Suspected SS guard says he's 'sorry' for his actions

93-year-old former SS guard expresses regret in first day of trial for complicity in murder of more than 5,000 people at Stutthof.

Elad Benari ,

Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof concentration camp

Bruno Dey, a 93-year-old former SS guard, said on Thursday he was sorry for his actions as he went on trial in Germany for complicity in the murder of more than 5,000 people at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

Dey stands accused of abetting the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

While he insisted that he did not join the deadly operation voluntarily, he voiced regret for his actions.

"That's what he said in his interrogation: He felt sorry for what he did," said his lawyer Stefan Waterkamp, according to AFP.

"It was also clear to him that (the inmates) were not in there because they were criminals, but for anti-Semitic, racist and other reasons. He had compassion for them. But he did not see himself in a position to free them," added the lawyer.

Seated in a wheelchair, Dey wore a hat and sunglasses and hid his face behind a red folder as he entered the courtroom, according to AFP.

Waterkamp said his client was "ready to respond to all questions", underlining that Dey "did not join the SS voluntarily".

Prosecutors said nevertheless that as an "SS guard at Stutthof concentration camp between August 1944 and April 1945, he is believed to have provided support to the gruesome killing of Jewish prisoners in particular."

In April, Dey was charged by Hamburg prosecutors with aiding in the "malicious and cruel" killing of prisoners at the Stutthof concentration camp. He served as a concentration camp guard there for nine months, from August 1944 until April 1945. Stutthof was located in what is now Poland.

Dey, who was 17 when he served as a guard, stressed to the prosecutors that he hadn't been a Nazi sympathizer and had joined the SS due to a heart weakness which precluded him from serving in a standard military unit.

His 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.