A 93-year-old former SS private is going on trial in Germany on 5230 counts of being an accessory to murder, accused of helping the Nazis’ Stutthof concentration camp to function.
Though he is not accused of any specific killing, Bruno Dey is charged as an accessory to those committed at Stutthof from August 1944 to April 1945, when he served as a guard in the camp.
According to the charges filed by Hamburg prosecutors, Mr Dey helped prevent prisoners from escaping Stutthof, which is 40 kilometres east of the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Gdansk.
The charges relate to 5000 people who died of typhoid in the camp’s horrific conditions, the execution of 200 prisoners who were gassed to death, and the killings of 30 who were shot in the neck.
Mr Dey argues he was not a follower of Nazi ideology and he was sent to the concentration camp as a guard only because a health issue prevented him serving at the front.
Mr Dey, who was 17 when he joined Hitler’s Death’s Head unit – which ran the Nazis’ concentration camps – says the killings would have happened with or without him.
His lawyer told news agency AFP that Mr Dey “felt sorry for what he did”.
He said it was clear to Mr Dey that inmates at Stutthof were there for “anti-Semitic, racist and other reasons”, rather than because they were criminals.
“He had compassion for them,” he said. “But he did not see himself in a position to free them.”
Mr Dey is being tried in a juvenile court because of his age at the time of the alleged offences. The court must decide whether he “knowingly supported” the killing of Jewish prisoners.
In all, more than 65,000 people are thought to have died at Stutthof during the Holocaust.