A 93-year-old former SS guard went on trial in Germany yesterday for complicity in the murder of more than 5,000 people at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, in what could be one of the last such cases.
Bruno Dey stands accused of abetting the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.
“As an SS guard at Stutthof concentration camp between August 1944 and April 1945, he is believed to have provided support to the gruesome killing of Jewish prisoners in particular,” prosecutors said in a statement.
During Dey’s time at the camp, the “Final Solution” order to exterminate Jews was issued by the Nazi leadership, leading to the systematic killing of inmates in gas chambers, while others died of starvation or because they were denied medical care, prosecutors said.
The Nazis set up the Stutthof camp in 1939, initially using it for the detention of Polish political prisoners. But it ended up holding 110,000 detainees, including many Jews. Some 65,000 people perished in the camp.
Despite his advanced age, Dey is being tried by a juvenile court in Hamburg because he was 17 when he first worked at Stutthof.
Dey reportedly did not deny working at the camp during pre-trial questioning. But he said he ended up in the SS-Totenkopfsturmbahn (Death’s Head Battalion) that ran the camp only because of a heart condition that prevented him from being sent to the front, according to Tagesspiegel daily.
Citing prosecution documents, the newspaper said Dey argued that he killed no one and questioned what a 17-year-old forced to become a camp guard could do against Adolf Hitler’s regime.
Dey also reportedly confirmed he knew of the camp’s gas chambers, where he saw SS prisoners being pushed inside.
Yesterday’s trial is among a handful of the final such cases involving surviving SS personnel.
Since the landmark Demjanjuk ruling, German courts have convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder.
Both men were found guilty at age 94 but died before they could be imprisoned.
In April, a German judge suspended the trial of a former Stutthof concentration camp guard after the 95-year-old defendant was hospitalised with heart and kidney problems.