96-year-old German woman released after going on the run to skip Nazi war crimes trial

BERLIN – A 96-year-old former secretary of the SS commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp was released from custody on Tuesday, five days after she was taken into custody in northern Germany for missing the start of her trial.

The German woman was picked up by the police on Thursday, a few hours after leaving her home in Hamburg in a taxi on the morning her trial was due to begin on more than 11,000 complicity in murder. The regional court in Itzehoe ordered her arrest.

The woman appealed and reappeared in court on Tuesday. A statement from the court said the judges suspended the warrant and released them, ordering unspecified “security precautions”.

The next court session is scheduled for October 19, when the indictment is due to be read out. That was not possible last week in the absence of the defendant.

Prosecutors argue that the woman was part of the apparatus that supported the Stutthof camp of the Nazis during World War II more than 75 years ago.

According to the court, in her function as stenographer and typist in the camp commandant’s office, the defendant “helped and supported the camp officials in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945”.

Despite her advanced age, the woman is being tried in a juvenile court for being under 21 at the time of the alleged offenses. German media have identified her as Irmgard Furchner.

A court spokeswoman said, after skipping the opening of the trial last week, that the defendant had previously “announced that she did not want to come,” but that this was not sufficient reason to detain her before the trial. Given the woman’s age and condition, she was not expected to “actively evade the process”.

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