Dey was young

I’ve written before about the absurd practice of hauling nonagenarian German ex-soldiers in front of war crimes tribunals 75 years after the event. Unfortunately this practice is still going on:

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.


41 thoughts on “Dey was young

  1. Yes. Difficult to get this message through, in our age, so respect to you for daring to say it.

    Our mother grew up in East Prussia when the Nazi skunks won power (father forbade her to join, though the teachers and her classmates were all gung-ho for the new movement). All it left her with was an abiding aversion to fanaticism.

  2. A religious sacrifice. The Holocaust is for many the yardstick against which they measure evil and condemn contemporaries they don’t like. Vehemently supporting such prosecutions is – along with policing the language around it – a way of maintaining its currency and relevance.

  3. I read a book about the Reichstag fire. It went into the history of Germany after the war. It told how the allies quickly figured out that most of the people who knew how to run things were involved with the Nazis to some extent and were therefore given a pass.

    While I am sure there were many NCOs who committed atrocities, but they were probably well documented. Was Dey hiding all of this time? Why did it take this long to put him on trial? Is this just a way of sending a warning to anyone who entertains thoughts of German nationalism when the elites want globalism?

  4. I remember in recent years they decided to prosecute an Auschwitz guard who had served them well by featuring in TV documentaries about the subject.

    Meanwhile, killers of the Soviet regime live/lived out their days in Moscow and Tel Aviv.

  5. I completely agree with the main point of this post. There can be no meaningful “justice” involved in trying nonagenarians for being tiny cogs in the wheels of appalling machines when they were teenagers. Particularly when they have had 70 years to reflect – at this point, if there are any that don’t regret their involvement, is there really any external agency that can make them change their mind? It seems utterly futile when, as has been mentioned, there are cases of those being charged who have spent decades sharing their experiences and regrets for educational purposes.

    But this “there are an awful lot who should have spent the past 70 years in jail. The Republic of Ireland, for example” nonsense needs to stop. Ireland was the only neutral country in Europe that was pro-Allies (at least one rationale for which should be immediately obvious given the Atlantic convoys). It was well attested.

  6. “there are an awful lot who should have spent the past 70 years in jail. Sweden, for example”

  7. The Republic of Ireland, for example” nonsense needs to stop.

    Erm, no. The Irish Republic had one major foreign policy decision to make in its history and they blew it. Switzerland and Sweden at least have the excuse that had they not remained neutral they’d have faced imminent invasion. Ireland chose to freeload off the defence Britain provided, as it still does to this day with NATO. And regardless of many individual Irish fighting for the allies, the government enabled their fellow Irish to be bombed by the Luftwaffe in Belfast by not blacking out towns across the border. And let’s not forget their offering condolences to Germany on the death of Hitler. So no sorry, the stance of Ireland in WW2 was shameful. There is nothing admirable about the famous Irish neutrality, it’s freeloading at best and an utter moral failing at worst.

  8. A friend’s father had the war crimes investigators sniffing around him but, maybe fortunately, died before any charges were laid.
    In 1940 he was a conscript in the Lithuanian Army when his country was forcibly annexed by the USSR. He was not among the 17,000 Lithuanians deported to Siberia, many who failed to survive the harsh conditions.The Lithuanian Army was subsumed into the Red Army & he became a German POW during Barbarossa. After a period in a forced labour camp he was offered the opportunity of joining the SS & served as a concentration camp guard. In the aftermath of the German defeat in ’45, he managed to get himself to Austria where he was interned in the British sector & where he met a Russian woman he later married. Lithuania, now being part of the USSR, he was fortunate not to have been repatriated to the Soviet Union where he likely would have perished in detention along with many other of the Red Army’s POWs. He ended up in the UK, working as a miner in Nottingham until retirement. His daughter was a teacher in Hackney. Somewhat reminicent of the Russian Front but with the tanks & artillery.
    War crimes?

  9. @Freddy Netzsche
    The Cranborne Report was written in the closing stages of the war when already a lot of rewriting of recent history was going on. In the earlier part of the war, the Dublin government had little option but to play ball with the British. Had they not, the British would have had the military capability to retake the Treaty Ports & probably reunite Ireland if it saw a neutral Republic as a threat.
    It’d be hardly surprising something like that would be written into the record when the German defeat was becoming imminent & politicians in both countries were looking towards a post-war environment.

