A 93-year-old German former Stutthof guard on trial in Hamburg on thousands of counts of accessory to murder testified Monday he regrets having served in the Nazi concentration camp.
Bruno Dey, a former SS private, told the court that "the images of misery and horror have haunted me my entire life," the German dpa news agency reported.
He apologized to the victims of the camp, saying that he had been posted there unwillingly after being deemed unfit for combat duty due to a heart ailment.
The comments from Dey, in a short statement and in answer to questions from Presiding Judge Anne Meier-Goering, were his first at his trial, which opened last week.
Though there's no evidence Dey was involved in a specific killing at the camp near Danzig, today the Polish city of Gdansk, prosecutors argue that as a guard he helped the camp function.
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He faces 5,230 counts of accessory to murder for killings while he was there in 1944-45.
Despite his advanced age, Dey's being tried in juvenile court because he was 17 when he started serving at Stutthof.
He faces a possible six months to 10 years in prison if convicted. In Germany there are no consecutive sentences.
He has been open with investigators about serving at Stutthof, acknowledging that he heard screams from the camp's gas chambers and watched as corpses were taken to the crematoria to be burned.
With training as a baker's apprentice, he told the court when he learned he'd been assigned to Stutthof he attempted to be assigned to an army kitchen or bakery instead, to no avail.
As a guard there, he said he had frequently been assigned to watch over prisoner labor crews working outside the camp. But, he said, he had never fired his weapon and had once allowed a group to smuggle back to camp meat from a dead horse they'd discovered.
When he compared his standing naked before a military doctor for an exam to the prisoners standing naked for inspection in Stutthof, Meier-Goering stopped him, asking whether he didn't find his comparison a "slap in the face" to the survivors.
"It was certainly different, in any case," he said, revising his comment. "One can't make that comparison."
In deference to Dey's age, the court sessions are being limited to two hours a day, and two sessions a week. His testimony is scheduled to continue Friday.