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How Germany is prosecuting its final Nazis —now in their 90s or older

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When she appeared in a German court last month, Irmgard Furchner sat in a wheelchair clutching her handbag. Her mask and kerchief made it difficult to see the face of the 97-year-old — who has been charged with more than 11,000 counts of “aiding and abetting” murder during the Holocaust.

The nursing-home resident was a secretary in the commandant’s office of the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig, and is now among the latest former Nazis to be prosecuted in Germany.

The defendants are in their late 90s or even centenarians, but German prosecutors and a Nazi hunter are determined that they face justice for the murder of six million Jews.

Last month, 101-year-old Josef Schuetz became the oldest former Nazi to be prosecuted. He was convicted for the murder of more than 3,500 Jews, minorities and political prisoners while he served as a concentration camp guard at the Sachsenhausen death camp between 1942 and 1945. A regional German court sentenced him to five years in prison although he is not expected to serve time due to poor health, according to reports. Schuetz, who is known in Germany as Josef S. due to privacy laws in the country, has repeatedly denied the charges. His lawyer told AFP that he would appeal a guilty verdict.

Schuetz’s prosecution was made possible after the German government changed its policy on Nazi war criminals more than a decade ago. Previously, prosecutors had to prove a specific crime against a specific victim. But in the last several years, Germany has allowed for prosecutions of Nazis who served in death camps or mobile killing units, “based on their service alone,” said Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

Josef Schuetz is the oldest former Nazi, at 101-years-old, to be prosecuted and convicted — for the murder of more than 3,500 Jews, minorities and political prisoners while he served as a concentration camp guard.
AFP via Getty Images

“In the past, Germany has failed miserably in terms of Nazi prosecutions,” said Zuroff, who heads up the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem and is the director of its Eastern European Affairs division. Zuroff, 73, has been hunting Nazis for more than 40 years.

Between 1949 and 1985, there were 200,000 investigations and 120,000 indictments of former Nazis in Germany, but less than 7,000 convictions, Zuroff told The Post. “And the punishments were ludicrous,” Zuroff continued. “People who served in Treblinka [death camp] got three years.”

There are now six prosecutions going on in Germany against those who worked in death camps during the war, although that number can change as prosecutors continue to track down and build cases against others, according to chief public prosecutor Thomas Will, who heads up the Central office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg.

Former Nazi secretary Irmgard Furchner pictured in 1944.
Former Nazi secretary Irmgard Furchner pictured in 1944.
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Irmgard Furchner is being tried in Itzehoe, Germany. One Nazi hunter said that, as long as former Nazis and conspirators are still alive, "They can't be allowed to live in peace."
Irmgard Furchner is being tried in Itzehoe, Germany. One Nazi hunter said that, as long as former Nazis and conspirators are still alive, “They can’t be allowed to live in peace.”
REUTERS

“According to German law, there is no statute of limitations for murder and also for aiding and abetting it,” Will told The Post, adding that his agency investigates suspected Nazis and then turns over the cases to local prosecutors in the areas where the crimes took place or where the suspects currently live.

Since the 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, an Ohio autoworker who was convicted in Munich of being a low-level guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, prosecutors in Germany have focused on “systematic mass killings in concentration camps and now also in prisoner of war camps,” Will said.

For Will and his agency, age is not an issue unless the accused is too feeble to stand trial, he said.

Furchner worked at the German Nazi concentration camp Stutthof in Sztutowo, northern Poland.
Furchner worked at the German Nazi concentration camp Stutthof in Sztutowo, northern Poland.
KFP/AFP via Getty Images

“It is not possible by law to refrain from prosecution in individual cases — for example because of the age of the accused — since the necessary enforcement of criminal law in the case of murder does not allow any discretion,” he told The Post. “However, an indispensable prerequisite for any criminal conviction is the ability of the accused to stand trial. This must be checked carefully over and over again, especially in the case of very old people. If there is a lack of this ability to negotiate, no criminal proceedings can take place.”

The six suspects his office recently investigated range in ages between 96 and 100, he said. Because the investigations are ongoing, Will said he cannot confirm the identities of the suspects — who include guards who worked at death camps such as Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Stalag I-B Hohenstein, a prisoner of war camp in former East Prussia (now Poland) which housed both Allied and Soviet soldiers.

That camp was known for its harsh conditions and repeated typhoid epidemics. Between 1941 and 1942 more than 25,000 soldiers, most of them Soviets, died in the POW camp, according to reports.

Efraim Zuroff
Efraim Zuroff, who heads up the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, has been hunting Nazis for more than 40 years.
AFP/Getty Images

“The main perpetrators are criminally classified as murderers, and their supporters are guilty of aiding and abetting murder,” Will said. “The prerequisite, however, is that these helpers were involved in the processes and also recognized the consequences of their actions, and were witness to mass murder.”

Zuroff, who has brought numerous cases to Will’s agency, is hoping that German prosecutors will continue to investigate Herbert Wahler, a former medic who was allegedly part of the mobile killing unit Einzatgruppe C, which slaughtered 33,771 Jewish men, women and children at Babyn Yar, a ravine outside Ukraine’s capital in 1941.

