UPDATE: EGNER DIES OF NATURAL CAUSES JANUARY 2011 – ONE MONTH BEFORE TRIAL
Alleged Nazi War Criminal Peter Egner Wanted in Serbia
Serbian court issued an international arrest warrant on Friday for an alleged former Nazi war criminal living in Bellevue.
Peter Egner, now 88 years old, was born in the former Yugoslavia. He came to the United States in 1960 and received citizenship in 1965. Egner lived for many years in Portland and moved to Bellevue to be near family after his wife died in 2005.
Egner’s case goes back to 2008 when the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations, which hunts war criminals, filed a lawsuit against Egner and requested that a federal court in Seattle revoke his U.S. citizenship based on evidence of his role in a Nazi mobile killing unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serbian civilians during World War II. A revocation of Egner’s citizenship would pave the way for his extradition to Serbia, where he would stand trial.
I contacted Egner’s attorney, Robert Gibbs of Seattle, to request an interview with Egner. Of course it was denied. Gibbs did confirm however, that Egner still lives in Bellevue. When pressed for a response from Egner on Serbia’s arrest warrant, Gibbs replied, “He’s being criminally prosecuted and he’s not going to make a public statement.” Although he acknowledges press reports, Gibbs says they have not received nor seen any documentation from Serbia concerning the arrest warrant.
In a 2008 response to the Justice Department’s suit, Gibbs gave account of Egner’s involvement. Gibbs stated that Egner knows nothing about the brutal Nazi-run Serbian police unit that rounded up Jews, political prisoners and other enemies of the Third Reich in the wake of Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union in the early 1940s. Gibbs said the closest Egner came to “interrogating” prisoners was acting as an interpreter in the public lobby of a Belgrade police station.
Not being able to talk directly to Egner, I immediately thought about a conversation I had with an American Veteran on the streets of Tacoma. His name was Stevon. I didn’t get a last name. His story was so captivating, I asked him if I could videotape his comments.
This interview with Stevon gave me a personal witness to what I’d felt intrinsically about Egner’s fate.
When countries declare war, and in essence give orders to kill, who is at fault when the end goal is accomplished? Is it the soldier who carried out the order or is it the Country that declared war?
Serbia, leave Egner alone and allow him to live out his remaining days in a retirement home here in Bellevue. He, like Stevon, was only following the orders of his Country. And if he did indeed carry out the orders of his Country, like Stevon, I’m sure he’s now fighting mental demons in a hell unimaginable to those of us who have never been to war.
Interestingly, the arrest warrant comes within days of Serbia’s hotly debated apology for Srebrenica, the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serbian forces and the greatest single massacre of civilians in Europe since World War II.
During the time of the war crimes Egner is being accused of, Belgrade was occupied by German forces. If Serbia wants someone to answer for these evils, it should issue an international arrest warrant for Germany.
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