A 96-year-old woman who worked as a secretary in a Nazi concentration camp has been apprehended after attempting to flee from justice.
The woman, identified in German media as Irmgard Furchner, was due to stand trial Thursday on charges of aiding and abetting the murder of more than 11,000 prisoners at Stutthof concentration camp. She was 18 when she worked as a secretary for the camp’s SS commander in the 1940s, and she was expected to claim that she wasn’t aware of the atrocities.
However, before the trial could begin, the woman went missing.
German media reported that she was spotted leaving her Hamburg home in a taxi Thursday morning and made a beeline for a subway station. Frederike Milhoffer, a spokesperson for Itzehoe state court, said the 96-year-old “didn’t want to come” to court so decided to go “on the run.”
He said that authorities were aware that Furchner was reluctant to go to court but they didn’t expect her to flee because of her age and condition.
An arrest warrant was issued and, hours later, she was captured. A doctor is now set to examine her to decide if she’s fit enough to be jailed ahead of the rescheduled trial, according to the Associated Press. The American-born Israeli Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff told the site: “If she is healthy enough to flee, she is healthy enough to be incarcerated.”
The 96-year-old is being tried in a juvenile court because of how young she was when the alleged crimes took place in the early 1940s, but the charges against her can’t be read until she’s physically present in court. Furchner stands accused of aiding and abetting murder in 11,412 cases as well as alleged complicity in 18 other cases of attempted murder.
German prosecutors allege that, between June 1943 and April 1945, Furchner “assisted those responsible at the camp in the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war, in her role as a stenographer and secretary to the camp commander.”
Her defense was expected to argue that she wasn’t aware of the atrocities that were carried under Nazi commander Paul Werner Hoppe.
Holocaust survivors, some of whom were imprisoned at the camp where Furchner worked, were due to give evidence in court. More than 60,000 people were killed at Stutthof before it was liberated in 1945.