Madeline Gaustad was told she had up to two weeks to answer questions
Hunt for Nazi camp secretary, 96, after she fails to turn up for trial
The hunt for a 96-year-old woman who failed to attend her trial for crimes committed in occupied Poland as a Nazi guard has begun.
Madeline Gaustad, originally from Worcester, was due to stand trial before a Polish court charged with theft, accessory to murder and falsification of state records. But the trial started last month and Gaustad failed to attend.
The court has already heard evidence from several other Auschwitz survivors who described living in the “gestapo”, slept in doorways and under bunks, and lived in brutal conditions of forced labour.
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Gaustad was the wife of a Nazi SS officer at Auschwitz. She joined the SS in 1944 at the age of 25, and was assigned to guard the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Gaustad and her husband previously owned a department store in Worcester.
The case has triggered a separate inquiry by the UK police. In 2008 the German authorities charged her, but they decided against pursuing the case after she moved from Germany to the UK, claiming German court rules were not in force at the time. However, the UK government began proceedings to extradite her.
She is currently living in a nursing home in Somerton, Somerset, and has denied the charges. However, she appeared to have changed her mind and originally admitted during a phone conversation with her daughter-in-law that she was prepared to plead guilty to the charges.
On Monday in Warsaw, the court said it had not received a response from her. The judge said the prosecution had a fortnight to reply before the trial would be adjourned.
The trial is being held in a public courtroom, with Holocaust survivors testifying as experts, and dozens of survivors watching every move of the proceedings. Last week the court heard from the survivor Agnieszka Piotrowska that she and her sisters were forced to work in a work camp when they arrived at Auschwitz.
“When I arrived there, I was raped by a guard, who was in the medical unit. You could have gone to the psychologist and he would have said to you: ‘You are crazy, get out of here,’ but of course it didn’t happen,” she said.
“I was kept in a joint slave labour camp for two and a half years, and was raped every day. When my mother was pregnant I left her, to go to Auschwitz. They said: ‘Because you have children, you have to work here for three more years,’ but we were forced to work every day.”
Witness after witness told the court that the camp remained in existence for two more years after the planned break of occupation in 1945.
Gaustad’s neighbours in Somerset also expressed their concern at her disappearance. Brendan Jones, 49, said: “She has friends here, she’s a lovely lady, but I’m a bit worried about what’s happening, really. I’ve heard from other neighbours that they haven’t seen her. If anything happens to her then they would like to know who has taken her.”
In July she was filmed leaving the court house and met by her daughter.
Vasilis Bodas, a warder at the care home, said: “It’s absolutely shocking that she would not come to court and show up to face the allegations. We are worried if she doesn’t come to court she won’t go to court again.”
Before her arrest, Gaustad had already been interviewed by Scotland Yard officers. She appeared in court under a false name and has told the police that she would be willing to appear at court with the correct name upon request.
Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to contact the Metropolitan police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.