Helmut Oberlander, a Ukrainian immigrant who served as an interpreter for the Nazis in the Einsatzkommando on the Soviet Front in the Second World War, has lost his appeal to retain his Canadian citizenship on Thursday.
The federal government stripped the 94-year-old Waterloo, Ont., resident off his citizenship for the fourth time last July.
In a statement, the court said the government’s finding that Oberlander had lied about his wartime activities when he arrived in Canada in 1954 was “justifiable,” opening the door to his deportation.
When he landed in Canada, Oberlander made no mention of his membership in the Einsatzkommando, a Nazi mobile killing squad that systematically executed thousands of people in the former Soviet Union after the German invasion. Oberlander is not accused of taking part in any of the killings.
But the federal court in its decision upheld the government’s conclusion that Oberlander “voluntarily made a knowing and significant contribution to the crimes and criminal purpose of this SS killing squad.”
Oberlander said he was conscripted because of his translating skills, but did not subscribe to Nazi ideology.
“This is a very positive decision from the court,” human-right lawyer David Matas said Thursday. “We are pleased that it appears the court picked up some of our arguments from this and other related interventions. The federal government must now take the next step towards removing Oberlander from Canada immediately.” Matas served as League of Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada.
Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, echoed his sentiments, saying, “The League intervened in this case to send out a message that justice, however delayed, must ultimately be served, and old age is not a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.
“For decades, Canadians have been haunted by the knowledge that this Nazi found safe haven in our country by lying about his past. Helmut Oberlander has lived a long, peaceful and fulfilling life, something he helped rob from so many innocent victims as a member of a notorious mobile Nazi death squad.”
“Today’s court ruling brings us one step closer to justice,” Friends of Simon Wiesenthal of Canada president and CEO Avi Benlolo said. “For years, Oberlander has remained in Canada enjoying the freedoms given to him under false pretense. The accused should not enjoy the benefit of Canadian citizenship if he falsified his war time past, and there should be no statute of limitation on the matter of alleged war crimes.”
Born in Halbstadt, Ukraine, in 1924, Oberlander, an ethnic German, claims he was forcibly conscripted by the Nazis when he was 17.
He immigrated to Canada in 1954 and became a citizen in 1960. Ottawa began trying to strip him of his citizenship in 1995, prompting a protracted court battle.
In 2000, a Federal Court judge ruled that the retired developer had concealed, or lied, about his wartime service. The court found that Oberlander had been a member of EK 10a and later served as an infantryman.
The Canadian government stripped him of his citizenship in 2001, 2007 and 2012. But each time, it was reinstated by the Federal Court of Appeal, which said the government had not proven Oberlander’s complicity in war crimes.