The descendant of one of the camp's prisoners said the verdict "sends a powerful message that a guard in any camp cannot deny responsibility for what happened."
Trigger Warning: Mentions of the Holocaust
A 93-year-old man identified as Bruno D has been charged with 5,230 counts of accessory to murder for his time from 1944 to 1945 as an SS guard at a Nazi concentration camp in Stutthof, CNN reports. Though the Holocaust took place several decades ago now, the verdict has been viewed as true justice. The verdict comes right after another alleged guard, a 95-year-old who worked at the same camp as Bruno D, was charged with war crimes on July 14 by the Wuppertal, Germany, district court. A co-plaintiff in the case explained that the charges send a "powerful message."
In one of the last trials of a former Nazi, the Hamburg juvenile court found the defendant guilty of aiding and abetting in the murder of at least 5,232 people. Though he is now 93 years old, he faced juvenile court as he was only 17 when he was employed as a guard at the Stutthof concentration camp, where it is estimated that around 65,000 people were murdered during the Holocaust. Bruno D, who had previously admitted to being a guard at the Nazi camp, argued he had no choice in the matter. He was born and spent his childhood in a village by Danzig, which is now the Polish city of Gdansk. The trial, which began in October last year, has concluded after just over 75 years following the end of World War II. Over 40 co-plaintiffs from France, Israel, Poland, and the United States presented testimonies against the former SS guard during the trial.
A 93-year-old former Nazi SS concentration camp guard has been spared jail and instead given a two-year suspended sentence after being found guilty of accessory to 5,230 murders during the Holocaust. @TomSwarbrick1 asks: what should happen to this man? pic.twitter.com/XBPke2AXK1— LBC (@LBC) July 23, 2020
One of the co-plaintiffs was Ben Cohen, whose grandmother Judy Meisel was imprisoned in the camp. He affirmed 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." His grandmother's mother, Mina Beker, was unfortunately murdered in the camp. However, Meisel and her sister were lucky to have escaped the camp and fled 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," Cohen continued. "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."
As per the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, German prosecutors are at present still conducting investigations with regard to 14 other cases connected to the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, and Stutthof. Stutthof, first established in 1939 by the Nazis, housed a total of 115,000 prisoners. More than half of the prisoners in the camp were murdered, whereas 22,000 others were transferred from Stutthof to other Nazi camps. According to court documents from Bruno D's case, prisoners in Stutthof were killed by being shot in the back of the neck, poisoned with Zyklon B gas, and denied food and medicine. The defendant, who as per his 2019 indictment knowingly supported this "insidious and cruel killing," first came to the attention of prosecutors during another landmark trial of a Sobibor SS guard, John Demjanjuk.