A former Nazi concentration camp guard has gone on trial on 5,230 counts of being an accessory to murder.
Bruno Dey, 93, was a guard at the Stutthof camp east of Danzig – Gdansk – in Poland from August 1944 to April 1945.
There is no evidence he directly participated in any killings, but prosecutors argue he effectively helped them to take place in his role as a guard.
“The accused was no ardent worshipper of Nazi ideology,” an indictment said. “But there is also no doubt that he never actively challenged the persecutions of the Nazi regime.”
If not rising up against the Nazi regime warrants being charged as an accessory to murder, there are an awful lot who should have spent the past 70 years in jail. The Republic of Ireland, for example.
Wheelchair-bound Mr Dey has not denied being a camp guard. He has given investigators detailed statements about his service, and how after being ruled unfit for combat at age 17, he was drafted into an SS detachment and sent to Stutthof, which was near his home town.
How much agency do you think a 17 year old draftee had in Nazi Germany in 1944? He was supposed to know what was going on, refuse orders, and start challenging the Nazi leadership was he?
I have no problems about the allies hanging the Nazi leadership, even if the Nuremberg trials had no legal precedent. Nor do I have a problem with Simon Wiesenthal rounding up Nazis and shipping them back to Israel to be tried and executed. But hounding the last remnants of a generation that’s passed on, accusing them of complicity in crimes they didn’t commit when they were barely more than kids is grotesque.
Some three dozen survivors and their relatives have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law, including New York filmmaker Ben Cohen, whose grandmother survived Stutthof but whose great-grandmother died in the camp’s gas chamber during the time Dey served as a camp guard.
This is partly why Russians aren’t interested in opening the lid on their Soviet past; they know it will descend into farce. This isn’t about justice, it’s about revenge. And it is very, very ugly.