of her alleged crimes.

Christoph Rückel, a lawyer who has represented Holocaust survivors for years, said Furchner had "kept all the correspondence of the camp commander" while working for said commander Paul Werner Hoppe.

"She also typed up the execution and deportation orders and initialled them," Rückel told German news channel NDR.

Furchner has previously testified she was not aware of atrocities that were taking place at the Stutthof camp, something which the defense was due to base its case on.

"My client worked in the midst of SS men who were experienced in violence—however, does that mean she shared their state of knowledge? That is not necessarily obvious," lawyer Wolf Molkentin told Der Spiegel magazine.

A number of Holocaust survivors, including those who were imprisoned at Stutthof, were due to give testimony at the trial.

Furchner's scheduled trial came as a number of elderly have been convicted for their roles in Nazi concentration camps, crimes committed several decades ago. However, due to the defendants' age, several cases have been abandoned because they were deemed physically unable to stand trial, or died.

In July, 93-year-old former SS guard Bruno Dey was handed a two-year suspended sentence after being found guilty of being complicit in the murder of more than 5,000 prisoners at Stutthof.

Dey's nine-month trial also took place at a juvenile court in Germany because he was 17 at the time of the atrocities committed between August 1944 and April 1945.

Irmgard Furchner nazi trial
A judicial officer looks at his watch prior to a trial against a 96-year-old former secretary for the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp at the courtroom in Itzehoe, northern Germany, on September 30, 2021. Irmgard Furchner failed to turn up for the start of her trial, the judge said. MARKUS SCHREIBER/POOL/AFP/Getty Images