When accused Nazi war criminal Helmut Oberlander exhausted his final possible appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada last December, it appeared the next logical step was his deportation.
But the 96-year-old former Nazi death squad member and his lawyers have become experts at erecting roadblocks.
This time, lawyers have filed an application to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) asking that the case against Oberlander be dismissed.
They argue that Oberlander’s Canadian citizenship, acquired in 1960, has never been expunged and that the IRB lacks jurisdiction to issue a removal order. Doing so would be “an abuse of process,” states the 42-page application obtained by The CJN.
His lawyers also submitted findings from an optometrist, audiologist and psychologist offering evidence that Oberlander is “legally blind, has delayed memory deficit, cognitive slowing and greatly diminished hearing,” and those disabilities “must be accommodated.”
The government has countered that Oberlander was admitted to Canada “through false representation or by knowingly concealing” his wartime service in the mobile Nazi death squad Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek10a, and thus never gained lawful entrance to this country.
Oberlander is not immune to deportation, as Canadian policy states “there will be no safe haven to those, like the Applicant, who commit crimes against humanity – be it through direct perpetration, complicity, or another mode of commission,” says the government’s 32-page response.
According to IRB spokesperson Anna Pape, Oberlander’s lawyers must respond to the government’s position by Feb. 28.
If the case is not dismissed, it will then proceed to an admissibility hearing, which, in turn, would determine whether a deportation order should be issued, Pape explained.
Meantime, Canada is mum on a request from Russia to share files on Oberlander.
Earlier this month, Russia said it had asked Canada to hand over legal files on Oberlander to help Moscow with an investigation into the mass murder of children at a Soviet orphanage in 1942.
According to a Feb. 14 Reuters report, Russia’s Investigation Committee, which handles probes into serious crimes, said it wanted Canada’s case and legal files on Oberlander to check his possible involvement in a massacre at an orphanage in the then-Soviet town of Yeysk.
Canada and Russia have a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty but any requests under the agreement are confidential and “therefore, we cannot confirm or deny the receipt of a request in this case,” Ian McLeod, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, told The CJN.
In a statement, the Russian committee said a death squad equipped with mobile gas chambers was deployed in 1942-43 to the German-occupied Krasnodar region, now in southern Russia.
“As a result of one such operation, on Oct. 9 and 10, 1942, a mass murder of children at the Yeysk orphanage was committed,” it said, according to Reuters.
The Investigative Committee said in October it had opened an inquiry into the murders at the orphanage. The bodies of 214 children were found in 1943 after Nazi forces were driven out of the region.
The committee said several translators and members of the death squad in the Krasnodar area were arrested and convicted in the 1940s and 1960s.
“However, Oberlander was able to escape criminal responsibility by hiding from preliminary investigative organs immediately after Germany’s capitulation (in 1945),” it said.
Oberlander always maintained that he was a low-level translator with Ek10a, which operated in Nazi-occupied Ukraine and slaughtered thousands of civilians, mostly Jews.
He served with the unit from 1941 to 1943, claiming he had been conscripted as a teenager under duress and that he never took part in atrocities.
Oberlander’s has been fighting to keep his citizenship since 1995, when the RCMP started probing his involvement in war crimes. In 2000, the Federal Court found that he had lied about his wartime past to obtain Canadian citizenship.
On three occasions – 2001, 2007 and 2012 – the federal cabinet stripped him of citizenship. Each time, the decisions were overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal and returned to cabinet for reconsideration.
In 2017, his citizenship was revoked for the fourth time on the grounds that he had “made a voluntary, knowing and significant contribution to the crimes committed by Ek10a.”
In 2018, the Federal Court dismissed Oberlander’s application for a judicial review of that decision. The following year, the Federal Court ordered the file be closed.
Late last year, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his appeal.
The government’s reply to Oberlander’s request to dismiss the case said those court rulings are binding on the IRB.
Oberlander was admitted to Canada in 1954 and went on to a successful real estate career in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.