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Germany charges Nazi camp secretary

February 5, 2021

The 95-year-old woman is accused of complicity in the murders of 10,000 people at the Nazi concentration camp Stutthof. The case is the first in several years to be brought against a female staff member.

A general view of a gas chamber at the former Nazi concentration camp Stutthof
A general view of a gas chamber at the former Nazi concentration camp StutthofImage: Getty Images/B. Adams

Prosecutors in Itzehoe announced charges against a former Nazi concentration camp secretary on Friday.

The case is a rare one for German prosecutors, who in recent years have taken a number of  former concentration camp guards and accountants to court. Secretaries and female staff members have not faced charges in years.

What did prosecutors say?

The woman is accused of "having assisted those responsible at the camp in the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war," prosecutors said in a statement.

She served as secretary to the commander of the Stutthof camp from June 1943 to April 1945, according to the statement. The camp was located near what was then known as Danzig, now Gdansk.

Wooden main gate leading into the former Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp
An estimated 65,000 people were murdered at the Stutthof concentration campImage: picture alliance/AP Images/C. Sokolowski

She is charged with "aiding and abetting murder in more than 10,000 cases" as well as being complicit in attempted murder at the camp.

German prosecutors have been investigating her case since 2016, carrying out interviews with Holocaust survivors in Israel and the United States.

What do we know about the secretary?

Although prosecutors did not identify the woman, she is reportedly 95-years-old and lives north of the city of Hamburg, according to local newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt.

In her function as a secretary to concentration camp commander Paul Werner Hoppe, prosecutors argue that she served a key role in the functioning of the Stuffhof camp.

She was previously called upon as a witness in other cases, according to an investigative report published last year by local public broadcaster NDR. 

In 1954, the former secretary testified that the commander dictated letters to her daily. She also said all of the correspondence with the SS department in charge of running the concentration camps came across her desk.

In an interview with an NDR reporter, she claimed to have only found out about the mass killings at Stuffhof after World War II ended. She told the reporter that her office window faced away from the camp.

What happens next?

As the woman was younger than 21-years-old during her time as secretary of the camp, a juvenile court will hear the case.

The court in Itzehoe will decide whether to admit the charges and open a trial against the women. 

It is not clear how long the process will take.

Germany has been racing to prosecute surviving former staff of Nazi concentration camps, as the number of witnesses and alleged perpetrators dwindles.

A 2011 case against a a former concentration camp guard set a legal precedent allowing courts to convict camp staff rather than just the officers in charge.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Danzig was in Nazi-occupied Poland. It was in fact, part of the Free City of Danzig.

rs/rt (AFP, dpa)