A former Nazi camp secretary who tried to flee to avoid a trial over her role in the deaths of more than 11,000 people during the Second World War has appeared in court today.

Irmgard Furchner, 96, was caught shortly after going on the run ahead of a court hearing last month on charges of committing war crimes.

She was accused of having contributed to the murder of 11,412 people when, at the age of 18, she worked as a typist at the Stutthof concentration camp between 1943 and 1945.

Today, Furchner was taken into a courtroom in a wheelchair, but her face was barely visible behind a white mask and scarf pulled low over her eyes.

The defendant in the courtroom next to her lawyers Niklas Weber (2nd on the right) and Wolf Molkentin (right) (


POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Security was heavy as the judge and legal staff made their way into the court.

Between 1939 and 1945, about 65,000 people died of starvation and disease or in the gas chamber at the concentration camp near Gdańsk, in today's Poland.

They included prisoners of war and Jews caught up in the Nazis' extermination campaign.

The trial was postponed after Furchner left her home early on September 30 and went on the run for several hours before being detained later that day.

The trial began in Itzehoe, Germany, today (



Charges could not be read until Furchner, who faces trial in an adolescent court because of her young age at the time of the alleged crimes, was present in court.

She is the latest nonagenarian to have been charged with Holocaust crimes in what is seen as a rush by prosecutors to seize the final opportunity to enact justice for the victims of some of the worst mass killings in history.

Although prosecutors convicted major perpetrators - those who issued orders or pulled triggers - in the 1960s "Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials", the practice until the 2000s was to leave lower-level suspects alone.

Irmgard Furchner during her time as a secretary at Stutthof camp in 1944

It is understood that due to the defendant's age, the court will sit for no more than two hours a day.

Furchner's lawyer Wolf Molkentin previously told Der Spiegel magazine: "My client worked in the midst of SS men who were experienced in violence - however, does that mean she shared their state of knowledge?

"That is not necessarily obvious."

The indictment says: "As a stenotypist and typist in the camp commandant’s office of former concentration camp Stutthof, she is alleged to have assisted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945."

After the woman tried to flee last month, International Auschwitz Committee, a group representing Nazi survivors and relatives of victims, expressed outrage.

It said in a statement: "It shows incredible contempt for the rule of law and survivors."