Former Nazi SS guard convicted in one of the last Holocaust trials in Germany. Here’s why it’s a big deal
93-year-old Bruno Dey has been found guilty to over 5,000 counts of accessory to murder from his time working at Stutthof concentration camp.
A former Nazi SS guard was convicted of over 5,000 counts of accessory to murder on Thursday at a court in Hamburg, Germany.
Bruno Dey served as a Nazi SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp, located east of present-day Gdansk, Poland, from 1944 to 1945. According to TIME over 60,000 people died at that location.
The trial opened in October 2019 and took place over the course of nine months. Court sessions were only allowed to be held twice weekly for two hours a day due to Dey’s age and health, per TIME.
According to TIME, the 93-year-old was tried in juvenile court because he was 17 when the crimes were committed. He was convicted of accessory to murder of 5,232 people, which is the number of people believed to have died during his time working at the camp.
Dey was given a two-year suspended sentence for his crimes. For victims of the camp, the verdict was seen as “symbolic justice.”
Ben Cohen, who's grandmother, Judy Meisel, was imprisoned at Stutthof and testified during the trial, told CNN, ‘’On behalf of my grandmother and our family this verdict sends a powerful message that a guard in any camp cannot deny responsibility for what happened. Unfortunately, most perpetrators of the Holocaust were never prosecuted and so we are left with something that feels like symbolic justice today, rather than true justice.”
During the trial, over 40 co-plaintiffs traveled from the US, France, Poland and Israel to Germany to testify against Dey.
According to Deutsche Welle, at the end of trial, 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,” adding “The images of misery and horror have haunted me my entire life.”
Dey’s trial is just one out of a dozen to recently take place as result of a precedent set in 2011 during the case of John Demjanjuk. Before Demjanjuk’s case, to prosecute a former guard it was required to have evidence of participation, TIME reported. However, during his case, it was ruled that guarding a camp was purpose enough for an accessory conviction.
Germany also has no status of limitations when it comes to murder, allowing these cases to be tried nearly 75 years later, per Deutsche Welle.
Other investigations are currently taking place. The conviction of Dey might be “one of the last that a German court passes on a Holocaust perpetrator,” according to Deutsche Welle.
Before Dey’s trial, the last Holocaust conviction was the bookkeeper of Auschwitz in July of 2015. Since then, many of the defendants to be tried have been deemed too ill to stand trial.