Hamburg's Chief Prosecutor Nana Frombach said the trial of the former Nazi concentration camp guard Bruno D., which began in Hamburg on Thursday, was of "great historic significance."
The defendant, 93 year-old Bruno D. entered the court room in a wheelchair, covering his face with a folder. He is facing 5,230 counts of accessory to murder relating to his time as a guard at Stutthoff concentration camp, near Gdansk, while aged 17-18.
"The case has great historic significance and it has enormous significance for the relatives of the victims. We cannot say yet if it was the last process of this kind. Possibly it is due to the age of the SS guards," said Frombach.
The defendant's lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that his client does not find it "understandable" why he was indicted in 2019, despite giving a statement on the matter to the police in 1982.
"Germany has not committed to proper reprocessing. Nazi war criminals were acquitted under the most abstruse justifications by the courts, or were declared not criminally responsible, cases were protracted or not held. For those who have done nothing wrong from the point of view of back then - which means they haven't killed, tortured or molested anyone - they find themselves confronted with a completely reversed jurisdiction today," said Waterkamp.
Ben Cohen, the grandson of one of the side plaintiffs and holocaust survivor Judy Meisel, was also present. He expressed hope that his family would find answers to many questions through these type of trials.
Efraim Zuroff, the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, also attended. "We owe the victims. And what we owe them is to make a serious effort to find the people who turned them - innocent men, women and children - into victims. Simply because they were categorised as enemies," he said.