A secretary at a Nazi concentration camp has been charged with complicity in the murders of 10,000 people during the Holocaust, German prosecutors said today.
The 95-year-old woman was a stenographer and a secretary to the commandant of Stutthof concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Identified by German media as Irmgard F, she is accused of having ‘assisted’ her superiors in the systematic killings of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet prisoners of war between 1943 and 1945.
It is the first such case in years against a female staff member, as authorities race to bring the last surviving suspects to justice 76 years after the end of World War II.
A secretary at the former Stutthof concentration camp, pictured in 2016, has been charged with complicity in the murders of 10,000 people during the Holocaust
The woman, who lives in a retirement home and is thought to be healthy enough to stand trial, will face a juvenile court because she was a minor at the time of the Holocaust.
She is charged with ‘aiding and abetting murder in more than 10,000 cases’ as well as complicity in attempted murder, said prosecutors in the city of Itzehoe.
In a previous interview with NDR, she claimed she had never actually set foot in the camp itself and insisted she had only learned about the atrocities after the war.
Her boss, SS officer Paul Werner Hoppe, was convicted for his role at the camp and sentenced to nine years in prison by a West German court in 1957. He died in 1974.
The secretary worked for Nazi commandant Paul Werner Hoppe (pictured), who was convicted by a West German court in 1957 and died in 1974
In evidence during that investigation, given nearly 70 years ago, the woman acknowledged working for Hoppe but said she knew nothing of the gas chambers.
She also claimed at the time that she was aware of executions taking place but thought they were a punishment for specific crimes, rather than the systematic genocide they really were.
But today’s prosecutors say they will lay out evidence of her ‘concrete responsibility for the functioning of the camp’.
The Stutthof camp was established in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, and enlarged in 1943 with a new camp surrounded by electrified barbed-wire fences.
As many as 100,000 people would eventually be deported there, some of them moved from other camps abandoned by the Nazis in the later stages of the war.
In addition to gas chambers and lethal injections, many prisoners died of disease in the camp’s horrific conditions under the supervision of the SS.
Around 60,000 people are thought to have died in the camp, while another 25,000 perished while evacuating in the chaotic final weeks of the Third Reich.
Finally liberated by Soviet forces in May 1945, the camp is now once again within Poland’s borders, with the town going by the Polish name of Sztutowo.
Last year, another Stutthof operative was tried and convicted at the age of 93 for helping to murder 5,322 prisoners in the final months of the war.
Bruno Dey admitted being an SS guard but had claimed that his presence at the camp did not amount to guilt.
Last year 93-year-old Bruno Dey, pictured, was convicted for his part in the Holocaust after serving as an SS guard at Stutthof
Having been a teenager when those events took place, he was tried in a youth court and was eventually given a suspended two-year prison sentence.
Another former Stutthof guard was put on trial in 2018, but his trial was later stopped because his heart problems meant he was not fit to stand trial.
The 95-year-old man claimed that he was never a Nazi and felt ashamed to be at the camp, but admitted he had never voiced any criticism of his superiors.
Prosecutors have launched a number of other cases in recent years as time runs out to convict any Nazi perpetrators who have evaded justice until now.
A landmark case in 2011 established that those who worked in the Nazi concentration camps could be found guilty as accessories to murder even if it could not be proved that they directly took part in killings.
Among those who were brought to late justice were Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp.
Both were convicted of complicity in mass murder at the age of 94 but died before they could be imprisoned.
A poll in January 2020 found 76 per cent of Germans agreeing with the statement that surviving Nazi war criminals should be put on trial even now.
In the same survey, 77 per cent agreed that Germany has a responsibility to make sure that the history of the Holocaust and Nazi dictatorship are never forgotten.
But 53 per cent also agreed with the statement that it was time for Germany to ‘draw a line’ under its Nazi past.