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Kamis, 23 Juli 2020

German court convicts 93-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on accessory to murder charges - ABC News

A German court has convicted a former Nazi guard on more than 5,000 counts of accessory to murder at the Stutthof concentration camp, where he served as a guard in the final months of World War II.

The 93-year-old former SS private Bruno Dey was convicted of 5,232 counts of accessory to murder, equal to the number of people believed to have been killed at Stutthof during his service there in 1944 and 1945, and one count of accessory to attempted murder. Dey was given a two-year suspended sentence.

"How could you get used to the horror?" presiding judge Anne Meier-Goering asked as she announced the verdict.

Because he was only 17, and later 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 defence demanded acquittal.

The trial opened in October and in deference to Dey's age, court sessions were limited to two two-hour sessions a week.

In a closing statement to the court earlier this week, the wheelchair-bound German retiree apologised for his role in the Nazis' machinery of destruction, saying "it must never be repeated."

"Today, I want to apologise to all of the people who went through this hellish insanity," Dey said.

17-year-old Dey 'heard screams' from gas chambers from guard tower

Prosecutors argued that as a Stutthof guard from August 1944 to April 1945, Dey — although "no ardent worshipper of Nazi ideology" — aided all the killings that took place there during that period as a "small wheel in the machinery of murder."

Dey gave wide-ranging statements to investigators about his service, saying that he was deemed unfit for combat in the regular Germany army in 1944 so was drafted into an SS guard detachment and sent to the camp near Danzig, now the Polish city of Gdansk.

Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles removed from Danzig, Stutthof from about 1940 was used as a so-called "work education camp" where forced labourers, primarily Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve sentences and often died.

Others incarcerated there included political prisoners, accused criminals, people suspected of homosexual activity and Jehovah's Witnesses.

More than 60,000 people were killed there by being given lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly to their hearts, shot or starved. Others were forced outside in winter without clothing until they died of exposure, or were put to death in a gas chamber.

Dey told the court that as a trained baker's apprentice, he attempted to get sent to an army kitchen or bakery when he learned he'd been assigned to Stutthof.

An elderly man sits in a wheelchair on the stand. Separated by perspex, the judge sits next to him wearing a mask.
Precautions were taken to keep the case going through the height of the coronavirus pandemic.(DPA: Daniel Bockwoldt/ Pool)

As a guard there, he said he frequently was directed to watch over prisoner labour crews working outside the camp.

Dey acknowledged hearing screams from the camp's gas chambers and watching as corpses were taken to be burned, but he said he never fired his weapon and once allowed a group to smuggle meat from a dead horse they'd discovered back into the camp.

"The images of misery and horror have haunted me my entire life," he testified.

21st-century precedent opens door to further WWII-era convictions

For at least two decades, every trial of a former Nazi has been dubbed "likely Germany's last".

But just last week, another ex-guard at Stutthof was charged at age 95 and more than a dozen further cases are actively being investigated by the special prosecutors' office that investigates Nazi-era crimes.

That's due in part to a precedent established in 2011 with the conviction of former guard at the Sobibor death camp in German-occupied Poland John Demjanjuk as an accessory to murder on allegations.

Before Demjanjuk's case, German courts had required prosecutors to justify charges by presenting evidence of a former guard's participation in a specific killing, a legal standard that was often next to impossible to meet given the circumstances of the crimes committed at Nazi death camps.

However, prosecutors successfully argued during Demjanjuk's trial in Munich that guarding a camp where the only purpose was murder was enough for an accessory conviction.

The Dey case extends the argument to apply to a guard at a concentration camp that did not exist for the sole purpose of extermination, rather than a death camp guard.

AP

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2020-07-23 10:50:00Z
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