In the Stutthof camp near Danzig, the SS held more than a hundred thousand people under appalling conditions during World War II, many of them Jews. According to historians, about 65,000 died. The exact number can no longer be determined.
As a camp, Stutthof was notorious for completely inadequate care for the prisoners, which was deliberately brought about by those responsible for the purpose of killing. Most people died of hunger, thirst, epidemics and the hardest slave labor. But there were also gas chambers and a shooting facility in the neck, in which prisoners who were ill and no longer fit for forced labor were systematically and deliberately killed.
According to the indictment, F. worked as a civilian employee in the administration of the camp from June 1943 to April 1945, where she worked as a shorthand typist directly for the commandant in a central position. Since she was between 18 and 19 years old at the time, the proceedings against her are taking place before a juvenile chamber. Wantzen called it a procedure "of outstanding historical importance" on Tuesday. The trial will continue next Tuesday with the pleadings of the co-plaintiffs.
The accused had held a "key position" in the Stutthof camp administration and, as a shorthand typist for the commandants, was "consistently of essential importance" for the functioning of the inhumane camp operations, said Wantzen in her plea. The murders there were not possible without a smoothly working bureaucratic system in the background. F. enjoyed the commander's trust and dealt with documents of all secrecy.
For the public prosecutor it is clear that the accused "approved" the mass murders that took place in Stutthof during her almost two years of service and promoted them through her activities, the prosecutor continued. The question of an appropriate individual punishment for someone who took part in an "unprecedented crime" well over 70 years ago at the age of just 18 is difficult to answer, said Wantzen.
At the same time, processes like this are "still important today," emphasized the prosecutor. They led "into a time of atrocities beyond what can be imagined". In particular, she recalled the statements made by the survivors of Stutthof, who are taking part in the proceedings as joint plaintiffs and who reported on the horror in Stutthof. "They feel obligated, even if it means bringing out their pain over and over again."
The proceedings against F. began a little over a year ago and are one of several Nazi trials that have been conducted against former members of the guards or camp administration of German concentration and extermination camps in recent years. Several men over the age of 90 were sentenced to several years in prison. However, the Itzehoer process is the first with a suspect.
The background is a changed legal view of aiding and abetting mass murder in Nazi death camps. For decades, ordinary members of security guards were generally not prosecuted for their activities. In the meantime, however, the view has prevailed that every activity within the framework of the organization of an extermination camp can be counted as a contribution to the murders committed there. Direct participation in killings is not necessary.