Nazi trial in Itzehoe: plaintiffs criticize judges – politics


You experienced the horror. They want to tell about it in this courtroom as soon as they can. Josef Salomonovic came to the Stutthof concentration camp in 1944, where Irmgard F., then Irmgard D., served as secretary. He was six years old and his father was murdered with a benzene syringe in the heart. Henri Zajdenwergier saw prisoners being hanged during the most severe forced labor. He is the only French Jew from the camp still alive. Or the woman who could tell about the bodies on the death march. “These witnesses are available,” says her lawyer Christoph Rückel, who briefly presents excerpts from their testimonies. But when is the turn of the witnesses themselves?

Tuesday, day four in the trial against Irmgard F., 96, the Itzehoe regional court in Schleswig-Holstein met in a factory hall. Strictly speaking, it is day three, because the senior citizen had fled for a few hours before the first appointment at the end of September, after which the start had to be postponed by a week. The woman is accused of complicity in murder in more than 11,000 cases. From 1943 to 1945 she worked as a typist for the camp commandant Paul Werner Hoppe. There is so much to talk about in this case, but it all takes an awfully long time. The public prosecutor also thinks it is “a great pity that we are not getting anywhere in this process”.

Arrival and statement require preparation

The investigations dragged on for more than four years, now the meetings are being torn apart again and again. The presiding judge Dominik Groß manages it in a subtle and bureaucratic manner, something that not only representatives of the co-plaintiffs consider inappropriate. Lawyer Rückel suggests giving preference to the statements of those affected. “These witnesses are contemporary witnesses,” he reminds the Itzeho district court, “all of them of advanced age.” This could be your last chance to portray the horror in court. There will be no more Nazi trials anyway.

Two of his five clients could come and one could talk via video, says Rückel. Two others are no longer in a position, the German judiciary has lost many years. So far it is unclear when and how who will have a say in the trial against Irmgard F. Such appearances of old and traumatized people from sometimes distant countries require preparation. The court has also not yet decided on an application to visit the Stutthof concentration camp memorial in Poland.

The victim attorney Hans-Jürgen Förster recognizes “no sovereign conduct of negotiations, as would be necessary for a procedure with this content”. This is contemporary history, this time pupils sit among the audience alongside reporters and other interested parties. A lawyer explains to them what this case is about: Even a typist in a concentration camp could have been “a little cog”. “A lot of people took part.”

A historian is currently giving a lecture on the concentration camp system

Irmgard F. is sitting in a wheelchair, only wearing sunglasses because of the cameras, accompanied by a medical supervisor, two defense lawyers and a representative of the juvenile justice department. Because of their young age at the time, they are negotiated according to juvenile criminal law. At the beginning, when the judge comes in, she gets up briefly. Later the judge asks her if she is still awake. The accused does not have to hold out for more than two hours at a time, with breaks every one to two weeks.

The historian Stefan Hördler has been explaining the structure of the concentration camp since the second session, pictures and documents from Stutthof and the Nazi headquarters can be seen on the screens in the courtroom. The expert has not yet dealt with the specific role of the civilian employees F. But it is already clear that the secretary of a concentration camp commandant was expected to pay more attention than stupid paperwork, even if, unlike the SS men, she was not wearing a uniform.

At some point in the coming weeks it should be possible to hear from or about the people who have experienced the suffering firsthand. The co-plaintiffs also include a man from Israel who had to toil in the Stutthofer crematorium. According to his lawyer, Förster, he “saw hell from the inside”.


www.sueddeutsche.de

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