A 96-year-old woman due to appear in court for aiding and abetting murder in the Stutthof concentration camp tried to escape trial, prompting an arrest warrant, presiding judge Dominik Gross said on Thursday.
Gross said it remained to be seen whether authorities would be able to detain Irmgard F, whose full name is withheld in line with privacy rules. The hearing could only begin after her ability to stand trial had been ascertained, he added.
The elderly woman on the run was later detained by the police and was being transferred to court, a court spokesperson said on Thursday.
The defendant, who worked at the Nazi concentration camp of Stutthof near Gdansk during World War II, had been set to appear before the court in Itzehoe at 10 am to face an accessory to murder charge in more than 11,000 cases.
"The accused is charged with having assisted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of inmates there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant's office of the former concentration camp Stutthof," the court said in a pretrial statement.
The International Auschwitz Committee expressed outrage at the 96-year-old's failure to appear at her trial.
"This shows incredible contempt for the rule of law and the survivors," said executive vice president Christoph Heubner, whose organization represents concentration camp survivors and their relatives.
Around 65,000 inmates of the camp on the outskirts of what was then Danzig but is now known as Gdansk are estimated to have died at the camp, according to Germany's official centre for investigating Nazi crimes.
Questioned several times before
The accused's lawyer acknowledged in an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine that a charge of aiding and abetting murder from a desk could be upheld.
"It will depend on whether knowledge of the characteristics of murder, cruelty or malice exists," Wolf Molkentin said. If not, the charge could only be assistance in manslaughter, where the statute of limitations would apply and the case would be dismissed.
According to a report by public broadcaster ARD's Tagesschau news programme last year, Irmgard F had already been questioned several times as a witness.
In 1954, she had testified that all correspondence with the SS Economic Administration Main Office had passed over her desk.
Commandant Paul Werner Hoppe dictated letters and radio messages to her every day.
She said at the time that she had known nothing about the killing machinery, to which tens of thousands of people fell victim in the immediate vicinity during her time of service.