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Judges release ex-Nazi camp secretary who skipped accessory to murder trial

Two lawmakers stand next to an empty seat of the accused at the courtroom, prior to a trial against a 96-year-old former secretary for the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp at the court in Itzehoe, Germany, Thursday, September 30, 2021 (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool) 
Associated Press Reporters

A 96-year-old former secretary for the Stutthof concentration camp’s SS commander has been released from detention, five days after she was taken into custody for skipping the start of her trial in northern Germany.

The German woman was picked up by police on Thursday, a few hours after leaving her home in Hamburg in a taxi on the morning her trial was due to start on more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder.

The state court in Itzehoe ordered her detained. She appealed and appeared in court again on Tuesday.

A statement from the court said that judges suspended the arrest warrant and released her, ordering unspecified “safeguards”.

The next court session is scheduled for October 19, when the indictment is due to be read. That could not be done last week in the defendant’s absence.

Prosecutors say the woman was part of the apparatus that helped the Nazi camp in occupied Poland function during the Second World War more than 75 years ago.

The court has said she allegedly “aided and abetted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant’s office”.

Despite her age, the woman is being tried in juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes.

German media have identified her as Irmgard Furchner.

A court spokeswoman said after she skipped the trial opening last week that the defendant had previously “announced that she didn’t want to come” to court, but that did not provide sufficient grounds for detaining her ahead of the trial.

Given the woman’s age and condition, she had not been expected “actively to evade the trial”.

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