Irmgard Furchner, 96, sat in court bound to the chair with her face largely obscured by a face mask and sunglasses. She is standing trial for her position as secretary to an SS commander at Stutthof concentration camp in the final years of World War 2 when she was 18 years old. She is accused of complicity in the murder of more than 11,000 people at the camp, which was approximately 30 miles east of Danzig, Poland, between 1943 and 1945.
According to the Ludwigsburg office responsible for investigating Nazi crimes, approximately 65,000 people died in the Stutthof concentration camp, its sub-camps, and on death marches.
She is the first woman to stand trial over Nazi-related crimes for many decades in Germany, and it is thought she could be one of the very last to face a courtroom over activities under the Nazis.
Ms Furchner will be tried in an adolescent court in northern Germany, as she was within this age bracket at the time of the alleged crimes.
The prosecution said in court that during Ms Furchner’s time at the camp, she took dictation for SS commander Paul Werner Hoppe.
In court, the prosecutor detailed how on July 22, 1944, SS Obersturmbahnführer Paul Maurer authorised a transfer of Stutthof prisoners to Auschwitz, where they would be killed.
Four days later, these prisoners’ names were written down at the Stutthof commandant’s office, before Hoppe confirmed by radio that transport was on the way.
This message, the prosecution claimed, must have been written by Furchner.
Ms Furchner had previously claimed in an interview with German broadcaster NDR that she only learned of the atrocities of Stutthof camp after the war was over.
She was apprehended by authorities after several hours in Hamburg, before being released from custody five days later.
Court spokesperson, Frederike Millhoffer, stated that it was “assured that [Furchner] will appear at the next appointment.”
More than 50 journalists and spectators, as well as 12 representatives of the 30 co-plaintiffs, had gathered at the court for the trial to start on 30 September.
In September, Ms Furchner wrote to the court to request that she would be tried in absentia.
She detailed: “Due to my age and physical limitations I will not attend the court dates and ask the defence attorney to represent me.”
She was, however, required to be physically present in the courtroom, and cannot stand trial in absentia.
The trial was programmed to begin one day before the 75th anniversary of the sentencing of 12 senior Nazis at the first Nuremberg trial.
Her planned trial followed the conviction of “Bruno D.”, 93, who was convicted last year over his role at Stutthof concentration camp.
He was also tried in a juvenile court due to his age at the time he worked as a security guard at Stutthof.
He was convicted of abetting the murder of 5,230 people at the Hamburg district court in 2020.