Former SS guard found guilty of mass murder
A 93-year-old former SS concentration camp guard has been found guilty of being an accessory to mass murder during WWII, in what is probably the last ever trail of an ex Nazi to take place in Germany.
Bruno Dey was given a two-year suspended sentence for complicity in the murder of 5,232 inmates of Stutthof concentration camp, which is today located in northern Poland, where he served as a watchtower guard.
During the trial at the Hamburg State juvenile court, as Dey was just 17-years-old when the crimes took place, his lawyer said Dey knew nothing about the atrocities and “simply followed orders”.
Dey said that he did not serve at the camp voluntarily and therefore was not guilty. He said that he only learned about the atrocities in Stutthof during the trial.
His defence lawyer said that his client stood in a guard tower outside the perimeter of the camp, while a different group of SS guards within the camp operated the gas chamber and murdered prisoners in other ways.
However, presiding judge Anne Meier-Göring said in her summary statement: “You were not just standing in the tower and keeping a guard.
“You took part in the whole mass murder, helping your commanders, watching people die of hunger, disease and entering the crematorium from which they never left.
“You had to see the corpses because the corpses lay everywhere.”
In his final statement, Dey said: “Today I would like to apologize to those who went through this hell of madness, and their relatives – something like this can never be repeated.”
Stutthof, the first and longest operating camp in what is now Sztutowo, a village about 20 miles east of Gdansk, was famous for its terrible treatment of prisoners. It is estimated that about 65,000 people died there of malnutrition, exhaustion with forced labour, chilling, illness, or were shot or gassed.
Established on 2 September 1939, it was initially intended for the Polish intelligentsia from Pomerania. Polish clergy, government officials, teachers, political activists and soldiers were imprisoned there.
Dey arrived at the camp in 1944 at the age of 17 and stayed until 1945.
The 93-year-old’s conviction was only possible because of a change in the way that German law treats former SS concentration camp guards.
The turning point came in 2016 when the German Federal Court approved the conviction of former SS-man and former Auschwitz-Birkenau accountant Oskar Groening for aiding and abetting mass murder.
The Court decided that the mere fact of serving in a German concentration camp, which was known to be the scene of mass murder, was a service to the German state crime apparatus.
In this way, it rejected the principle, which had been honoured for decades in the German judiciary, that in order to be convicted it is necessary to prove the accused's guilt for a specific act.
Polish deputy prime minister and culture minister Piotr Gliński posted on Facebook: “The German court today confirmed what had been obvious to us in Poland for a long time: anyone who served in the system of German concentration and extermination camps, in the German criminal apparatus - was responsible for this suffering, for this humiliation, for thousands of deaths.
“This sentence comes too late for the few who survived that hell lived to see it. The punishment is symbolic - two years in prison for helping to murder over 5000 people!”
Poland conducted its own Stutthof trials in the late 1940s, and convicted about 78 guards, some of whom were executed.
Though other investigations of former concentration camp personnel are still underway in Germany, their age means it is likely that Dey’s conviction will be the last time that a German court passes a verdict on an SS concentration camp guard.