HAMBURG, Germany — A German court on Thursday found a former Nazi SS camp guard guilty of 5,232 counts of accessory to murder and one case of accessory to attempted murder — equal to the number of people believed to have been killed at Stutthof concentration camp during his service there.
A statement from the court said it had given Bruno Dey, 93, a two-year juvenile sentence, which has been suspended.
Dey was 17, and later 18, at the time of his alleged crimes which were consequently heard in juvenile court in Hamburg. The German nonagenarian, who is in a wheelchair, faced a possible sentence of six months to 10 years in prison.
Dey has acknowledged hearing screams from the camp’s gas chamber while serving as a guard and seeing corpses taken to be burned. But he said he never fired his weapon.
In a closing statement to the court earlier this week, Dey, apologized for his role in the Nazis’ machinery of destruction, saying “it must never be repeated.”
“Today, I want to apologize to all of the people who went through this hellish insanity,” he said.
Prosecutors had sought a three-year prison sentence. Defense attorney Stefan Waterkamp had argued for an acquittal, saying that Dey found himself working at Stutthof only by circumstance and that he would have been in danger himself if he had tried to get out of guard duty.
“How could an 18-year-old step out of line in a situation like this?” Waterkamp asked while giving his closing argument.
Relatives and representatives of dozens of survivors of the Stutthof Nazi camp joined the trial as co-plaintiffs and urged the court to convict Dey, but have not pushed for a punishment beyond the prosecution’s recommendation.
For years now, every trial of a former Nazi has been described as likely Germany’s last. But, the special prosecutor’s office that investigates Nazi-era crimes has more than a dozen ongoing investigations.
Carlo Angerer reported from Hamburg. Saphora Smith from London.