German prosecutors announced on Monday they had opened an investigation into a 93-year-old woman who is suspected of forcing prisoners on an evacuation march in 1945 during which about 1,400 women died, the Guardian reported.
Hamburg prosecutors’ spokesman Carsten Rinio confirmed that his office had begun investigating Hilde Michnia last week, after a social worker from the northern town of Lüneburg filed charges against her.
Michnia is suspected of serving as a guard in the Bergen-Belsen and Gross-Rosen concentration camps, and having been part of evacuating the latter camp in 1945. Nearly three-quarters of the 2,000 female prisoners forced onto the march are thought to have died.
The social worker filed the charges against her after seeing a documentary on Irish television last September, in which Bergen Belsen survivor Tomi Reichental attempted to interview Michnia. In the documentary, Michnia admitted to taking part in the evacuation.
“She said herself, three times, ‘I was on the death march.’ I thought, hang on, there have to be some consequences if such important information is in [the film],” the social worker, Hans-Jürgen Brennecke, told the Guardian.
“When I realized that no one had done anything yet, I thought: this can’t be,” he added. “It bothers me that so much is still kept silent, or misrepresented. I just want the facts to come out. Everyone is allowed to have opinions, but we need to know the facts. We’re still not finished with it.”
Michnia, called Lisiewicz during World War II, has previously been convicted for her work as a concentration camp guard, according to the Guardian. She was one of a group 45 SS guards put on trial by the British occupying forces in 1945. Survivor Dora Almaleh testified that Michnia had beaten two men for stealing turnips from the kitchen, and Michnia was sentenced to a year in prison and released in November 1946.
In an interview with Die Welt newspaper published last weekend, Michnia dismissed the 1945 proceedings as a “show trial”, and said she had not seen any atrocities, because she had only ever worked in the kitchens.
“I didn’t see any of it,” she reportedly said. “That was all in a completely different part of the camp.”
When Die Welt asked her if she knew she was under investigation, she reportedly replied, “No, but they won’t find anything.”
Germany has begun a crackdown on Nazi war criminals in recent years, following the 2011 Munich trial of John Demjanjuk, a Nazi war criminal charged of assisting in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp and sentenced to five years. The former Nazi died in 2012.
Last May, Germany said it was investigating some 20 former guards at the Majdanek death camp who could be charged with accessory to murder.
News of the investigation against Michnia came just hours after it was announced that a 93-year-old former Auschwitz death camp officer will go on trial in Germany in April on charges of at least 300,000 counts of accessory to murder