A Lesson for War Crimes Committed in Hawai‘i: Last Year a German Court has Convicted a 97-year-old Ex-Secretary at Nazi Camp

December 20, 2022
Associated Press

Irmgard Furchner sits in the courtroom at the beginning of the trial day in Itzehoe, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Christian Charisius/AP

BERLIN (AP) — A German court on Tuesday convicted a 97-year-old woman of being an accessory to more than 10,000 murders for her role as a secretary to the SS commander of the Nazis’ Stutthof concentration camp during World War II.

Irmgard Furchner was accused of being part of the apparatus that helped the camp near Danzig, now the Polish city of Gdansk, function. The Itzehoe state court in northern Germany gave her a two-year suspended sentence for being an accessory to murder in 10,505 cases and an accessory to attempted murder in five cases.

The court said judges were convinced that Furchner “knew and, through her work as a stenographer in the commandant’s office of the Stutthof concentration camp from June 1, 1943, to April 1, 1945, deliberately supported the fact that 10,505 prisoners were cruelly killed by gassings, by hostile conditions in the camp,” by transportation to the Auschwitz death camp and by being sent on death marches at the end of the war.

“The promotion of these acts by the accused took place through the completion of paperwork” in the camp commander’s office, a court statement said. “This activity was necessary for the organization of the camp and the execution of the cruel, systematic acts of killing.”

The verdict and sentence were in line with prosecutors’ demands. Defense lawyers had asked for their client to be acquitted, arguing that the evidence hadn’t shown beyond doubt that Furchner knew about the systematic killings at the camp, meaning there was no proof of intent as required for criminal liability.

In her closing statement, Furchner said she was sorry for what had happened and regretted that she had been at Stutthof at the time.

Furchner appeared to follow the verdict attentively but didn’t show any obvious emotion. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she would appeal, though lawyer Wolf Molkentin said the defense team thinks the case presents “insurmountable doubts” as to her guilt.

But presiding Judge Dominik Gross said it was “simply beyond all imagination” that Furchner didn’t notice the killings at Stutthof, German news agency dpa reported. He said she could see from her office the collection point where new prisoners had to wait after arrival, and the crematorium was in constant use in the fall of 1944, with smoke spreading across the camp.

Furchner was tried in juvenile court because she was 18 and 19 at the time of the alleged crimes and the court couldn’t establish beyond a doubt her “maturity of mind” at the time of the alleged offenses. Gross nonetheless noted Tuesday that she could have resigned from her position at any time.

Furchner failed to appear for the start of her trial in September 2021, but police later picked her up and she was placed in detention for several days.

Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that “today’s verdict is the best that could be achieved, given the fact that she was tried in a juvenile court.”

“In view of Furchner’s recent statement to the court that she ‘regretted everything,’ we were concerned that the court might accept her defense attorney’s plea for an acquittal,” Zuroff said in a statement. “Yet given her claim that she had no knowledge of the murders being committed in the camp, her regret was far from convincing.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said of the verdict that “it shows that it’s never too late to ensure that there was some accountability for crimes committed of such horrific nature.”

Prosecutors in Itzehoe said during the proceedings that Furchner’s trial may be the last of its kind. However, a special federal prosecutors’ office in Ludwigsburg tasked with investigating Nazi-era war crimes says prosecutors in various parts of Germany have five more cases pending, dpa reported.

Charges of murder and accessory to murder aren’t subject to a statute of limitations.

Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles removed from Danzig, Stutthof was later used as a so-called “work education camp” where forced laborers, primarily Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve sentences and often died.

From mid-1944, tens of thousands of Jews from ghettos in the Baltics and from Auschwitz filled the camp, along with thousands of Polish civilians swept up in the brutal Nazi suppression of the Warsaw uprising.

Others incarcerated there included political prisoners, accused criminals, people suspected of homosexual activity and Jehovah’s Witnesses. More than 60,000 people were killed at the camp.

