A former Nazi concentration camp guard was to go on trial in the German city of Hamburg.
In what could be one of the last instances of a Nazi guard being brought to trial, Bruno Dey, 93, is accused of accessory in the murders of 5,230 prisoners between 1944 and 1945 in the Stutthof [Sztutowo] camp in what is now Poland.
The number of victims includes 5,000 prisoners who died during a typhus epidemic in the camp due to the extremely poor conditions and lack of food and water, 200 people who were gassed with Zyklon B and 30 individuals executed with a Genickschussanlage, a device designed for executions with victims shot in the back of the neck.
Dey has admitted that he served at the camp and had knowledge of what took place but has denied any complicity in the deaths of inmates.
Dey was 17 when he joined the SS-Totenkopfsturmbann [Death’s Head Battalion] and guarded the watchtowers of the camp. The Death’s Head Units and the Nazi SS organization are infamous for their use of the human skull as a cap badge.
As he was only 17 at the time of the crimes, Dey will be tried in a juvenile court, who accuse him that, in his role as a guard, he forcefully kept people as prisoners and was involved in the suppression of prisoner revolts.
State prosecutors have claimed that Dey “knowingly assisted in the insidious and gruesome killing of mainly Jewish prisoners,” and described him as a “cog in the murderous machinery.”
After being interviewed several times to determine whether he was healthy enough to stand trial, Dey said, “I probably knew that these were Jews who hadn’t committed a crime, that they were only in here because they were Jews. (…) And they have a right to live and work freely like every other human being.”
Markus Horstmann, a lawyer representing one of the co-plaintiffs said that, for the victims, “This is not a matter of revenge. A trial like this is for them more about seeing what happened to them declared an injustice in a German court, and about telling their story so it doesn’t get forgotten.”
Stutthof was the first Nazi concentration camp set up outside German borders in World War II when it was set up in September 1939. It was also the last camp liberated by the Allies on 9 May 1945. It is estimated that between 63,000 and 65,000 prisoners of Stutthof concentration camp died due to the extreme living conditions, forced labour and summary executions. Some 28,000 of them are estimated to have been Jewish.