A 93-year-old former prison guard for a German nazi concentration camp in Poland was accused of being an accessory to murdering 5,230 people.
In 1944, Bruno Dey said he and 400 other soldiers worked at the Nazi Stutthof concentration camp as a member of the SS-Totenkopfsturmbann (Death’s Head Battalion)—whose job was to man the watchtowers—east of what is today the Polish city of Gdansk.
A former Nazi concentration camp guard is on trial for 5,230 counts of accessory to murder, in one of the last cases of its kind https://t.co/8TH0L3aQ6Z— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) November 17, 2019
The former SS private appeared before the Hamburg state court on October 17 for a trial that he claimed has “destroyed” the final years of his life.
After a doctor declared Dey was fit for trial, he participated in eight interviews, each lasting no longer than two hours.
Dey was tried in juvenile court because he was 17 at the time he was deployed at the camp and claimed not knowing what kind of people were being incarcerated there.
Not even remotely possible not to have known.— Grumble Jones (@GrumbleJones) November 18, 2019
“Didn’t know people were being killed” yeah sure 🙄— observer of humanity (@eddgarrett) November 18, 2019
But he did testify to hearing screams.
In one interview, Dey told Die Welt newspaper.
“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.”
According to the Guardian, Dey told the presiding judge what he saw from the sentry’s watchtower.
“That people were led in, into the gas chamber, then the door was locked.”
He heard screaming and banging on the other side of the door but maintained:
“I didn’t know that they were being gassed.”
How many years did he participate in denying others ??? How many years has he had to come clean and admit his part in this horror ??? So, why should we care about his discomfort in his final years ??? Does he still hear all those screams ???— Arron I M Brown (@ArronIMBrown1) November 18, 2019
Dey said on one occasion he saw 20 people with shaved heads enter the gas chamber and said:
“I didn’t see anyone come out.”
On another occasion, he claimed to see a group of 10 or 15 prisoners being escorted to the gas chamber and then being led out by people in white overalls taking them to the crematorium building.
He later overheard the prisoners had to work outside of the camp after prior inspection.
A reminder that Hitler is not known to have killed anyone. It took tens of thousands of willing accessories to bring to fruition his homicidal ambition.— Robert Corvid (@Robert_Corvid) November 17, 2019
It's pretty amazing what people can tell themselves when they actively don't want to know something.— M. 🧢 (@Littleshaman) November 18, 2019
Since the trial began last month, 20 Stutthof camp survivors—four of whom were former members of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army)—have served as co-plaintiffs and attended the trial with their relatives.
One of the co-plaintiffs, Zigi Shipper, 89, told The Huffington Post he believes Dey shouldn’t go to prison if convicted.
Shipper, who educates British children on the dangers of prejudice, had one question followed by a warning.
“At his age, will he come out a better person? It won’t help anybody. The important thing is that our voices are heard.”
“We must not forget the dangers of hatred and where it can lead.”
Although evidence tying Dey directly to the mass killings at the camp is lacking, prosecutors argued that his role as a guard made him an accessory.
He told Die Welt newspaper:
“What use would it have been if I had left, they would have found someone else?”
I wouldn't want to live that long with those memories. I'm glad justice is coming for him though. I hope it comes for the guards at the American concentration camps one day as well.— Clayton Sterling (@Claytoncyre) November 17, 2019
You shall reap what you sowed. You are connected to death Sir!— WriteTheVision Aspiring Authors-Writers Wrkshp (@writethevisio10) November 19, 2019
Markus Horstmann, a lawyer for one of the co-plaintiffs, conveyed the poignant significance of the trial.
“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.”
Approximately 65,000 people were killed until May 9, 1945, when Stutthof was liberated by allied forces.
If convicted, Dey faces six months to ten years in prison.