A Hamburg juvenile court convicted a 93-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Thursday on 5,232 counts of accessory to murder and one count of accessory to attempted murder.
Bruno Dey has been given a two-year suspended sentence, bringing to a close the trial that had begun in October. While Dey apologized to the victims and their families, he did not accept complicity in the crimes, claiming he worked as a guard at the concentration camp involuntarily and had not been involved in the killings.
Judge Anne Meier-Göring said that Dey had not been forced to obey the orders of his superiors and that the sentence sends a message to “respect human dignity at all costs—even if the price is your own safety.”
Dey, who was 17 and 18 years old when he was stationed at a tower at the Stutthof concentration camp near the former city of Danzig (now Gdańsk) in German-occupied Poland, was tasked with preventing escape and revolt by the prisoners.
In the closing statement delivered earlier this week, Dey said that he had been “shaken” by witness statements and that he had not known of the “extent of the atrocities” committed at the camp until the trial, even as he acknowledged seeing “emaciated figures, people who had suffered.” “Something like this must never happen again”, Dey said.
The Stutthof camp was set up in 1939 and designated as a concentration camp in 1942, the first such camp built outside Germany. Its use began in 1944, and it held more than 110,000 prisoners, out of whom 65,000 are believed to have been killed, most from the gas chambers and other execution methods.
The investigation against Dey was a part of several instituted by German authorities after the landmark rulings against John Demjanjuk in 2011 and Oskar Gröning in 2015. The courts had previously required evidence of direct involvement in the atrocities, which changed with Demjanjuk’s conviction and resulted in renewed investigations into surviving camp guards complicit in the murders.
While more than a dozen crimes perpetrated during the Nazi-era are currently being investigated by a special prosecutor’s office, Dey’s is considered to be one of the last—possibly the last—verdicts handed down to a living accomplice in the Holocaust as the victims as well as the perpetrators have reached their declining years.