A former Nazi concentration camp guard was convicted of thousands of counts of being an accessory to murder and given a two-year suspended prison sentence Thursday, a court announced.
The 93-year-old man, identified as Bruno D., was charged with 5,230 counts of accessory to murder over his time as an SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp from 1944 to 1945.
He was found guilty by the Hamburg juvenile court of aiding and abetting in the murder of at least 5,232 people. He faced a juvenile court because he was 17 years old at the time he served in Stutthof.
The defendant had previously admitted to being a guard at the camp, but told the court at the beginning of his trial that he had no choice at the time. He grew up in a village by Danzig, which is now the Polish city of Gdansk.
More than 40 co-plaintiffs from France, Israel, Poland and the United States testified against the former SS guard during the trial, which began in October.
Concluding just over 75 years after World War II ended in Europe, it will be one of the last trials of a former Nazi.
It is estimated that around 65,000 people were murdered during the Holocaust in the Stutthof concentration camp, near the Polish city now called Gdansk.
Bruno D. came to the attention of prosecutors during the landmark trial of former Sobibor SS guard John Demjanjuk. He was indicted in April 2019 and lives with his family in Hamburg. According to his 2019 indictment, Bruno D. knowingly supported the “insidious and cruel killing” at Stutthof concentration camp.
Prisoners in Stutthof were killed by being shot in the back of the neck, poisoned with Zyklon B gas, and denied food and medicine, court documents allege.
The verdict has been seen as “symbolic justice” for the victims of the camp, Ben Cohen, whose grandmother Judy Meisel was imprisoned in the camp and a co-plaintiff in the trial, told CNN in a statement.
”On behalf of my grandmother and our family this verdict sends a powerful message that a guard in any camp cannot deny responsibility for what happened,” Cohen wrote. His grandmother’s mother, Mina Beker, was murdered in the camp. Meisel and her sister survived and escaped to Denmark.
“Unfortunately, most perpetrators of the Holocaust were never prosecuted and so we are left with something that feels like symbolic justice today, rather than true justice,” he said.
“The most important thing to us is that these horrific things should never happen again and that the world can be educated about the capacity for seemingly normal people to be part of the most horrific evil.”
This comes after a 95-year-old man, accused of being a guard at the same camp as Bruno D., was charged July 14 with war crimes during the Holocaust, the Wuppertal, Germany, district court announced last week.
German prosecutors are investigating 14 other cases connected to the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen and Stutthof, according to the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes.
First established by the Nazis in 1939, Stutthof went on to house a total of 115,000 prisoners, more than half of whom died there. Around 22,000 went on to be transferred from Stutthof to other Nazi camps.
An estimated 6 million Jewish people were killed in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Also killed were hundreds of thousands of Roma people and people with mental or physical disabilities.