Edmonton Journal | 19Aug2006 | Gordon Kent

City man was guard in Nazi death camp

Judge rules that 87-year-old Josef Furman was member of a notorious SS Death's Head unit

EDMONTON - An elderly Edmonton man who claims he was a German farm labourer during the Second World War was actually a concentration camp guard, a judge ruled Friday.

Federal Court Justice Judith Snider concluded 87-year-old Josef Furman is the same man as SS guardsman Josef Furmantschuk, a Soviet prisoner of war who worked at the concentration camp in Flossenburg, Germany, for at least six months in 1943-44.

Integrated into the SS Death's Head guard units, he was also deployed to help clear the Jewish ghettos in Warsaw and Bialystok, the judge decided.

She said the Ukrainian-born Furman likely fabricated a story for Canadian immigration officials that he performed forced farm labour as a German prisoner in 1942-45 and obtained citizenship in 1957 by false representation or fraud.

Furman's lawyer denounced Snider's findings, saying she based her verdict on photocopies of Russian documents and other unreliable evidence.

"It's disgusting, it really is," said Eric Hafemann of Waterloo, Ont. "But this has happened before in other cases and she just followed the line."

Two historians testified, but there were no witnesses to identify Furmantschuk as Furman. He suffers from Alzheimer's disease and is unable to take part.

Another man represented by Hafemann, Jura Skomatchuk of St. Catharines, Ont., had a hearing at the same time as Furman over accusations he also hid his work with the German SS when he moved to Canada.

Snider found the 85-year-old retired mining worker had been a guard at German concentration camps and at a Nazi labour camp in his birth country of Poland.

While David Matas, legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, welcomed the decisions, he called on the federal government to move faster to strip these people of their citizenship and deport them.

Four people in similar cases have been waiting as much as seven years for this next step, and another eight have died during the proceedings against them, he said from Winnipeg.

"To get a judgment that they lied on entry, and then do nothing about it, it's pointless," he said.

"It's maybe a lack of political priorities. It's maybe that (each one) has his member of Parliament, and there are some people who will just lobby on behalf of them."

Immigration Minister Monte Solberg must now decide whether to recommend that cabinet revoke the citizenship of both men.

A spokeswoman for Solberg couldn't be reached for comment. Hafemann said further action would be "purely political."

Furman lives in a long-term care facility, while Skomatchuk can't walk and is nearly deaf, he said.

"Any minister who has any backbone in terms of fairness would look at this and say, 'Wait a minute, (these guys) got railroaded.' "

He expects that, more than 60 years since the end of the Second World War, they will be among the last Canadians to face such a hearing.

Marco Levytsky, a member of the National Justice Committee of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, described the verdicts as "a travesty of justice."

Although federal policy only allows the government to try to revoke citizenship in such cases for people who were complicit in war crimes, there's no evidence like that against either man, he said.

But Matas said the country has attracted a "rogue's gallery" from numerous wars since the Second World War, and should be able to send them home.

"Canada has been a haven for mass murderers for decades because of our failure to do anything about Nazi war criminals ... We have to cease being a magnet for mass murderers around the world, and this is an effective way of doing it," he said.

"If people know that once they get here, they're home-free, they will keep on coming."

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� The Edmonton Journal 2006