MANDEL: Justice denied in ‘peaceful’ death of Canada’s last known Nazi

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Helmut Oberlander should never have been able to go gentle into that good night.


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The old Nazi, who entered this country by hiding his involvement in the deadly Einsatzkommando 10a (Ek10a) mobile killing unit, should have been deported years ago to Germany. He should have ended his final days in a jail cell.

Instead, his family announced he “died peacefully” at his Waterloo-area home with his loved ones at his side — the gentle death his Holocaust victims were never afforded.

He got away with murder.

Oberlander was 97 — but was subject to a deportation order for decades. He and his lawyers just ran out the clock, filing appeal after appeal, successfully calculating that their legal wrangling would ensure the old man would die in the comfortable bosom of his adopted home.

As his lawyer Barbara Jackman predicted at yet another immigration hearing just a few weeks ago — Oberlander was never going to leave and trying to get him on that plane was futile, cruel and unfair.


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Helmut Oberlander.
Helmut Oberlander. Photo by File photo /Postmedia

What was unfair was that he and his lawyers were able to twist Canadian justice for so long.

Born in 1924 to an ethnic German family in Halbstadt, Ukraine, Oberlander was 17 when he volunteered for the Waffen SS, and with his knowledge of German, Russian and Ukrainian, he worked as an interrogation interpreter for Ek10a, one of the SS mobile mass-killing units.

Oberlander always maintained he was conscripted and never participated in any atrocities. Witnesses would say otherwise. While he served from 1941 to 1944, his unit was responsible for the murder of an estimated 91,000 people, most of them Jews, who were shot and buried in mass graves in Ukraine and Russia.

According to declassified documents obtained by the Waterloo Record, former EK 10a members confirmed Oberlander’s membership in the infamous Nazi death squad and placed him at the scene of at least one mass execution.


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But Oberlander, of course, disclosed none of this when he came to Canada in 1954.

  1. Helmut Oberlander (right), his wife, Margret (left), and daughter, Irene Rooney (centre behind) leave a courthouse in Kitchener on Nov. 4, 2003. (The Canadian Press)

    MANDEL: Enough is enough — deport Canada’s last known Nazi

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    Jewish groups demand Ottawa strip former Nazi death squad member Helmut Oberlander of citizenship

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    Ex-Nazi death squad member stripped of Canadian citizenship again, says lawyer

He became a wealthy real estate developer in the Waterloo area, his dark secret buried until 1995 when Ottawa announced it would move to strip Oberlander of his citizenship for his undisclosed Nazi past — information the RCMP had been sitting on since as early as 1963.

Canada spent the next 26 years trying to deport him.

In 2000, the Federal Court ruled Oberlander lied about his wartime activities to gain citizenship and that he knew about his unit’s brutality and was complicit in its war crimes by acting as an interpreter.


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Three times — in 2001, 2007 and 2012 — the federal cabinet tried to strip Oberlander of his citizenship only to have its decision set aside by the Federal Court of Appeal.

In 2017, Oberlander’s citizenship was revoked for a fourth time on grounds he was complicit in crimes against humanity for his “voluntary, knowing and significant contribution to the crimes committed by Ek10a.

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He lost his appeal to the Federal Court in 2018.

Given Ek10a’s unique nature, there was no other purpose to interpretation during interrogation other than to fulfil the group’s deadly mandate,” the court ruled.

In 2019, the Federal Court of Appeal closed his file. The Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

It should have been the end of his endless, abusive efforts to elude deportation. Yet two years later, he died while in the midst of another hearing to fight removal.


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In a statement, B’nai Brith Canada rightly slammed the unconscionable delays in kicking him out of our country.

“The peaceful demise of Helmut Oberlander on Canadian soil is a stain on our national conscience,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said. “The fact is that this country slammed its doors on Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, then allowed some of their tormentors into Canada and failed to deport them.”

But while our country’s last known Nazi collaborator was able to outwit and outlast every effort to expel him, the ugly truth about him and his past will live on.

It’s the only slim justice we can claim.


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