6 thoughts on “A Lesson for War Crimes Committed in Hawai‘i: Last Year a German Court has Convicted a 97-year-old Ex-Secretary at Nazi Camp

  1. I have a question. What does this have to do with The Kingdom of Hawaii. Germany wasn’t a kingdom. The Jewish people were not Hawaiians. We have to settle going on with the Kingdom of Hawaii versus America. And tell you one thing Hawaiians better receive their billions of money soon because we’re getting very restless.

    • Kingdom or not, international law will reach any war criminal at anytime and that is the point….the long arm of international law. It is not a matter of forms of government as all forms of government are subject to international law. As a realist, states are primary actors. In other words, just because Germany is not a Kingdom doesn’t mean that they are not subject to penalties for violating international law during WWII. Thus there are still German citizens being prosecuted for war crimes today. The same would apply to the US regarding the Hawaiian Kingdom.
      There were numerous war crimes committed in the Hawaiian Islands since 1893 until today evidenced by Hawaiian Kingdom v Biden. The fact is purported that US citizens can be prosecuted for war crimes regarding Hawaiian Kingdom.

    • The novation of the Hawaiian nation is the problem. We must return to the private, exit the public. Our dependence or want for privileges and benefits in this Federal system is the problem. Seems we cannot even execute our rights because we don’t know them so they’re simply unattainable or too difficult to comprehend or act upon. Some think this is not at all an issue with our problem when really it is the root of our problem. The legal obligation we have as heirs is to renounce the Americanization of our Hawaiian national identity upon which our Hawaiian civil and political rights, so cherished by our ancestors were reserved for a future Hawaiian Kingdom state.
      We as the heirs of the Hawaiian Kingdom nation must stop using Federal franchises in order to trade and exchange in commerce with the US and State of Hawaii, the successors of usurpers and war criminals and operate in our own domain together. We must also understand that the American people are also sovereign per Chisholm v Georgia. With a better understanding we’ll learn that we are not the victims at all. Indeed we are not the ones directly impacted however we are the ones directly benefitting from hindsight or history. Thus we must make better use of the valuable position and opportunity we have to demand from Congress our Hawaiian territory and self government.
      Hawaiians need to stop playing in the sandbox with state and federal regulations and start living like a real nation conscious of their status and standing in this new world order.

  2. I’m starting to wonder what good International Law is when so few in the International community are willing to stand up and say something against “the powerhouse” countries when they violate international law. Should we assume they don’t know? That’s hard to believe with all the work Dr. Sai puts in to spreading the word & opening peoples eyes. Can countries who WERE informed, but did nothing, be charged with crimes? Isn’t it a legal obligation of the UN’s to do something? Should we be writing the UN or whoever and asking them to look into it like Ruth Bolomet did?

    • Aloha P., I hear what you are saying and it’s a legitimate concern regarding when the international community will abide by their legal responsibilities under the U.N. charter or their national laws. The only manao I can share for your concern is that there are no statutes of limitations for these crimes and the perpetrators will eventually be prosecuted. Maybe there are organizations out there that will review war crimes and make recommendations for investigation and prosecution to international venues. That could be an avenue to get things started. What I have witnessed recently, is the timing for such prosecutions and the willingness for the prosecutions depends on who controls the system. For example, under Trump, the U.S. sanctioned the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, over her investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, had also been blacklisted under sanctions. This allowed for travel bans and asset freezes of these individuals. Others would be subjected to the same if they attempted any further investigations. Needless to say, all investigations stopped even though there were a lot of incriminating evidence of war crimes. Individuals, states or any other venue will be reluctant to investigate the U.S. as long as it has the power to sanction.
      That power will come to an end when the alternate system set up by BRICS to bypass the U.S. system goes online. Definitely not until Russia wins the special military operation in Ukraine this summer or fall and probably not until a war lead by the U.S. in Taiwan against China comes to a conclusion. All these wars are being led by the U.S. to derail BRICS to keep the U.S. system and sanctioning power in place. MHO

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