July 23, 2020
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) welcomes today’s decision by a German court that convicted a former Nazi concentration camp guard on thousands of counts of being an accessory to murder and giving a two-year suspended prison sentence Thursday.
According to a CNN report, the 93-year-old man, identified as Bruno Dey, was charged with 5,230 counts of accessory to murder over his time as an SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp from 1944 to 1945. He was found guilty by the Hamburg juvenile court of aiding and abetting in the murder of at least 5,232 people. He faced a juvenile court because he was 17 years old at the time he served in Stutthof.
Local Holocaust survivor and co-plaintiff in the trial, Judy Meisel, played a critical role in this trial as well as in one other trial prosecuting Nazi concentration camp guards. Her first-hand testimony and her family’s courageous support allowed German prosecutors to pursue these cases.
“Today’s decision represents justice for Judy Meisel, her family, and the millions of victims and survivors of the Shoah. We thank Judy for her bravery and commitment to the pursuit of justice. We also thank law enforcement and prosecutors in Germany and the United States, specifically the agents in the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, whose determination and hard work helped lead to this conviction,” said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the JCRC.
“At a time when victory over Nazi Germany was not a certainty and the full extent of the Holocaust was not yet realized or known, the eleven Allied governments, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, issued a statement known as the Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations in December 1942 to respond to the mounting evidence of a coordinated Nazi effort to ‘exterminate the Jewish people.’ In this statement, the Allies ‘condemn[ed] in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination. They declar[ed] that such events can only strengthen the resolve of all freedom-loving peoples to overthrow the barbarous Hitlerite tyranny. They reaffirm[ed] their solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution, and to press on with the necessary practical measures to this end.’ Almost 78 years later, today’s decision continues the Allies pursuit of justice,” added Hunegs.
Holocaust education is a central mission of the JCRC. First-hand accounts from Holocaust survivors are critical to educating students and teachers in Minnesota and the Dakotas about the horrors and lessons from the Holocaust. We also rely on 2nd, 3rd, and now 4th generation survivors to share their families’ stories as our Survivor population ages. Judy Meisel, her son, Michael Cohen, and her grandson, Ben Cohen, exemplify the importance of bearing witness. From Pine City to St. Paul to Chaska, the JCRC deeply appreciates Judy and Ben’s commitment to sharing this remarkable story of justice and furthering genocide education in Minnesota.
Ben Cohen added, “On behalf of my grandmother and our family, we are grateful to the court and the prosecutors in Hamburg for continuing to pursue late justice for our family and victims of the Holocaust. This verdict sends a powerful message that a guard in any camp cannot deny responsibility for what happened. We hope that the world can learn from this trial about where racism and hatred can lead. 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. 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. Now that the trial is over, my grandmother looks forward to focusing on other things like her great-grandchildren. Our family will continue to do everything we can to honor her story and her beloved mother, Mina Beker, who was murdered at Stutthof.”
Aubree M. Schwartz, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office stated, “Ms Meisel is a Holocaust survivor, educator and civil rights activist who through her life story has illuminated the discussion of hate crimes, civil rights and hope. Her tireless efforts, passion and commitment working in coordination with our special agents and law enforcement partners had an extraordinary impact in combatting these heinous crimes. Ms Meisel’s determination reminds us all never to cease searching for justice and equality. ”
Photo by David Sherman/Transfer of Memory
As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights antisemitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.