A German court on Thursday convicted a 93-year-old former SS private of being an accessory to murder at the Stutthof concentration camp, The Associated Press reports.
The guard, Bruno Dey, served as a guard in Stutthof in the final months of World War II. He was given a two-year suspended sentence.
Dey was convicted of 5,232 counts of accessory to murder by the Hamburg state court, news agency dpa reported. That is equal to the number of people believed to have been killed at Stutthof during his service there in 1944 and 1945. He also was convicted as an accessory to attempted murder.
“How could you get used to the horror?” presiding judge Anne Meier-Goering asked as she announced the verdict. She said that the fact Dey was taking orders didn’t free him from guilt.
Because he was 17 and 18 at the time of his alleged crimes, Dey’s case was heard in juvenile court. Prosecutors had called for a three-year sentence, while the defense sought acquittal.
The judge said that, while Dey should have tried to avoid service at Stutthof, the sentence was appropriate to his guilt.
Earlier this week, Dey apologized to Holocaust victims ahead of his verdict.
"Today I would like to apologize to those who went through the hell of this madness, as well as to their relatives. Something like this must never happen again," he said at the court.
“You were not yet grown up then, still so young in a time when a lack of conscience had seized a whole people as never before,” Meier-Goering said.
The trial opened in October. Because of Dey’s age, court sessions were limited to two, two-hour sessions a week. Additional precautions also were taken to keep the case going through the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of the trial, Dey said he was sorry for his actions, though he insisted that he did not join the deadly operation voluntarily.
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.