Ex-SS guard, 93, tells German court ‘sorry for what he did’

German Bruno D. arrives for his trial in Hamburg court, Germany accused of being involved in killing, and helping to murder thousands of prisoners in the Stutthof Nazi concentration camp. (Reuters)
Updated 17 October 2019

Ex-SS guard, 93, tells German court ‘sorry for what he did’

  • Bruno Dey stands accused of abetting the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp
  • While he insisted that he did not join the deadly operation voluntarily, he voiced regret for his actions

HAMBURG: A former SS guard, 93, said he was sorry for his actions as he went on trial in Germany on Thursday for complicity in the murder of more than 5,000 people at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
In what could be one of the last such cases of surviving Nazi guards, Bruno Dey stands accused of abetting the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.
While he insisted that he did not join the deadly operation voluntarily, he voiced regret for his actions.
“That’s what he said in his interrogation: He felt sorry for what he did,” said his lawyer Stefan Waterkamp.
“It was also clear to him that (the inmates) were not in there because they were criminals, but for anti-Semitic, racist and other reasons. He had compassion for them. But he did not see himself in a position to free them.”
Seated in a wheelchair, Dey wore a hat and sunglasses and hid his face behind a red folder as he entered the courtroom.
Waterkamp said his client was “ready to respond to all questions,” underlining that Dey “did not join the SS voluntarily. He did not seek to serve at the concentration camp.”
Prosecutors said nevertheless that as an “SS guard at Stutthof concentration camp between August 1944 and April 1945, he is believed to have provided support to the gruesome killing of Jewish prisoners in particular.”
Although the trial comes late, Jewish groups underlined its importance in light of contemporary far-right anti-Semitic violence like last week’s deadly shooting in the eastern city of Halle.
“Why are you doing this trial today? Remember what happened in Halle last week,” said Efraim Zuroff of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, in reference to the attack that included a synagogue among targets.
“Old age should not be a reason not to judge... He was part of the greatest tragedy in history, it was his will.”

During Dey’s time at the camp, the “Final Solution” order to exterminate Jews was issued by the Nazi leadership, leading to the systematic killing of inmates in gas chambers, while others died of starvation or because they were denied medical care, prosecutors said.
Despite his advanced age, Dey is being tried by a juvenile court in Hamburg because he was 17 when he first worked at Stutthof.
According to German media, Dey, who now lives in Hamburg, became a baker after the war.
Married with two daughters, he supplemented his income by working as a truck driver, before later taking on a job in building maintenance.
The law finally caught up with him as a result of the legal precedent set when former guard John Demjanjuk was convicted in 2011 on the basis that he served as part of the Nazi killing machine at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland.
Since then, Germany has been racing to put on trial surviving SS personnel on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.
In the same vein, Dey is “accused of having contributed as a cog in the murder machine, in full knowledge of the circumstances, so that the order to kill could be carried out,” prosecutors said.

During pre-trial questioning, Dey said he ended up in the SS-Totenkopfsturmbahn (Death’s Head Battalion) that ran the camp only because of a heart condition that prevented him from being sent to the front, according to Tagesspiegel daily.
Dey also reportedly confirmed he knew of the camp’s gas chambers, where he saw SS prisoners being pushed inside.
He admitted seeing “emaciated figures, people who had suffered,” but insisted he was not guilty, according to the daily Die Welt.
The Nazis set up the Stutthof camp in 1939, initially using it to detain Polish political prisoners.
But it ended up holding 110,000 detainees, including many Jews. Some 65,000 people perished in the camp.
Since the landmark Demjanjuk ruling, German courts have convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder.
Both men were found guilty at age 94 but died before they could be imprisoned.
In April, a German judge suspended the trial of a former Stutthof concentration camp guard after the 95-year-old defendant was hospitalized with heart and kidney problems.


Lankan premier steps down to pave way for new regime

Updated 21 November 2019

Lankan premier steps down to pave way for new regime

  • Wickremesinghe credits his premiership for holding fair and free presidential polls

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe resigned from office on Wednesday, following the remarkable election victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as the seventh president of the island nation two days ago.

The announcement Wednesday followed a meeting between the premier and Gotabaya, who won with a majority 1.3 million votes against his closest rival Sajith Premadasa.

Sajith represents the Democratic National Front (DNF), comprising the major United National Party (UNP), and other parties such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Tamil Unity Alliance and Sri Lanka Muslim Makkal Congress.

Speaking to the press, the outgoing premier, who will hand in his official resignation on Thursday morning, said that the new president, who gained a massive mandate from the people, wished to form his own government to implement his manifesto in the coming days.

Opposition leader and former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be sworn in as prime minister at 1 p.m. on Thursday, according to reliable government sources.

Although he has a majority in the Parliament, Wickremesinghe said it was better to give way for a new government under the new regime.

He added that in the past five years, he had worked to ensure democracy, freedom of expression, the right to information, equality and reconciliation in the country.

Wickremesinghe said that being able to hold the last presidential election in a free, independent, and fair manner was a credit to his premiership.

HIGHLIGHT

• The outgoing premier said the new president, who gained a massive mandate from the people, wished to form his own government to implement his manifesto in the coming days.

“The future will give us the correct judgment on what we have done,” he said, adding that he “valued and respected” democracy. 

“I act democratically. Accordingly, I have decided to resign from the post of prime minister, allowing the new president to form a new government. I will inform the president of this decision tomorrow, Thursday,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar paid a courtesy visit to Gotabaya before extending an invitation to visit India. Gotabaya accepted the invitation and will visit on Nov. 29.

Dr. Jaishankar was the first leader to visit Sri Lanka after the new president took office as the head of the state.

Following his swearing-in ceremony on Monday, a number of ministers submitted their resignations from their portfolios to help the new regime form a government of its own.

On Wednesday afternoon, governors from the nine provinces were forced to tender their resignations.

As soon as he took over, Gotabaya appointed allies to key positions. The president’s first appointment was former Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera as secretary to the president, followed by former Central Bank Deputy Governor S.R. Attygalle, who was appointed as treasury secretary. Finance Ministry Secretary and Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne was made the new defense secretary.

Meanwhile, a group of members of the UNP have started campaigning for the defeated Sajith to become the leader of the opposition when the new premier takes over. Sajith resigned from the post of deputy leader of UNP following his defeat at the polls.

Gotabaya, who contested the presidential election in 2019, won more than 52 percent of the nearly 16 million possible votes on this occasion.