  10. “Ireland was the only neutral country in Europe that was pro-Allies …”

    And that nonsense needs to stop too. Switzerland was as pro-Allies as it could get away with (the population was 95% pro-Allies from contemporary surveys), given it was entirely surrounded by the Axis and was absolutely dependent upon food and fuel imports from or through Axis territory to not have the population starve to death or the country grind to a freezing halt.

    People who know a little about CH in WW2 tend to only know about the 90’s revisionist propaganda, and nothing of the actual reality on the ground. Or the fact that the Swiss had an illegal military cooperation agreement with the French in 1939-40, which the Germans knew about and the Swiss knew the Germans knew about.

    And all too many have imbibed the US principle that “you’re either actively fighting alongside us, or you’re on the side of the enemy” that is all good and well when you’re on the other side of the Atlantic and basically self-sufficient. Interestingly, before Pearl Harbour when the US was neutral, they were more understanding of Switzerland’s unique position.

    Basically, there are many people in the Anglosphere who seem to consider it morally suspect that Switzerland didn’t voluntarily offer itself up to certain annihilation in a way that is not and has never been expected of any other country.

  11. @Sam

    Nicely put. I’d also say it includes a great degree of virtue-signalling, but on a national scale. Laurie Penny signals her virtue by announcing she has dated a person who later turned trans; Germany signals her virtue by taking a nonagenarian camp guard to court. The sins of the nation are transferred to an individual, who is then exiled, and the sins go with him. There’s even a biblical reference to such a ritual: the goat for Azazel. From which comes the term scapegoat.

    No punishment will bring justice after all these years. The only justice his victims can get at this point is to tell the truth, but a trial cannot do that after seventy years. All the witnesses are gone, and a trial gives the man every incentive to lie or obfuscate. Better to drop the charges on condition that he write his memoirs, to be published after his death. But even that is no guarantee of truth.

    Anyone here see the movie “Remember” (2015), directed by Atom Egoyan? It touches on precisely this problem. I highly recommend it.

  12. Let him be.

    Which side we take in an elite created war is randomly decided by the accident of birth. We are not real enemies of our fellow man, we only treat them as enemies because we are told that they are due to where they were born and live.

    I haven’t looked into this guys upbringing but I did see that the camp was in “Free Danzig”, lets not forget the many atrocities that were committed by Polish nationalists pre-WWII in occupied West Prussia. Things get nasty when the tide is turned and its your turn to give the bad guys a hiding.

    That whole region post WWI was just another of the many trip wires set up to start WWII by the Treaty of Versailles.

    None of which will be taken into consideration in this poor bastards sentencing hearing.

  13. @Freddy

    Like you say there was many examples of Irishmen and their Government stepping out of neutrality in favour of Gt Britain during WWII, the Donegal Corridor, a secret at the time, being one of them.

    But at a higher level the Irish government of the day should be commended for not getting on board with the British war hawks or supporting them in starting and waging another pointless and futile war against Germany.

  14. It’s just virtue signalling, of a particularly nasty kind.

    I once met a very old man on a train in Innsbruck, and showed him some kindness, as one does to an elderly gentlemen struggling on a crowded train.
    We got talking, and he told me about his “uncle” in the SS, who had served nearby. The “uncle” was clearly a fiction. I’d guess he was drafted at 16 or so and had no say in the matter.
    I prefer to not revisit old wounds (except in Fawlty Towers) and said so, suggesting we seem to be making a better show of getting along currently. The outpouring of gratitude was immense: I wasn’t condeming him for the forced obedience of a teenage boy. In any case, any harm done by him was not to me, so neither vengeance nor forgiveness was mine to give either. But I think the little exchange eased his burden, for what cannot have been very many years left. He answered then.

    His own political leaders would have crucified him and burnt the ashes. Thereby acting just like those they claim to despise.

    This news story reflects very badly indeed on the current German state.

  15. “This news story reflects very badly indeed on the current German state.”

    Its such a tragedy that German history from Charlemagne onwards through the Holy Roman Empire, the rise of Prussia, industrialisation and unification has been permanently besmirched by such a small period of time and by a few bad eggs in the twentieth century.

    A blip in history that was not reflective of their contribution to Christianity and the development of many positive aspects of Western Europe during their time.

  16. Bardon

    You’re interpretation of history, ancient and modern, is barking.

    The history of the Germans – given the state only came into being in 1870 – is the history of originating the terrible dogmas that have bedevilled mankind.

    “……commended for not getting on board with the British war hawks or supporting them in starting and waging another pointless and futile war against Germany.”