A regional German court in Kassel first took up that case a few years ago, but closed it down for lack of evidence in 2020.

Protestors have demanded that Herbert Wahler, 100, be tried for his alleged role in a Waffen-SS unit of the Nazis that killed some 78,000 Jewish people. He now lives in Meslungen, Germany.
Protestors have demanded that Herbert Wahler, 100, be tried for his alleged role in a Waffen-SS unit of the Nazis that killed some 78,000 Jewish people. He now lives in Meslungen, Germany.

Still, said Zuroff: “Why do you need a medic in a massacre?”

“What has been, has been; it’s over,” Wahler told German broadcaster ARD in 2017 when asked about his time during World War II.

Now a descendant of a Babyn Yar victim has applied to reopen Wahler’s case. For Zuroff, who tracked down Wahler along with other alleged members of the Einzatzgruppen still living in Germany a few years ago, the prosecution represents a final opportunity to bring both the perpetrators and accessories of mass murder to justice for their WWII-era crimes.

Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk was 91 when he was convicted in Munich of being a low-level guard at the Sobibor extermination camp. He died a year later.
Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk was 91 when he was convicted in Munich of being a low-level guard at the Sobibor extermination camp. He died a year later.
ZUMA24.com; ZUMAPRESS.com

Will refused comment on the Wahler case.

“As long as any of the members of the Einzatzgruppen are alive, they can’t be allowed to live in peace,” said Zuroff.

It’s a view shared by the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Last December, on the day that Herbert Wahler celebrated his 100th birthday in Meslungen, a quiet spa town in central Germany, a group of protestors arrived on his doorstep.

An Einsatzgruppe D soldier about to shoot a Jew kneeling at a partially filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union, in 1942.
Wahler’s branch of Waffen-SS was responsible for massacring 33,771 Jews at Babin Yar in Ukraine.
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Dr. Efraim Zuroff delivers an annual report on the ten most wanted former Nazis at a briefing in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, 2009.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff delivers an annual report on the ten most wanted former Nazis at a briefing in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, 2009.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Holding large portraits of Jews who perished during the Holocaust, they surrounded Wahler’s home, demanding that German authorities prosecute one of its last living Nazis.

Wahler allegedly initially served in a Waffen-S.S. unit — the combat branch of Hitler’s elite forces which, in late July 1941, was assigned to Einsatzgruppen C. That unit traveled from place to place, murdering Jews and civilians. By the fall of 1941, Zuroff estimated, some 78,000 people were murdered by the mobile killing units. The massacre at Babyn Yar on the outskirts of Kyiv was “the largest mass murder in the history of the Holocaust,” he said.

In addition to hunting down Wahler — one of thousands of Nazis that Adolf Hitler allegedly dispatched into Ukraine to kill Jews — the New York-born Zuroff, who has a PhD in European history, has been instrumental in finding Nazis who fled to South America, Australia, the US and Canada. He famously tracked down Aribert Heim, an Austrian SS doctor known as “Dr. Death” and the “Butcher of Mauthausen,” living in Egypt. But Heim died in 1992 before Zuroff could bring him to justice.

Soviet POWs were ordered by the Nazis to cover the mass grave at Babin Yar.
Soviet POWs were ordered by the Nazis to cover the mass grave at Babin Yar.
Wikipedia/Johannes Hähle

Zuroff, who has been hunting Nazis since 1978, estimates that some 10,000 Nazi collaborators entered the US illegally after WWII, and there may be hundreds still scattered around the world, with most of them living in Austria and Germany.

“Austria hasn’t prosecuted any Nazis for more than 45 years,” he said, adding that many countries around the world lacked the political will to go after war criminals after the war.

Zuroff, who has written several books on his Nazi hunting adventures and other Holocaust-related issues, refuses to give up.

Wahler was allegedly associated with the mobile killing unit Einzatgruppe C, which massacred some 78,000 people.
Wahler was allegedly associated with the mobile killing unit Einzatgruppe C, which massacred some 78,000 people.
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“They may be old, but they’re still guilty,” he said.

Last month, Furchner, who has denied having any role in the murder of more than 11,000 prisoners at the camp where she worked as a stenographer, faced one of her accusers in the courtroom via videolink.

Halina Strnad, 95, and now a resident of Melbourne, Australia, laid out in graphic detail what it is was like to be a prisoner at Stutthof in 1944. “I was hit, I was kicked, I was spat on,” she said.

Nazi officers shoot and kill thousands of Jews in a single operation during the Babi Yar massacre in September 1941.
Nazi officers shoot and kill thousands of Jews in a single operation during the Babi Yar massacre in September 1941.
Pictures From History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Strnad went on to describe how nearly all the women prisoners in her barracks had contracted typhus, including herself. Her mother died in her arms, she said and most of the dead were burned in a pit.

She told the court of Furchner: “I can’t imagine how it was possible not to know what happened.”

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills

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The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists

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This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
BRIGITTE STELZER

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’

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Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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