Thursday, November 27, 2008

Washington State: What is it about Bellvue and Nazis?

What is it about Bellevue and Nazis?
By Knute Berger
November 26, 2008

First it was a Bellevue retiree who turned out to be a former member of a notorious SS unit charged with exterminating Jews, Gypsies, and others in Yugoslavia during World War II. Think of it as the Nazi version of "meals on wheels." Instead of hauling victims to death camps for extermination, the Einsatzgruppen brought mobile gas chambers to their victims.

The Bellevue man, Peter Egner, 86, is alleged to have been a member of this death squad In Belgrade from 1941 to 1943. He may have been involved in the deaths of thousands of people. The ailing Egner denies the allegation of the U.S. government which is seeking to strip him of his U.S. citizenship. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the case against Egner can go forward. If Egner's citizenship is revoked, Serbia could extradite him and try him for war crimes.

Now there's a report that a man was arrested this week at a Bellevue Starbucks for trying to sell a golden bookmark that belonged to Adolph Hitler. According to the Seattle Times, federal agents ran a sting operation and recovered the artifact which is believed to have been stolen in Spain in 2002. The bookmark was reportedly a gift to Hitler from his mistress, Eva Braun, to cheer him up after the German defeat at Stalingrad. The seller was allegedly a Romanian national who lives in Kenmore. He was asking $100,000 for the bookmark which is engraved with a portrait of the Nazi leader.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Gray Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). You can e-mail him at