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July 17, 2008 4:14 PM

The Bellevue Pariah

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The case announced against Peter Egner, the Bellevue man accused by the Justice Department of being a war criminal in the service of the Nazis, seems to be all about the actions of a unit. Maybe I am mistaken, and all the solid evidence will come out at trial, but that is what it looks like now. Egner has admitted to being in the Security Police and Security Service, a unit of the German occupation government of Yugoslavia. The Justice Department says he was also part of the Belgrade Einsatzgruppe, an SPSS group that in 1941 put several thousand Jews, communists and gypsies to death by carbon monoxide poisoning, using trucks. But they don’t seem to have evidence about him, personally.

He is 86. During his time in the unit, which ended in September 1943, he would have been at most 21 years old, and during the executions in Belgrade he would have been 19. He is alleged to have been a guard and an interpreter. Think of it: You are young. Times are tough. Government officials older than you give you a job as a guard. They say, “These are dangerous criminals and enemies of the state. Your job is to guard them. From time to time you may be asked to interpret. It is your duty to do this. If you refuse, there will be serious consequences to you.” Are you mature enough to figure out your moral responsibility and refuse the job? Or desert?

Of course, guards may do horrible things. You can imagine such things, but what you cannot do in our legal system is convict a person of a crime without evidence specific to him. It is one of the differences between our system and, for example, the Nazi system.

From the story, it seems that the Justice Department is not trying to convict Egner of a crime, but to strip him of his citizenship and deport him. The grounds are that when he filled out his citizenship papers in the mid-1960s he didn’t say he’d been a member of the SPSS. Omitting information on a U.S. government form 45 years ago is lot easier to prove than a war crime in Eastern Europe 67 years ago, but in itself it is not worth all this effort and attention.

I am not defending the SPSS, the Einsatzgruppe or the Nazis. I am not vouching for Peter Egner's innocence, because I have no way of knowing it. I just wonder if anyone at this late date has any way of knowing his guilt.

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Posted by Kris

6:07 AM, Jul 18, 2008

For admitting you do not know what he actually did or did not do more than 65 years ago, you decided to defend him.

With liberals everyone is a victim at one time or another.

Posted by SD

1:05 PM, Jul 18, 2008

wow...I am speechless.

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