Monday, October 18

Irmgard Furchner: from secretary to alleged Nazi beast accused of collaborating in the deaths of 11,000 people

On Stutthof, the prisoners received the kiss of death without having prepared the coins for Charon. As the historian explains Stefan Hoerdler on ‘Order and inferno‘, a real little theater was formed before ending his life in this Nazi concentration camp located in Danzig. An SS man disguised as a doctor received the inmates, asked their name and invited them to stick their backs to the wall to take measurements. When the victim was ready, a rifle tip emerged from a concealed hatch and, a few seconds later, the bullet as well. The body was then transported to the crematorium.

with the lives of tens of thousands of people in Stutthof for three years. More than 60,000, according to the ‘United States Holocaust Memorial Museum‘. “The corpses came and went all over the compound. There was death there, but also slave labor and barbarism. In 1943 the field was included in the Final solution, which implies that it was used to murder Jews en masse “, explains to ABC Mónica G. Álvarez, author of several works on the Third Reich like ‘Night and fog in the Nazi camps’. Nevertheless, Irmgard Furchner, the one who was stenographer of the commander of the center between 1943 and 1945, has always maintained that she had nothing to do with that despite the fact that she saw the entire enclave from the window of her office.

In those days Furchner was a brown girl with dark eyes and high cheekbones. A young woman born a May 29, 1925 in Kalthof who had been drawn to National Socialism forever. Her studies as a salesperson had little to do with the work she did, but the truth is that she had been endorsed for as many years as a typist at Dresdner Bank. Stutthof was key in his professional and personal life. So much so that he married the ‘SS-Oberscharführer’ Heinz fearful, 19 years older than her and a co-worker.

After the fall of Hitler, the couple escaped and hid their past. He, for his part, adopted the surname Furchner to elude Allied justice. Shielded by anonymity, they managed to acquire an apartment in a building for civil servants in Schleswig. They were there from 1960 to 1972, when Heinz passed away. Years later, in 2014, the German moved to the nursing home where she still resides. Since then, he has alleged all kinds of health problems to avoid a serious accusation: that of having been an accessory to the deaths of more than 11,000 people.


This Thursday was the time to prove his innocence in court. He had to leave the nursing home where he resided to face his past and defend himself. It was a more symbolic than practical process due to his advanced age –96 years old–, but key to sealing wounds. More, when we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Nuremberg Trials. But the special court for young people in the German city of Itzehoe – Furchner was 18 years old when he was in Stutthof – will have to wait a little longer, as the defendant decided to delay the entire process with a frustrated escape by taxi.

After this escape in style Benny Hill – frustrated hours later – the question is clear: can justice be served more than seven decades later? Ricardo Ruíz de la Serna, Professor of Law at CEU San Pablo University, is clear that yes. At least from a legal point of view. «War crimes and crimes against humanity do not prescribe and can be prosecuted. In addition, the court has considered that he is in good condition to face the process. Finally, she is accused of being an accomplice. That is to say, what is being decided is whether their work influenced the death of those people, ”he reveals. And boy, could it be related.

In his words, the accusation should not be taken lightly: «The bureaucratic techniques, the lists, the files … These documents played a fundamental role in the Holocaust. The entire bureaucratic apparatus was put at the service of destruction. Hence the role of a stenographer was so relevant. The old woman’s lawyer, for his part, claims that the officers dictated the missives in a coded form, which made it impossible for him to know what the hell was going on. The process is still open and, given what has been seen, it will bring a tail.

More intrigues

To be more specific, the prosecutor Maxi Wantzen accuses the old woman of acting as an accessory in the murder of 11,412 people. The lawyer is based on a 180-page expert report that, according to the newspaper ‘Der Spiegel’, demonstrates the role she played as a key piece in the operation of Stutthof. For her part, Furchner has repeatedly stated through her lawyer that working as a typist had nothing to do with the systematic killings of prisoners: “Those responsible used coded terms in the letters that she could not know.”

What is clear is that the German government followed Furchner’s trail after the war. This is demonstrated by the fact that his name appeared in a report along with many other secretaries related in some way to the Third Reich. It is also true that, in the words of ‘Der Spiegel’, the typist maintained relations with former members of the SS after having escaped.

Whether or not the Nazi death machine was greased with the letters she wrote, it is also clear that the typist knew by heart the outrages perpetrated at Stutthof. Most of them, compiled by the ‘United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’: “The conditions were brutal. Many prisoners died in typhus epidemics which ravaged the countryside in the winter of 1942 and again in 1944. Those whom the SS guards deemed too weak or ill to work were gassed in the small gas chamber there. The gassing began in June 1944. The camp doctors also killed sick or wounded prisoners in the infirmary with lethal injections.

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