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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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Oberlander faces loss of citizenship over Nazi ties

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The federal government is again moving to strip Waterloo resident Helmut Oberlander of his Canadian citizenship over his wartime involvement with a Nazi death squad.

It was revealed this week that the government filed an order-in-council with the Federal Court in Toronto in September, which opened the door for the deportation of Oberlander, an ethnic German who was born in what is today Ukraine.

CTV Kitchener reported Oberlander has requested a judicial review of the citizenship revocation. The 88-year-old retired real estate developer has been involved in legal battles over his wartime activities since 1995.

Oberlander was an interpreter with Einsatzkommando 10a (EK 10a), a Nazi killing squad that was part of a larger unit that roamed Nazi-occupied territories and murdered tens of thousands of Jews and other innocent victims. Whether he was drafted into the unit or not, he was part of it for at least 1-1/2 years, knew of its activities and served its purpose, Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan stated in a 2008 judgment.

That decision led to removal of his citizenship by order-in-council (in effect, the federal cabinet), but Oberlander appealed. In 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled the cabinet must revisit its previous decision that stripped Oberlander of his citizenship and consider whether he was forced to join the unit under duress.

Oberlander said he was conscripted into the unit and that he never took part in any murders.

The Globe and Mail reported that prior to the latest order-in-council, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney presented a brief to cabinet colleagues saying, Oberlander “served the members and the purposes of this killing squad with knowledge of the atrocities it carried out.”

The minister’s report argued that Oberlander never deserted the German armed forces even though he had chances to do so.

“Mr. Oberlander has not demonstrated that he meets any of the three conditions to satisfy the defence of duress,” the report states.

Jewish groups applauded the cabinet decision.

“As a human rights advocacy organization grounded in the lessons of the Holocaust, we are so pleased to see the Canadian government taking steps to deport one of the few remaining Nazis in Canada. There is no statute of limitations for those who participated in genocide,” stated Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

Oberlander has been listed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as one of the top 10 most wanted Nazi war crimes suspects worldwide. In addition to Oberlander, FSWC has also pressed for the deportation of Vladimir Katriuk, a beekeeper in Quebec who was a member of a battalion responsible for a massacre in the village of Khatyn, in what is now Belarus.

Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said, “We think it speaks to a fundamental issue of justice… Bringing this front and centre again maybe has the pedagogic value of reminding Canadians of this terrible and singular horror.”


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