After that case, other local prosecutors began investigating the responsibility of other surviving concentration camp guards, charging them with accessory to many murders as opposed to individual, documented killings.
In 2018, another ex-guard from the Stutthof camp was put on trial, but that process was eventually suspended because the accused, who died in 2019, was often too unwell to attend.
Its a real milestone in judicial accountability, said Onur Özata, a lawyer representing survivors in the trial of the former camp secretary. The fact that a secretary in this system, a bureaucratic cog, can be brought to justice is something new.
The case will hinge on whether the former secretary played a role in the atrocities perpetrated by guards inside the camp.
Prosecutors said that she had admitted that much of the correspondence related to the camp and many files crossed her desk, and that she knew of some killings of inmates. But she maintains that she did not know that large numbers of the camps inmates were being killed by gas during the time she worked there. She has also said that her office window pointed away from the camp, so that she could not see what was going on, according to media reports.
Its fair to say that the majority of these women knew about the persecution of the Jews and some of them knew about them being murdered, said Rachel Century, a British historian who wrote a book on female administrators in the Third Reich. But some secretaries had roles that gave them more access to information than others.
The public prosecutors office in Itzehoe has investigated the case for five years, interviewing survivors both in the United States and Israel, as well as the former camp secretary. They also hired an independent historian to make an assessment.