National Post | Feb. 19, 2005 | Adrian Humphreys

Bounty sought for Nazis

Hunters blast Ottawa for failing to prosecute war criminals

The world's foremost Nazi hunters want to place a bounty on Nazi war criminals hiding in Canada as part of a last-ditch plan to bring ageing Holocaust perpetrators to justice before they die.

Discussions for a Canadian launch of Operation: Last Chance, an international effort by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, comes as the Jewish organization's chief Nazi-hunter, Efraim Zuroff, blasted Ottawa's handling of war criminals.

He said the federal government's record of prosecuting those accused of committing atrocities during the Second World War and now living in Canada is dismal and distressing.

"One of the places where nothing is happening is here. There is certainly a lack of political will in Ottawa," said Mr. Zuroff, who is based in Jerusalem and was visiting Toronto yesterday.

"Canada is a safe haven for these guys. Sometimes the government does something to annoy them, but they don't get rid of them. It's like a hockey player who makes the moves, but can't put the puck in the net.

"That's the problem -- they can't score," Mr. Zuroff said in an interview with the National Post.

Eight men in Canada have been stripped of their Canadian citizenship in the Federal Court of Canada for lying about their Nazi past when they settled in Canada after the war and none has been deported.

Two of those eight died before they could be removed and another won an appeal. Five others -- three in Ontario and two in Quebec -- remain in Canada pending government deportation orders.

"They are using the system to save their own skins and Canada has not put its foot down and not made it clear that they will not countenance the presence of these people in this country," Mr. Zuroff said.

Canada's War Crimes Program, a collaboration between the RCMP, Department of Justice and the Canada Border Services Agency [Anne McLellan], has 122 cases of Nazi war crimes under investigation, according to the program's latest annual report.

Irwin Cotler, the Minister of Justice, defended the government's record. "We have a commitment to bringing war criminals to justice. There must not be any sanctuary," he said.

"Is the political will there? I believe it is. Is this a priority for me? Yes. Is it still an issue of principle for me? Absolutely. Are we moving forward on it? We have the legal remedies.... We have a very protracted legal process in this country."

Mr. Cotler, who before being named Justice Minister was an outspoken advocate for human rights, conceded the view from inside Cabinet can be different: "Before coming into government I, too, was a bit impatient.

"This thing gets factored into the realities of an overall government agenda and an overall justice agenda."

Mr. Zuroff said time is running out on the ability to seek justice because of the age of the suspects and witnesses.

It is that urgency that led to Operation: Last Chance being launched in several European countries in recent years. The program offers cash rewards for information leading to the prosecution and punishment of war criminals. It places ads in newspapers and billboards alerting citizens to several places they can contact to pass along information, tips and testimony.

In several countries, allegations have been made against people who are now residing in Canada, Mr. Zuroff said.

In 2001, the Simon Wiesenthal Center submitted the names of 97 suspected Lithuanian Nazi collaborators to that nation's chief prosecutor. Twelve of them escaped to Canada after the war.

"This has to be done now or never," Mr. Zuroff said. "Ten years from now, you can't come back to visit this issue."

Frustration with the pace of government action in Canada has led to plans for a Canadian Operation: Last Chance campaign.

Mr. Zuroff would like to see funding and organization support for such a campaign.

Last year, Canada moved to revoke the citizenships of two men accused of being Nazi concentration camp guards.

They are the most recent allegations brought by the government of wartime collaboration.

Jura Skomatchuk, 83, of St. Catharines, Ont., and Josef Furman, 85, of Edmonton were both accused of being former members of the Trawniki guard.

They deny the allegations.


The Canadian government has accused 19 men living in Canada of being Nazi war criminals since the reorganization of the country's War Crimes Unit in 1995. Six of them died before the conclusion of their cases or, after having been caught lying about their Nazi pasts, before they were deported. Three men continue to argue their cases in court, including two who were served with citizenship revocation papers last year. Two men left Canada after the allegations were made, and three had their cases dismissed. Five men, however, have had their citizenships revoked by the Federal Court of Canada and await the decision of the Justice Minister on whether they will be removed from Canada. Those men are:

Michael Baumgartner of Windsor, Ont., who was found in 2001 to have lied about being a member of the Waffen SS guard unit at two Nazi concentration camps when resettling in Canada after the war.

Jacob Fast of St. Catharines, Ont., who was found in 2003 to have lied about his past to get into Canada after the Second World War, though evidence he committed war crimes was rejected.

Vladimir Katriuk of Ormstown, Que., who was found in 1999 to have hidden his former membership in a battalion that fought partisans in the Ukraine. His appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed in 2000.

Wasyl Odynsky of Ottawa, who was found in 2001 to have concealed his role as a guard at forced labour and concentration camps when he relocated to Canada.

Walter Obodzinsky of Montreal, who was found in 2003 to have been a guard at SS forced labour camps and to have concealed that information to obtain Canadian citizenship.

SOURCE: Adrian Humphreys, National Post