    Do you actually believe that historical gibberish? A peace loving Reich was viciously attacked by the warmongering British?

    And as for your and Freddy’s notion that the Free State was sympathetic to the allies and allowed them certain ‘privileges’ . They didn’t have a choice. We’d occupied a neutral Iceland in 1940, just on the off-chance that they might be passively useful to the Germans.

  17. I agree with you Bardon. There’s nothing uniquely German about the evil unleashed 1933-1945. It’s happened before and since, and not in Germany.

    What concerns me is the way current Germany is going deaf to democracy and increasingly repressive, whenever the ruling elite are challenged. Trotting out a 93 year old for some public flogging is a diversion activity, but oddly enough, indicates more clearly the wrongs of the current German state than any justice that could be served after so many years.
    “OBEY. Or suffer.” Message delivered.
    It didnt work for Honecker, so there’s still hope.

  18. I don’t agree with arresting this particular guy for that, but I am generally in favour of arresting Germans and putting them in jail. In fact I have a list of those you could start with…

  19. Spot on. Even if you don’t want to go as far as Northern Ireland, how many people living in villages around the camps resisted? How many butchers or bakers got paid to feed the SS? How many girls had a drink in a bar with the SS and how many bar owners profited from that?

    The American commandant in charge of Dachau threatened to burn the town to the ground. “As punishment for the brutality that the town tolerated next door to it, it should be sacked and turned into ashes!”. In other places, the local people were marched to the camps to see what their lack of resistance had wrought.

    And what’s the punishment? An old guy, probably living in a home, moves to a prison hospital that’s no worse, decades after all the good years. It’s hardly a disincentive to crime, is it?

    It’s very easy from a safe, warm court room decades later to assume that you’d be the tough guy, while everyone else wasn’t.

  20. “an utter moral failing at worst”

    Wasn’t utter moral failing what enabled WW2 in the first place? On the part of less insignificant entities than Ireland, I mean, like Munich and such.

  21. @Freddy Netzsche
    The Irish did persecute soldiers who fought for the British
    @””They didn’t understand why we did what we did. A lot of Irish people wanted Germany to win the war – they were dead up against the British.”
    Surely people responsible for that policy are just as bad as those who were concentration camp guards?

  22. abacab – “given it was entirely surrounded by the Axis and was absolutely dependent upon food and fuel imports from or through Axis territory to not have the population starve to death or the country grind to a freezing halt.”

    According to Adam LeBor in ‘Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World’ the only reason that Switzerland was spared occupation was in order that it could maintain it’s neutrality and that of the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, the privately owned bank of banks. The bank which was referred to as Hitlers banks at the time was ostensibly established to process German war repatriations even though they repudiated them and had stopped paying them in the thirties, the bank that authorized with the support of Montagu Norman the Governor of the BOE the physical transfer of the Czechoslovakian central banks gold reserves held in London to the Nazis which at the peak of its dominance owned 70% of the banks shares according to his book.

    What do you think, is it feasible that the Swiss were spared occupation, which would have been relatively easy for the Nazis to accomplish, in order that the Reichsbank could continue to trade and transfer paper and physical assets at the international level including between belligerents?


    Never mind the Czech gold the Nazis stole…

    The Bank for International Settlements actually financed Hitler’s war machine….html

  23. According to Adam LeBor in ‘Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World’ …

    What do you think, is it feasible that the Swiss were spared occupation, which would have been relatively easy for the Nazis to accomplish, in order that the Reichsbank could continue to trade and transfer paper and physical assets at the international level including between belligerents?

    I think it’s normally wise to avoid basing opinions on things on the views of authors of conspiracy theory books, as 30 seconds on Google will show that the work in question is. “The vampire squid of regulation” isn’t a serious description of the BIS, for instance…

    Basically the Germans never got around to invading CH (D-Day put paid to that), and the government had made CH just-useful-enough to avoid being cut off from supplies that had to come through Axis territory or be purchased from the axis. Some of this usefulness was indeed financial (some was precision mfg, some was the ability of intelligence assets on all sides to move fairly freely), but I’d not give much truck to conspiracy theories on that front. For one thing, the CHF was a convertible, gold-backed currency, and needed to retain its value to be able to purchase food and raw materials from other neutrals and from the Allies (and they’d negotiated hard enough to put in place a dual-permitting system with permits from the Allies and the Axis to enable such trade to take place at all.) This meant that the SNB needed to buy gold to back the currency it was issuing, otherwise the CHF would lose its value and the Swiss couldn’t pay for imports and would starve. This involved buying gold from Germany, some of which had indeed been looted from various treasuries (amoral, not illegal – shouldn’t have been done knowingly though), and 12 bars of Melmer-gold which were holocaust-linked (not that anyone could have known at the time). Since the US had impounded SNB gold in the US, they also did some legal jiggery-pokery to enable that to count too…

    This is a far, far more complex and interesting topic than the simplistic conspiracy theories would have it. Stick to watching Ancient Aliens on the History channel if you want that crap.

