A district court in Germany had issued an arrest warrant for a 96-year-old woman who was due to go on trial on Thursday on charges of complicity in thousands of murders at the Stutthof concentration camp during World War II, court officials say.
Irmgard F. was arrested by police after a warrant was issued for her to be brought before the regional court in the Schleswig-Holstein town of Itzehoe, where she was standing trial.
The court had already adjourned proceedings until October 19.
The woman, who prosecutors say worked as a secretary at the camp from 1943 to 1945, left the elderly care home she is living in on Thursday morning by taxi and went to an underground station, a spokeswoman for the Itzehoe district court said. Her whereabouts were unknown for several hours.
Justice system under fire
The International Auschwitz Committee, a body founded by survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp to support former inmates and their families, said it was outraged by the woman's flight.
"It shows an incredible contempt for the rule of law and for the survivors, too," said Christoph Heubner, the executive president of the committee.
Heubner also criticized the fact that the woman had been able to flee at all.
"[Authorities] should have reckoned with an escape and put the care home under guard and brought the accused to the trial," he said, adding that the situation was not worthy of Germany.
The lawyer representing the co-plaintiffs told DW that the attempts to evade trial were "outrageous."
"It makes clear that she aims to make a mockery of our system of justice and does not feel bound by the law here in Germany," Onur Ozata said.
A war crimes suspect
The woman has been charged with complicity in the murder of more than 11,000 people, and attempted murder in several more cases.
Her trial, if it takes place, might well be the last trial for Nazi crimes in Germany. It is due to take place in a juvenile court, as the woman was aged just 18 and 19 at the time of the alleged crimes.
Some 65,000 people, many of them Jews, died at the Stutthof camp. Many prisoners died of malnourishment and illness, but the camp was also equipped with gas chambers and other murderous devices.
tj/rt (dpa, epd, AFP)
The previous photo caption for this article had placed the Stutthof death camp "in Nazi-occupied Poland." The camp was, in fact, located on the territory of the Free City of Danzig, which was annexed by Germany and is now the Polish city of Gdansk. DW regrets the error.