Immigrant Couple, Including Husband Who Fled Nazis, Leaves Estate To 'America'

05/22/2015 03:10 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

A married couple from Seattle, including a husband who had fled Nazi persecution, made it their last wish that Uncle Sam inherit their entire estate.

In identical wills, immigrants Peter and Joan Petrasek, who had no known relatives, left all of their money and assets to "the government of the United States of America," ABC News reported on Thursday. Last month, a cashier check totaling $847,215.57 was made out to the Department of the Treasury.

Joan died in 1998 at age 79 from breast cancer. Peter lived another 14 years, dying in 2012 at age 85. It took a lawyer a few years to fulfill the couple's request of donating their estate to the government.

"[Peter Petrasek] wanted to make a statement about how much it meant to him to be an American citizen," said Peter Winn, an assistant U.S. attorney who handled the couple's donation. The government deposited the money into its general fund.

petrasek check

It was a winding path that led the couple to each other and ultimately to the Pacific Northwest.

Peter was born in the 1920s in what was then Czechoslovakia, and would have been 12 when the Nazis invaded. Details about his early life are scarce, but at some point during World War II he was placed into a youth camp run by the German air force, according to The Seattle Times. In the U.S. zone of occupied Germany in 1949, he met the criteria for refugee status, according to documents seen by the Times.

Peter's sister died in the Allied bombing of Dresden, according to the New York Daily News. His father was sent to a concentration camp, and his mother was left behind in Prague.

Little has been reported about Joan's origins, other than that she was from Ireland. She married Peter in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1951, and by the end of the decade they had bought a home in Seattle. Peter worked for Bethlehem Steel as a metallurgist, and Joan was an upholsterer.

"We thought he really must have just appreciated the opportunity he had here in the U.S.,” neighbor Marisa Deligerza told KIRO-TV about the gift to the government.

Seattle radio host Dori Monson has reportedly estimated that at the rate the federal government spends money, the $847,215 left by the Petraseks will be used up in about eight seconds.

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