Trial of the former secretary of the Stutthof concentration camp begins in Germany | Analysis of events in political life and society in Germany | DW

The trial of the former employee of the office of the Nazi concentration camp Stutthof

began on 19 October 2021 in the city of Itzehoe in northern Germany. Defendant Irmgard F., 96, was taken to the courtroom from a nursing home in an ambulance. The defendant is in a wheelchair, accompanied by orderlies. In the morning there were journalists and policemen on the territory of the nursing home, who controlled every car leaving, so that the accused did not have the opportunity to escape again. Irmgard F. was supposed to appear before the court on September 30, 2021. But the hearing was postponed, since the accused did not appear at it. The court has issued a warrant for her arrest, presiding judge Dominik Groß said.

According to media reports, the woman asked the taxi driver, who was supposed to take her from the nursing home to the court, to stop the car near one of the metro stations in Hamburg and left in an unknown direction. Only in the afternoon did the police manage to detain the defendant. After a medical examination, the court decided to place Irmgard F. in a pretrial detention cell. And the beginning of the process was postponed.

Stutthof concentration camp commandant’s office

The prosecutor’s office in the German city of Itzeho accuses the defendant Irmgard F. of complicity in mass murders, or rather, in the murder of more than 11 thousand camp prisoners by helping the direct perpetrators of the crimes. From June 1943 to April 1945, the accused worked as a secretary for the commandant of the Hoppe camp.

Earlier, Irmgard F. had already appeared at another trial of Nazi criminals, but as a witness. She admitted that Commandant Hoppe dictated to her the texts of orders and other documents on a daily basis, but stressed that she knew nothing about the massacres in the immediate vicinity of her workplace.

The trials of Nazi criminals are overdue

Until the very beginning of the trial in Itsejo, it was unclear whether the defendant would be able to participate in it at all due to her advanced age. The trial was very late, many say, including those who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust themselves. This is the opinion, for example, of Abba Naor, who at the age of 16 was deported from Kaunas, where his family lived, to the Stutthof concentration camp.

Abba Naor

Abba Naor

“We weren’t taken to the concentration camp office, and I didn’t see the secretary work,” Naor says. “But if she committed a crime, why wasn’t she tried earlier?” For this reason, Naor, who now lives in Israel, refused to act as a plaintiff at the trial of Irmgard F. “Living with the thought that you have committed such a crime before people is sometimes harder than going to jail,” he says. The elderly woman should be left alone, Naor said.

But not many Holocaust survivors think so. DW is told about this by the lawyer Onur Özata, who represents the interests of several plaintiffs at the court. The decision to participate in the court is usually not made out of a sense of revenge, he notes: it is important for the majority to be in the courtroom and tell their descendants about their experiences. According to the lawyer, Holocaust witnesses often tell him: “We just don’t want these victims to be forgotten.”

What does attorney Irmgard F.

The trials of Nazi criminals, albeit belated ones, are considered correct by the defendant’s lawyer. According to Wolf Molkentin, “there is no point in regretting the lost time, the fact that many executioners have escaped responsibility – and at the same time immediately declare that the current processes are no longer worth arranging.”

According to the lawyer, he is not going to question the statements of the witnesses at the trial: “On the contrary, it is extremely important for me to create a decent framework for perpetuating and investigating the main crimes.”

Lawyer Wolf Molkentin

Wolf Molkentin

Nazi Criminals Trials Continue

The trial of Irmgard F. is far from the only trial of this kind in modern Germany. In July 2020, former Stutthof guard Bruno D., who was 93 years old at the time of sentencing, was convicted in Hamburg. And even then the question was asked: why is the SS guard being tried only now?

The fact is that in Germany, before the well-known case of the Nazi criminal Ivan Demjanjuk, it was required to irrefutably prove the personal participation of the defendants in specific crimes. Which, for obvious reasons, is not easy: there are few witnesses left, they are also elderly people, several decades have passed after the war … , each overseer was involved in the destruction of the prisoners. Based on this judicial precedent, Oskar Gröning, among others, was convicted later, in particular, of “Auschwitz accountant” in 2015. Then it was Bruno D.’s turn, and now – to Irmgard F.

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