Helmut Oberlander, 93, has said he was forcibly conscripted by the Nazis when he was 17 years old. For the fourth time, he is fighting a federal government decision to strip him of his citizenship. (CIJA)

Helmut Oberlander, 93, has said he was forcibly conscripted by the Nazis when he was 17 years old. For the fourth time, he is fighting a federal government decision to strip him of his citizenship.
Photo Credit: CIJA

Former Nazi interpreter Helmut Oberlander stripped of Canadian citizenship again

Share

The federal government has once again stripped Helmut Oberlander of his Canadian citizenship for serving in a Nazi death squad and lying about it to enter Canada.

Oberlander, 93, was an interpreter for the Nazis and served in Einsatzkommando 10a, a group of mobile death squads that participated in the systematic extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Oberlander has denied taking part in any executions.

It’s the fourth time Ottawa has taken this step after Oberlander defeated government efforts in court three times to restore his citizenship.

“We are determined to deny safe haven in Canada to war criminals and persons believed to have committed or been complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide,” Pierre Deveau, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said in a statement.

Service in notorious death squad

Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of its Israel Office, said he was very pleased with the decision by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to revoke Oberlander’s citizenship.

“I only regret that he has been able in three previous times to have that decision overturned,” Zuroff said in a phone interview with Radio Canada International.

(click to listen to the full interview with Efraim Zuroff)

Listen

Einsatzkommando 10a, one of the most notorious death squads which operated in Nazi-occupied southern Ukraine during WWII, was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews who were murdered simply because they were categorized as enemies of the Reich, Zuroff said.

“Obviously a man like Oberlander, who started his service at a young age, wasn’t an officer, is not as guilty as the people who planned the ‘Final Solution,’ that was the Nazis’ plan to destroy the Jewish people throughout the world, nor is he as guilty as the officers in that unit,” Zuroff said. “But international law, throughout its inception always rejected the ‘superior orders defence’ and recognized individual criminal responsibility.”

Oberlander, who was born in a Mennonite community in southern Ukraine, has said he was forced into service and he never subscribed to Nazi ideology.

The fact that he served in the notorious SS Einsatzgruppen unit alone should be enough to convict him of being accessory to murder, Zuroff said.

He also has doubts about Oberlander’s insistence that he did not participate in the killing of civilians, Zuroff said.

“We know that in the killing units they made every effort to make sure that every person who served there participated,” Zuroff said. “In a certain sense they wanted to make sure that everyone shared the responsibility. And if people did not want to shoot, they were transferred elsewhere, they were not facing the threat of death or anything like that.”

Canada’s poor record in going after war criminals

In 1995, the government started proceedings to strip Oberlander of his citizenship. The governor in council did so in 2001, 2007 and 2012.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Deveau said the government “welcomes newcomers” to the country “for all the ways they enrich our society.”

“We also know the value of Canadian citizenship, and cannot allow anyone to defraud the system or diminish its integrity. We don’t take citizenship revocation lightly, but it is necessary in cases of fraud and serious misrepresentation,” the statement said.

But Canada has a very poor record when it comes to going after Nazi war criminals, Zuroff said.

The federal government originally passed legislation enabling criminal prosecution in Canada of war crimes committed elsewhere, Zuroff said.

The first case that came to court in 1987 was the case of a Hungarian gendarmerie officer in the town of Szeged Imre Finta . Finta was accused of assisting the Nazis in the forced deportation of 8,617 Jews from Szeged during the Holocaust.

Finta’s defence was that he simply followed orders.

“Contrary to what happened everywhere else in the world, the court in Ontario accepted that defence,” Zuroff said.

Finta was acquitted after a six-month jury trial. The acquittal was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992 and the Supreme Court of Canada in 1994, which also ruled that that the use of the Criminal Code to prosecute Finta was unconstitutional.

Following an American model

The decision forced the government to follow the American model to try to deal with alleged war criminals – stripping them of their citizenship.

Following that decision, the government stripped 10 people of their citizenship in relation to alleged war crimes committed during WWII.

Of those 10, only two people voluntarily left Canada. The other eight, including Oberlander decided to remain in Canada and fight their deportation. Seven of the alleged have since died in Canada, and Oberlander has successfully fought off three attempts to strip him of his citizenship.

Oberlander is seeking a judicial review of cabinet’s decision, as he has done on three previous occasions. A court hearing is expected in the fall or early 2018.

Share
Tagged with: ,
Posted in Society

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*