Accused Nazi war criminal Peter Egner, suspected of helping commit genocide as a transport guard for mobile gas chambers and Auschwitz-bound death trains during World War Two, has died before he could be brought to trial in the US.
Egner, 88 was listed by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles as the most wanted Nazi war criminal still known to be residing in the United States.
Egner was typical of many mid-level and low-level Nazi operatives who were actively involved in the mass-murder process, many of whom remain alive around the world. According to the centre, the chance of bringing them to justice is not very high as there are very few countries seeking to out Nazi war criminals.
An ethnic German born in Yugoslavia, Egner entered the United States in 1960 and became a citizen in 1966. Serbia issued an international arrest warrant for him in April last year and formally requested his extradition in November.
Egner had admitted he belonged to a despised Nazi-run security unit but denied he committed war crimes.
The U.S. Justice Department had asked the federal court to revoke his U.S. citizenship based on evidence of his role in a Nazi mobile execution unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serb civilians, mainly Jews, Roma and political opponents, between 1941 and 1943. He was accused of concealing his Nazi past when he applied for U.S. immigration and naturalization.
A proceeding to consider whether to revoke his citizenship was set to begin on February 22 at U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Court documents say Egner has admitted to volunteering to serve in the Nazi-controlled secret police in German-occupied Serbia and to guarding prisoners as they were sent by his unit from the Semlin concentration camp near Belgrade to an execution and mass-burial site about 10 miles away in Avala.
According to court records, Egner’s unit took part in executing over 11,000 individuals, mostly Serbian Jewish men, in the fall of 1941.
The same unit murdered some 6,200 Jewish women and children who had been rounded up and were gassed to death while being transported in a specially equipped van that made daily trips in the spring of 1942 from Semlin to Avala.
Egner has stated that he guarded four transports of prisoners in all, including one that ran to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
IWCR believes that there should be no statute of limitation, or regard to age when considering the prosecution of war crimes suspects.
Everyone guilty of such crimes, regardless of their circumstances, should be brought to justice.