German prosecutors have filed charges against a 95-year-old woman who they say helped carry out “the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners,” along with Polish partisans and Russian prisoners of war.
The woman, who testified against the Nazi camp’s commandant in the 1950s and was the subject of an investigation since at least 2016, was charged with 10,000 counts of accessory to murder and an unspecified number of counts of accessory to attempted murder.
In a twist, the case is being handled by a juvenile court because the woman was under 21 when she worked as a secretary at the Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk on Poland’s Baltic coast, NPR reported.
The woman was not named, but Senior Public Prosecutor Peter Müller-Rakow used the term “Heranwachsenden” to refer to her. German law uses the term to refer to someone between 18 and 21 years old.
She would have been 18 or 19 when she started working at the Nazi camp in June 1943. She was a close aide to the SS commandant there until April 1945. The camp was one that used Zyklon B gas chambers to exterminate prisoners. More than 60,000 people were killed there.
In an interview with a German public broadcaster in late 2019, the woman, who was identified as “Irmgard F.,” said she has repeatedly given witness accounts to authorities about what she saw and did at the Stutthof camp. She claimed that she wasn’t aware of mass poisonings or other acts of genocide — in part because her office window faced outward from the camp, NPR reported. She said she never set foot in the camp itself, according to The Associated Press.
In 1957, Stutthof’s commandant Paul-Werner Hoppe was sentenced to nine years in prison. He died in 1974. In the interview, Irmgard F said she testified at his trial that all Hoppe’s correspondence with higher SS administration had gone past her desk and that the commandant had dictated her letters daily, the AP reported. She said she did not know of prisoners being gassed, but told authorities at the time she was aware Hoppe had ordered executions, which she presumed were as punishment for infractions.
Last year, Bruno Dey, a 93-year-old former guard at the Stutthof camp, was convicted of being an accessory in the murder of more than 5,200 prisoners — but got off with a two-year suspended prison sentence. Among the witnesses at his trial was then 91-year-old Asia Shindelman, who survived the camp and eventually settled in Wayne, NJ.
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