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Ex-Nazi secretary, 96, in custody after skipping trial

A 96-year-old German woman who once served as the secretary to a Nazi concentration camp commander was detained on Thursday after she skipped the start of her trial.

The woman, who worked at the Stutthof concentration camp, has been accused of aiding and abetting the leaders in the "systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant's office." Because she was under 21 at the time, the woman — who has not been publicly identified by the court — is being tried as a juvenile, and is charged with more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder.

Court spokeswoman Frederike Milhoffer said the woman left her home near Hamburg on Thursday morning, a few hours before she was due in court. When she didn't appear, an arrest warrant was issued. Police tracked the woman down Thursday afternoon, and after a stop at the court, the woman was taken to a detention center.

The woman previously "announced that she didn't want to come" to the courthouse, Milhoffer said, but because of her advanced age and poor health, she wasn't expected to "actively ... evade the trial." Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem told The Associated Press if the woman is "healthy enough to flee, she is healthy enough to be incarcerated." He also said he believes her escape attempt should "affect the punishment."

There is now legal precedent in Germany that a person who helped in the operation of Nazi camps can be prosecuted as an accessory to murders that took place there, even if there is no direct evidence the person was part of a specific crime. More than 60,000 people were killed at the Stutthof camp.