A former secretary at a Nazi concentration camp has been charged by German prosecutors of complicity in several thousand deaths, opening the path towards a future trial.
It is believed to be the first time for several years that a woman has been charged in relation to wartime Nazi atrocities, while several men have been pursued by the authorities.
“The charge sheet incriminates the accused, who was an adolescent at the time, with complicity to murder in several thousand cases,” said the statement from prosecutors in Itzehoe, northwestern Germany.
“In other cases, she is charged with complicity in attempted murder.”
The justice ministry accuses the woman — who would now be more than 90 years old — of crimes committed between June 1943 and April 1945 at the former Nazi death camp at Stutthof, about 40 kilometres from Gdansk.
She is said to have “given assistance to those responsible for the systematic massacre of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Russian Soviet prisoners of war in her post of stenographer and secretary to the camp commander”, according to the authorities.
Because some prisoners survived their ordeal in the camp, some acts should be legally considered attempted murder, prosecutors say.
Because of the woman’s young age at the time, she would eventually be tried before a special juvenile court. However, it is not certain that the case will go ahead: the justice system must first decide whether, because of her advanced age, she is fit to face trial.
Neither the name nor the age of the accused has been officially divulged.
In 2019, the regional broadcaster NDR claimed there were 29 active cases in Germany concerning Nazi war crimes. Among them was a 94-year-old woman identified as Irmgard F, a former personal secretary to the commander of the Stutthof camp and who today lives in a retirement home north of Hamburg.
In recent years, Germany has tried and convicted several former SS members and has widened its investigations to include camp guards accused of complicity to murder — moves designed to illustrate severity on the part of the justice system but which have been criticised as belated by wartime victims.
In July 2020, a court in Hamburg handed down a two-year suspended prison sentence to Bruno Dey, a 93-year-old concentration camp guard, for complicity in thousands of murders at Stutthof.