Yesterday, a court in Germany convicted 97-year-old Irmgard Furchner and she received a two-year suspended sentence. Most of you will have heard of it. What you possibly didn’t hear is that after the war she married Heinz Furchtsam, a SS officer who also had worked in Stutthof. For reasons unknown to me, he changed his last name to Furchner. Maybe it is because he didn’t want to scare people, Furchtsam translates to scary.
Irmgard Furchner worked as a stenographer and typist at the Stutthof camp near Gdansk, from 1943 until the end of the Nazi regime in 1945. She was tried in a special juvenile court owing to her age at the time of the crimes.
At the age of 18, she began working as a typist in the Nazi death camp. Previously she had worked as a shorthand typist at the Dresdner Bank in Marienburg. In the Stutthof concentration camp, she earned a good living, while prisoners starved, died of exhaustion and abuse and were gassed or shot.
The court at Itzehoe in northern Germany heard from survivors of the camp, some of whom died during the trial.
One survivor told reporters that Furchner’s distance from the killings did not absolve her from being an accessory to the crimes. Josef Salomonovic said: “She’s indirectly guilty….even if she just sat in the office and put her stamp on my father’s death certificate.”
In their charge sheet, prosecutors state that Furchner between June 1943 and April 1945 “assisted those responsible at the camp in the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war, in her role as a stenographer and secretary to the camp commander”.
I know that some people will say “What’s the point of prosecuting people in their 90s?” That is easy to say for those who didn’t lose loved ones during the Holocaust or have been victims themselves. Justice should not be bound by the constraints of time.