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A former Nazi concentration camp typist known as the “Secretary of Evil” has been convicted by a German court for her role in more than 10,000 murders during the Holocaust.
Irmgard Furchner, 97, was found guilty on Tuesday of complicity in the deaths of 10,505 people at Stutthof, the internment camp near Gdansk, Poland, where she served as a typist and stenographer from 1943 through 1945, BBC reported.
Furchner, who was tried as a juvenile because she was under 21 when she worked at the camp, was sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term.
Although Furchner’s lawyers repeatedly denied she had knowledge of the Nazi regime’s atrocities, Judge Dominik Gross at Itzehoe Regional Court in northern Germany ruled that she was aware of the camp’s murderous intentions.
After several months of judicial proceedings that were initially delayed by her attempt to escape in September 2021, Furchner broke her silence on her time at Stutthof earlier this month.
“I’m sorry for everything that happened,” she told the court, her face largely obscured by a mask and sunglasses. “I regret that I was at Stutthof at that time.”
The first Nazi camp built outside Germany, Stutthof opened in 1939. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, most inmates were non-Jewish Poles, though there were also several thousand Jewish prisoners from Warsaw and Bialystok.
More than 60,000 people died at the camp before it was liberated by the Allies on May 9, 1945.
During her time as a secretary, Furchner worked closely with Stutthof’s commandant, Paul-Werner Hoppe, who served a prison stint as an accessory to murder in the late 1950s. Historian Stefan Hördler previously testified that Hoppe’s office was the “nerve center” for the camp’s evils.
Hördler and two judges visited Stutthof twice during the proceedings, during which it became clear that Furchner would have seen the deplorable conditions from the commandant’s office.
The official findings were bolstered by testimonies from Stutthof survivors, now also in their 80s and 90s.
“If she worked as the commander’s secretary, then she knew exactly what happened,” Risa Silbert, 93, told the court in August.
Josef Salmonovic, 84, whose father was killed at Stutthof, also traveled from Vienna to testify. Last December, he told reporters that Furchner was “indirectly guilty.”
“[She is guilty] even if she just sat in the office and put her stamp on my father’s death certificate,” he said.
After Tuesday’s verdict, survivor Manfred Goldberg lamented that the two-year suspended sentence seemed like a feeble punishment.
“No one in their right mind would send a 97-year-old to prison, but the sentence should reflect the severity of the crimes,” he told BBC.
“If a shoplifter is sentenced to two years, how can it be that someone convicted for complicity in 10,000 murders is given the same sentence?”
In his address to the court, the judge said Furchner’s trial would be “one of the worldwide last criminal trials related to crimes of the Nazi era.”
The latest in a smattering of similar cases that worked their way through the German courts in recent years, Furchner’s conviction comes during an especially fraught time, as the US sees a growing rash of anti-Semitic violence and vitriol.
Last week, the entrance to Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., was vandalized with the words “Jews not wanted.” A Jewish man was also shoved and called anti-Semitic slurs by an unidentified attacker in Central Park yelling “Kanye [West] 2024.” The rapper infamously made headlines this fall for a series of anti-Jewish diatribes.