Record (Kitchener-Waterloo) | Sep. 01, 2004 | Brian Caldwell

German, Jewish groups remain divided over Oberlander decision

Jewish and German groups remain as divided as ever after the latest development in the controversial Helmut Oberlander case.

The federal government decided this week not to appeal a court decision in May that restored Oberlander's citizenship after it was taken away by cabinet in 2001.

But officials have not ruled out going after the retired Waterloo developer again by sending the case back to cabinet and fixing procedural errors cited by the Federal Court of Appeal.

Ottawa has been trying to deport Oberlander, 80, for more than nine years because of his role as an interpreter with a Nazi killing unit during the Second World War.

Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario region, said yesterday there is no doubt Oberlander should be stripped of his citizenship again and deported as soon as possible.

"If the victims of Oberlander's einsatzkommando unit had been given even half the justice he has received, they would all be alive today,'' he said. "This case has gone far too long."

"This man was a member of a killing unit, of a murder unit. It doesn't matter what he did with that unit. Anybody who was a member helped in carrying out its grotesque job."

But Ernst Friedel, president of the German-Canadian Congress, Ontario region, said the government should now drop its pursuit of Oberlander.

"It was a violation of human rights, what they did," he said. "To go on and refer it to cabinet again would be unbelievable. It would be outrageous after we had those court decisions to send it to cabinet again and try to take citizenship away from a person who just worked as a translator."

Kitchener-Waterloo MP Andrew Telegdi, who has long pressed his own Liberal government to scrap a "fraudulent process" that allows politicians, not the courts, to take away citizenship, also urged Ottawa to abandon the Oberlander case and several others.

"It's been horrific,'' he said of the system. "It doesn't comply with the (Charter of Rights and Freedoms)."

France Bureau, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, couldn't say when a decision will be made to either drop the Oberlander case or try again.

The appeal court found cabinet's revocation order flawed because it didn't show Oberlander's personal circumstances, including "50 years of irreproachable life in Canada," had been considered, or explain how he fit government policy on denaturalization and deportation.

The order was made after a Federal Court of Canada judge found in 2000 that Oberlander lied about his service with a Nazi death squad when he emigrated from Germany in 1954.

Oberlander has argued since the case began in 1995 that he was conscripted as a 17-year-old interpreter and did nothing wrong during the war.

There was no evidence Oberlander actually participated in war crimes while with a mobile unit that murdered thousands of civilians, mostly Jews, in Ukraine from 1941 to 1943.

[email protected]