A 95-year-old woman who worked for the commander of a Nazi concentration camp has been accused in northern Germany of aiding and complicit in a mass murder.
Called by the press by Irmgard F., she lives in a nursing home in Pinneberg, near Hamburg. She is accused of having been an accomplice in “more than 10,000 cases” of homicide.
She was secretary to the SS commander (short for Schutzstaffel, a paramilitary organization linked to the German Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler) at Stutthof, a brutal concentration camp near the Polish town of Danzigue. In this camp, 65,000 prisoners were killed during World War II.
Irmgard F.’s role in the genocide is still under investigation and it is not yet clear whether she will be brought to justice.
The Stutthof camp was established in 1939, in an area that then belonged to Poland and was under Nazi occupation. The gas chambers began to be used there in June 1944. The site was liberated by Soviet troops in May 1945, towards the end of the war.
Around 100,000 prisoners were held at Stutthof in inhumane conditions. Many died of illness or starvation, some were taken to the gas chamber, and others received fatal injections.
Many of the victims were Jews, but Polish non-Jews and captured Soviet soldiers were also killed.
A court in Eslésvico-Holsácia, in the northern German region, must now decide whether the former secretary’s case should go to trial. At the time of the crimes, she was under 21, being considered a minor under local law – the court responsible for the case is therefore a juvenile court.
The former secretary claims that she never knew that people were being killed in a gas chamber in the concentration camp.
The case is unusual because very few women have been tried for atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps. And most of the cases brought to court relate to concentration camp guards and not secretaries, according to BBC journalist Damien McGuinness in Berlin.
Prosecutors questioned Irmgard F. and began investigating his past in the SS in 2016. A prosecutor also interviewed survivors of Stutthof who are currently living in Israel, according to reports from German state broadcaster ARD.
She is accused of “aiding and colluding in murders in more than 10,000 cases” and of being an accomplice in attempted assassinations.
The prosecution says she “helped camp officials in the systematic murder of Jewish prisoners, members of the Polish resistance and Soviet prisoners of war, in her role as stenographer and secretary to the camp commander” between June 1943 and April 1945.
Former commander Paul Werner Hoppe was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1957.
Last year Bruno Dey, 93, a former Stutthof guard, was suspended from a two-year prison sentence for complicity in mass murder. During his trial, he apologized to the victims of the Holocaust.