A 93-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard was convicted Thursday in Germany of being an accessory in the murder of more than 5,200 prisoners — but got off with a two-year suspended prison sentence.
Bruno Dey, whose trial began in October, was convicted in a Hamburg court of 5,232 counts of accessory to murder, German news agency dpa reported — one count for every victim thought to have been killed during his time at the Stutthof concentration camp in 1944 and 1945.
Dey, whose case was heard in juvenile court because he was 17 and 18 at the time, was also convicted of one count of accessory to attempted murder. Prosecutors had sought a three-year sentence for Dey, whose attorneys argued to have him acquitted.
Dey had previously confessed to being a guard at the camp, but insisted he had no choice during his trial, which included more than 40 co-plaintiffs from France, Israel, Poland and the US, CNN reports.
Dey, according to his 2019 indictment, supported the “insidious and cruel killing” at Stutthof concentration camp in what was then occupied Poland.
In a statement to the court earlier this week, the wheelchair-bound Dey said he was “shaken” by the witness accounts and apologized to “those who went through the hell of this madness,” BBC reports.
But he also claimed he wasn’t aware of the “extent of the atrocities” until his trial, despite acknowledging that he knew of gas chambers and seeing “emaciated figures” and “people who suffered” at the death camp, the BBC reports.
Prosecutors disputed that claim, saying Dey was well aware of the mass killings and actively stopped prisoners from escaping.
“When you are a part of mass-murder machinery, it is not enough to look away,” prosecutor Lars Mahnke said.
More than 65,000 people are believed to have died at Stutthof, where guards began using gas chambers in June 1944.
Dey’s sentence was blasted as too light by the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Jerusalem.
“We’re very pleased he’s convicted but upset about the sentence, which in a certain sense is an insult to the survivors,” Efraim Zuroff told the Associated Press. “There has to be some element of punishment.”