German prosecutors demand jail time for former Nazi concentration camp guard

93-year-old Bruno Dey accused of complicity in the murder of 5,230 people at the Stutthof camp.

Elad Benari ,

Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof concentration camp

German prosecutors on Monday demanded three years in jail for a 93-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who they said was "without a doubt" complicit in the murder of more than 5,000 people during World War II, AFP reported.

In what could be one of the last such cases of surviving Nazi guards, Bruno Dey stands accused of complicity in the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

Dey, who appeared in court in Hamburg in a wheelchair and wearing a black trilby, has denied any guilt for what happened at the camp.

Chief prosecutor Lars Mahnke, however, said Dey knew about the "state-organized mass murder" happening around him and should have climbed down from the tower and handed in his weapon.

"He knew without a doubt what was going on," Mahnke said, accusing Dey of having contributed to "barely describable crimes" that evoked "horror and shame" over what human beings are capable of doing to one another.

Dey's defense has insisted he did not join the SS voluntarily before serving at the camp from August 1944 to April 1945, ending up assigned there because a heart condition excluded him from frontline service.

Prosecutors argue that his involvement was crucial to the killings, as his time in the SS coincided with the "Final Solution" order to systematically exterminate Jews through gassing, starvation or denial of medical care.

In October, Dey said he was sorry for his actions, though he insisted that he did not join the deadly operation voluntarily.

Dey is standing trial at a juvenile court because he was aged between 17 and 18 at the time.

During his testimony in May, Dey told the court that he wanted to forget his time at the camp.

"I don't want to keep going over the past," he told the Hamburg tribunal.

The Nazis set up the Stutthof camp in 1939, initially using it to detain Polish political prisoners. It ended up holding 110,000 detainees, including many Jews. Some 65,000 people perished in the camp.

Dey’s case is one of many to have been opened against suspected Nazi war criminals in recent years.

The crackdown began following the 2011 Munich trial of John Demjanjuk, a Nazi war criminal charged of assisting in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp and sentenced to five years. He died in 2012.

Some of those convicted of Nazi-era war crimes never served their sentences as they passed away before being jailed.

One such convict, Reinhold Hanning, was found guilty of complicity in the mass murders at Auschwitz. However, Hanning died at the age of 95 in June of 2017, before he could serve his jail term.

In a similar case, Oskar Groening, known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, died in March of 2018 before he could begin serving a four-year prison sentence after being convicted for the crime of accessory to the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz.

In April, a German court dropped a case against 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, Johann Rehbogen, finding him unfit for trial due to illness.