Seattle federal judge has turned down efforts by both accused Nazi
war criminal Peter Egner and U.S. prosecutors for a quick resolution--a
summary judgment--of the charges against Egner, and both sides have
begun moving toward a trial, likely a historic one, set to begin
February 22. The government intends to prove that the 86-year-old
Bellevue man helped escort Jews into mobile gas chambers en route
to mass burials in Serbia in 1940, although Egner has already asked
the court to bar virtually all the government's witnesses, prosecutors
Among those Egner wants to exclude is Dr. Peter Black, a senior historian at
the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Egner thinks his
own expert's historical version of the Holocaust will suffice, and
says Black's testimony would be "duplicative." Prosecutors say any belief that experts totally agree on Holocaust history is "baseless."
Egner has denied any direct role in the mass murder
of more than 17,000 Serbian Jews, Gypsies, and political dissidents
by the Nazis' Security Police and Security Service (SPSS) during
Egner's service from 1941 to 1943.
The SPSS at times operated a mobile death unit called
the Einsatzgruppen, and more than 6,200 of the SPSS's victims from
Belgrade's Semlin concentration camp died after being herded into
the unit's vans--asphyxiated by piped-in exhaust as they took a funeral
ride through Belgrade's streets. They were then interred in mass
burial pits at the foot of Avala Mountain, southeast of Belgrade.
The government is attempting to denaturalize Egner
and send him back to Serbia for a war-crimes trial. Egner immigrated
to the U.S. in 1960 and applied for citizenship five years later--lying,
the government says, on his application. Egner and his wife settled
near Portland,where he worked as a hotel food-service worker, then
sold real estate. After his wife Gerda died in 2005, he moved to
Bellevue to be near relatives.
Egner has tried to keep a low profile at his Bellevue
apartment since news of the charges broke. "I try to stay out of public as much as possible," he says. "Unless it is necessary, I do not leave the retirement community in which I live." Most fellow residents "treat me kindly, but there are some who ignore me altogether."