  24. Okay so you are completely unaware of and have no interest in the documented history of the BIS, the role it played pre-war, during the war and up to this present day, that is fine by me.

  25. Why would Germany be interested in invading Switzerland at all?

    The truth of the Nazis is this: They were elected in 1933, gained dictatorial powers and then spent a huge fortune on a military, with the intention of ethnic cleansing the East and creating a greater German state.

    They really didn’t care about anywhere else. The invasion of France and the Low Countries was because France declared war. It’s why they had no interest in Switzerland. Switzerland didn’t attack. It also had little strategic advantage, is a bugger to get in and out of, and doesn’t have particularly good arable land.

    The idea they left Switzerland alone because they did the Nazi’s banking is just ridiculous. If that was an incredibly useful thing, the Nazis would have invaded just to be able to take control of the banks. They’re Nazis. They like controlling stuff.

  26. @Bardon, the book you cite apparently gets its basic history wrong too… Quoth a reviewer: “According to the author, it was founded by and for Nazis to escape the reparations, fund World War II and the Holocaust.”

    In fact, it opened its doors in 1930, 3 years before the NSDAP took power in Germany.

    So no, I have absolutely no interest in “learning” about things by reading an author who can get such a basic thing wrong.

  27. @abacab – That’s fine by me, it has obviously touched a nerve with you. I have read a few of this authors books and I think that he knows an awful lot more about the BIS than you do.

    About the Author

    Adam LeBor is an author, journalist, and literary critic based in Budapest. He writes for The Economist, The Times (London), Monocle, and numerous other publications, and also reviews books for the New York Times. He has been a foreign correspondent since 1991, covering the collapse of communism and the Yugoslav wars, and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is the author of seven critically acclaimed nonfiction books, including the ground-breaking Hitler’s Secret Bankers, and two novels. His books have been published in twelve languages.

  28. @Bloke on M4:

    Germany was interested in absorbing the German-speaking areas of Switzerland into the Reich, since they were aggressively pan-Germanist and the existence of CH was a rebuke and insult to their ideology. During the war, they were convinced that Switzerland was an outpost of Allied territory right their in their back yard, and they also knew that Switzerland had illegally colluded with the French in ’39-’40.

    Plenty of reasons to invade if you’re that way inclined.

    It’s also not a bugger to get into at all, in the parts of it facing Germany.

    Some basic reading on this:

  29. Some interesting reviews:

    That is the kind of book that you need to avoid reading. Full of out-of-focus tabloid stories which are far from entertaining. It is one of the available options one can use to test someone’s knowledge of financial history who always claims to be an expert. If someone learns BIS from this book, then he or she is possibly a crook. Come one, even the conspiracy theory has its threshold.
    The only Interesting aspect of this book is the historical aspect … And I have doubts about how reliable the author is even for that part … The book is actually a poor collection of generalities, hasty conclusions and a vicious attack on the European construction presented as the spiritual child of Nazi Germany
    What a huge disappointment. The only explanation I have for the great reviews in the WSJ or the Times is that they didn’t read the whole thing. Its littered with typo’s, spelling errors, and even grammar mistakes (no, Belgian and Belgium are not the same, and Alfred Krupp is not spelled Alfried).
    What is much worse is the content. As a general rule it has been proven useful to stay clear of books about conspiracy theories if you want real information. Same applies here. The author sees conspiracies everywhere and considers the Bank of International Settlements the “vampire squid of regulation”!! No, there is no doubt about the entanglement of the BIS with the Nazi regime, nevertheless today’s BIS is a different animal. We learn nothing about the Basel Accords, and close nothing about the fact that the BIS did actually warn of the Asian Financial Crisis and the 2007 crash. So if you want to learn what the BIS actually does and how it works, this is not a book for you. This is a book for people who like to watch History channel documentaries about the Nazi super weapons. Hey, a secret society, an all-powerful bank, and then you can even throw in some Nazis – how could that not sell?!

