A 93-year old German man has been found guilty of helping to murder 5232 mostly Jewish prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp in World War II.
A former SS tower guard identified as Bruno Dey was handed a suspended sentence of two years for being involved in killings between August 1944 and April 1945.
As he was only 17 or 18 at the time of the crimes, he was subject to youth sentencing guidelines.
In one of the last cases against Nazi-era crimes, Hamburg court found Dey was an accessory to 5232 murders at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland.
About 5000 prisoners whom he guarded had died in a typhus epidemic in the camp from 1942-1944.
Another 200 people were died in a gas chamber and 30 were executed with a device specially built for killing with a shot in the back of the head.
Dey said he had witnessed “emaciated figures, people who had suffered” at the Stutthof gas chambers.
He acknowledged his presence at Stutthof, where about 65,000 people, including many Jews, were murdered or died.
But he said his presence did not amount to guilt.
Dey’s lawyers claimed he was a relatively unimportant figure in the camp. Prosecutors disagreed, saying he was aware of the atrocities and actively prevented the escape of many prisoners.
They had called for a three-year prison sentence.
“When you are a part of mass-murder machinery, it is not enough to look away,” prosecutor Lars Mahnke said in his closing arguments.
In his final testimony to the court earlier this week, Dey apologised for the suffering of victims but stopped short of taking responsibility.
“I would like to apologise to all the people who have gone through this hell of insanity and to their relatives and survivors,” he told the court this week, broadcaster NDR and many other media outlets reported.
In an earlier interview, Dey reportedly confessed to having heard screams, and being aware of the nature of killings at the time.
“I probably knew that these were Jews who hadn’t committed a crime, that they were only in here because they were Jews,” he said, according to Die Welt newspaper.
“And they have a right to live and work freely like every other human being.”
The defendant’s frail health meant that court sessions were limited to two to three hours a day.
Although the number of suspects is dwindling due to old age, prosecutors are still trying to bring Nazi-era individuals to justice.
A landmark conviction in 2011 opened the way to more prosecutions as it was the first time that working in a camp was sufficient grounds for culpability, with no proof of a specific crime.