German justice opens the way for the trial of a former secretary of a Nazi camp

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BERLIN | Former secretary in a concentration camp, a nonagenarian now risks a trial for aiding and abetting murder before the German justice system, which has broadened, in recent years, the scope of prosecution targeting those responsible for Nazi crimes.

Now 95, she would be the first woman to appear in the most recent proceedings in Germany to try Nazi atrocities, as several men have been prosecuted.

The accused, whose identity the prosecution has not revealed, would nevertheless be tried before a special juvenile court because she was still a teenager at the time of the facts.

The indictment charges him with “complicity in murder in more than 10,000 cases.” In other cases, she is prosecuted for complicity in attempted murder, ”writes the Itzehoe prosecutor’s office (north-western Germany) in a press release.

The prosecution accuses him of having between June 1943 and April 1945 “provided assistance to those responsible for the systematic massacre of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Russian Soviet prisoners of war in his function as stenographer and secretary to the commander of the former Stutthof concentration camp ”, located 40 km from the city of Gdansk, now in Poland.

Potentially “fit” to be judged

In this camp, the first to be established outside Germany, some 65,000 people, mainly Jews from the Baltic countries and Poland, died, shot in the back of the neck, gassed with Zyklon B, hanged, when they did not. have not succumbed to cold, epidemics and forced labor.

However, the holding of a trial is not yet certain: the courts must first decide whether, because of her great age, the former employee of the camp is fit to be brought before a court.

Questioned by AFP, the public prosecutor currently assumes that she is “fit to be tried”.

The investigations in this file were “very long” with questioning of witnesses in the United States and in Israel in particular, specified the spokesman of the public prosecutor’s office Peter Müller-Rakow.

The “central legal question” of the procedure will be the question of the “concrete responsibility” of the accused for complicity in the murders with which she is accused. This can only be clarified “during the hearing of witnesses” in court, he added.

Late justice

According to German media, a dozen judicial investigations relating to Nazi crimes are underway in the country.

The NDR channel had mentioned in 2019 the case of Irmgard F., former personal secretary of a commander of the Stutthof camp and who now lives in a retirement home north of Hamburg.

Another file concerns a former SS guard of the same camp, also 95 years old. He was indicted last July for complicity in murder in several hundred cases. His ability to appear is again being assessed and no trial date has been set.

In recent years, Germany has tried and condemned several former SS and extended to camp guards the charge of complicity in murder, illustrating the increased severity, although deemed very late by the victims, of its justice.

In July 2020, the Hamburg court sentenced Bruno Dey, a 93-year-old former concentration camp guard, to two years in prison for complicity in 5,232 murders and attempted murders in Stutthof.

The most emblematic case was the sentencing to five years in prison of the former guard of the Sobibor extermination camp, John Demjanjuk in 2011.

As controversial as this late justice is, it allows “to give a voice to the victims, to their families, and to bring the facts back into the public consciousness”, explained to AFP, during a previous procedure, the lawyer Andrej Umansky, author of a book on the Shoah in the East.

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