Peter Egner talked freely to his friends about his service as a conscript in the German army during World War II, and even showed them the jagged scar on his hip — the wound that Egner said ended his military service.
“He was a [WWII] veteran, like I was a veteran,” said Russell Wilson, 81, his longtime neighbor in West Linn, Ore.
But federal Nazi hunters say the 86-year-old Egner, of Bellevue, has lived a lie all these years, and Tuesday moved to revoke his U.S. citizenship, claiming he was a member of a Nazi death squad responsible for the murders of more than 17,000 Serbian Jews and others as the German Wehrmacht marched east on the Soviet Union.
A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle alleges that Egner was not a conscript, but instead served as a guard and interpreter with the notorious Nazi-run Security Police and Security Service (SPSS) in Belgrade, Serbia (then Yugoslavia) from 1941 through the fall of 1943, when he was wounded. During that time, the complaint stated, his unit participated in the roundup and systematic killings of tens of thousands of Serbian Jews, Gypsies and political dissidents.
Reached Tuesday by The Associated Press by telephone at the Silver Glen retirement cooperative in Bellevue, Egner confirmed his identity but said he was unaware of the complaint. Asked about his alleged service with the Nazis, he said: “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m sorry. Bye.”
Robert Gibbs, a Seattle immigration attorney representing Egner, acknowledged that his client served in the SPSS but said he has denied being involved in atrocities.