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Former Nazi Prison Guard Who Helped Murder 5,230 Jews In Poland Complains That His Trial Has ‘Destroyed’ His Final Years

DANIEL BOCKWOLDT/POOL/AFP via Getty Image

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Dey disagrees.

He told Die Welt newspaper:

“What use would it have been if I had left, they would have found someone else?”

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.

The film Schindler’s List, which depicts an alternative to just going along, is available here.

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Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1