    So no, this particular book does not appear to be worth my consideration.

  30. You’re interpretation of history, ancient and modern, is barking.

    ‘The history of the Germans – given the state only came into being in 1870 – is the history of originating the terrible dogmas that have bedevilled mankind.

    Recusant is quite correct. A great number of the truly awful ideas that bedevil Western European culture these days have their roots in German thought reaching as far back as the late eighteenth century.

  31. Anyway, back at the plot – I find it utterly distasteful to prosecute a nonagenarian for having been conscripted as a teenager 70+ years ago and not having chosen to have been shot against a wall instead.

    Cos distilled down to its essence, that’s what it comes down to.

  32. @ abacab- “If you want to trust and believe an author who gets the basic fact surrounding founding of the organisation about which he is writing completely wrong”

    Here is a free lesson for you. Don’t try and critique a book if you havent read it, worse still quoting an erroneous cherry picked review comment in some kind of qualified way, because it makes you look like a complete fool when you do.

    From the book:

    “The conception seems to have formed in the popular mind that the Bank for International Settlements, which began at Basel, Switzerland, May 20, 1930, was organized merely to handle German reparations payments and the so-called inter-allied debt and that its principal operations are concerned with the German debt payments. That is a mistaken, although an understandable, view.”

    And as for the childish posting of others review comments, I really dont know why you have such a bee in your bonnet about the BIS, its role and transactions during the war, facts are facts. You have nothing at all to be ashamed about in not knowing what was going on around the place at the time.

    Now its my turn to post reviews, you started it, and I am telling mum on you.


    Wall Street Journal “Adam LeBor’s Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World makes a strident case for challenging these financial shamans [central bankers] … Mr. LeBor’s polemical tone makes his book compelling … It’s a very ugly picture, and Mr. LeBor has painted it well.” Edward Lucas, author of Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today”Tower of Basel is essential reading. Meticulously researched and fluently written, it reveals a slice of the modern world’s untold history–a gripping tale of covert networks, secret deals and unaccountable, powerful individuals whose decisions shape our lives.” Liaquat Ahamed, author of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World”Adam LeBor has written an absolutely fascinating history of the BIS, perhaps the most enigmatic financial institution in the world. The story he unveils of the many skeletons in its closet and its astounding ability to remake itself periodically only add to its mystique.” Harold James, professor of history and international affairs, Princeton University, and author of Making the European Monetary Union “Compelling reading–a masterly depiction of the role of the BIS in the Nazi period and Second World War.” Booklist “It’s a story of financial intrigue, secrets and lies, rumor and truth. LeBor, a business journalist (he’s also the author of several thrillers), knows how to make a true story about finance as thrilling as any spy novel. A highly entertaining and informative book about the most powerful bank you’ve probably never heard of.” Reuters Breaking Views “An absorbing and thorough examination of one of the world’s most important yet opaque institutions”

  33. RE Philip Scott Thomas: My thoughts as well. Did some googling:

    Some Bad Germans: Bismark, Marx, Hitler et al, Merkel, Kirstin Dunst, Kant, Michael and Ralph Shumacher

    Some Good Germans: Luther, Bach, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Einstein, Mozart, Planck, Goethe, Mendelsshohn, Karl Benz, Marlene Dietrich

    I know there are several Austrians on there but close enough for a comment section. Seems like the paradise of poets and philosophers was ruined by the creation of the German State.

  34. “German State”

    Isn’t Germany the home of the idea that a State is something preeminent? I think there is a whole lot of woe from that idea.

  35. Einstein knew of Soviet human rights abuses but didn’t care, on the eggs-omelettes principle… Which rather marks him down in my eyes.

  36. “Einstein knew of Soviet human rights abuses but didn’t care, on the eggs-omelettes principle”

    Link/citation? I’d like to learn more.

  37. Re. Einstein,

    I can’t find the exact citation about him going “meh” at Soviet human rights abuses, but they were generally well-known about, even if denied by fellow travellers.

    With that in mind, here’s “What Russia Means to Us”, a pro-Soviet speech he gave:

    He was a fan of Lenin: “I honor Lenin as a man who completely sacrificed himself and devoted all his energy to the realization of social justice. I do not consider his methods practical, but one thing is certain: men of his type are the guardians and restorers of the conscience of humanity.”

Comments are closed.