96 Year Old Runs Away from Trial for Nazi War Crimes


US National Archive & DVIDS

German war criminal being tried at Nuremberg.

On September 30, a 96-year-old German woman, Irmgard Furchner, was arrested by the police after she ran away from her court hearing. She was accused of aiding in the murders of about 11,412 Jews at the Stutthof concentration camp from 1943 to 1945. 

At the time of her offenses, she was 18 years old and worked as a typist in the commanders’ office. Because she was only a minor at the time of her crimes, she is currently on trial in Juvenile Court.

Irmgard Furchner was charged in February after being under investigation for five years because of her job as a secretary under the Stutthof Commander. This investigation was part of a decade-long effort by German prosecutors to hold low-ranking people accountable for their actions during the Nazi Era.

Irmgard Furchner asked to be tried in absentia, which is not allowed according to German Laws. She was classified as being physically capable of standing trial for an entire session, but the court had decided that because of her elderly age, she wouldn’t be able to sit through the whole session. As a result, they decided to hold shorter sessions for her. She was warned about legal consequences if she did not appear at the trial, but she skipped anyway. Because she missed the hearing, it was rescheduled for October 19, 2021.

The hearing was moved to a local warehouse to fit more people because of the media’s interest the case was receiving. Once the judge realized she was missing, the judge told the police that she was not at the trial. She was later detained that day, 38 miles away, after escaping in a taxi in the suburbs of Hamburg, Germany.

The Stutthof Concentration camp where Ms. Furchner previously worked was established in 1939 and had been a prison for about 110,000 people. It was first created after the invasion of Poland to be used as a prison for Polish leaders. Around 65,000 people were killed due to horrible conditions and brutality. Among the 65,000, about 28,000 were Jewish prisoners. Stutthof was the first concentration camp created outside of German borders, and it was the last taken by the allies during World War 2. The camp was mostly destroyed and dismantled after World War Two, but the remains of the camp are now part of the Stutthof museum.