(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
An ex-Nazi stripped of his Canadian citizenship for an unprecedented fourth time is vowing to appeal the decision yet again, as the Wiesenthal Center is calling on Germany to bring him to justice.
Last week, Canada revoked the citizenship of Helmut Oberlander, 93, a retired developer in Waterloo, Ontario, who has been accused of hiding his Nazi past before obtaining citizenship in 1960. The government had stripped Oberlander of his citizenship in 2001, 2007 and 2012, but the decisions were repealed after appeals by his lawyers.
Born in Ukraine, he was forcibly conscripted as an interpreter for the Nazis with Einsatzkommando 10a, a mobile killing unit that executed thousands of Jews in the former Soviet Union. Oberlander has consistently maintained that he never killed anyone.
A statement issued Wednesday by the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs hailed the Canadian government’s action.
“We thank and applaud the Canadian government for again stripping Oberlander of his citizenship,” CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel said. “The legal facts in the case are not in dispute: Oberlander was a member of a savage Nazi unit that murdered more than 90,000 Jews in the Holocaust. There is no statute of limitations for such heinous crimes.”
Successful appeals for Oberlander and other accused ex-Nazis in Canada have triggered criticism by Jewish bodies that the Canadian government was not doing enough to bring alleged former Nazi war criminals to justice.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, expressed hope that this move would finally facilitate Oberlander’s removal from Canada and his criminal prosecution for service in one of the worst murder squads that implemented the mass murder of European Jewry during World War II.
“This step should also facilitate his prosecution for ‘accessory to murder’ by the German authorities under their amended prosecution policy, whereby any person who served either in a death camp [concentration camp with installations to carry out industrialized mass murder such as gas chambers or gas vans] or in the mobile killing units [Einsatzgruppen] can be convicted based on service alone of accessory to murder,” said Zuroff. “We urge the German authorities to take whatever steps are necessary to be able to bring Oberlander to justice as quickly as possible.”
“Canada has a poor record in terms or ability to maximize justice against these people,” Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
In 1987, Canada passed a law allowing criminal prosecution against war criminals. But the first case that came to court in 1987 was of Imre Finta, a commander of the Gendarmerie in Szeged, Hungary, during the Second World War. He was accused of assisting the Nazis in the forced deportation of 8,617 Jews from Szeged during the Holocaust.
His defense was that he had been following superior orders. “They accepted it,” Zuroff lamented. “The only court in the world that ever accepted superior orders as a defense.”
Canada later changed tack, realizing that it couldn’t prosecute anyone in that way, so it adopted the US method – stripping war criminals of their citizenship in order to deport them, Zuroff says. In 1994 Canada stripped 10 people of their citizenship.
Two of them left the country voluntarily. The others fought their deportation; seven of those have died, leaving only Oberlander.