Felicity Salina, International Law Officer
The Hamburg state court convicted 93-year-old Bruno Dey on 5,232 counts of accessory to murder on Thursday the 23rd of July. The former SS Nazi guard was convicted for his service in the Stutthof concentration camp in east of Gdansk, Poland, from August 1944 to April 1945. The case may be one of the last to be brought against a living participant during the Holocaust.
Each of the counts against Dey represented an individual believed to have been killed in the concentration camp during the years that he had served. Dey was held to have assisted the execution of all 5, 253 prisoners, most of whom were Jewish. The number encompasses 5,000 prisoners who died during a typhus outbreak as they were denied basic means of subsistence and were forced to live in inhumane hygiene conditions, as well as 200 individuals who were gassed with Zyklon B and 30 individuals murdered using an execution device.
Around 40 survivors or their families participated as co-plaintiffs in the trial, largely testifying through video link. Given that Dey was only 17 when enlisted as a guard, he was tried in juvenile court and handed a two-year suspended sentence. His defense had sought an acquittal. The sentence is criticized by many as “unsatisfactory” and “too late”.
“You still see yourself as a mere observer, when in fact you were an accomplice to this man-made hell,” presiding judge Ann Meier-Goering told the defendant while delivering the verdict. “You did not follow an order to carry out a crime and should not have inferred this,” she added.
In his closing statement, Dey apologized for his actions. “The eyewitness accounts and expert reports have for the first time made me fully aware of the extent of cruelty and suffering,” he said. “Something like this must never be repeated.” However, Dey also maintained that he did not join the concentration camp by choice, and that he had instead been forced to serve and ordered to take up the position.
Read more about the conviction of Bruno Dey here: