Record (Kitchener-Waterloo) | 11Jun2005 | KWR staff

Plan to revoke citizenships

Ottawa will move against five, including Oberlander, according to television report

TORONTO: The federal government plans to revoke the citizenship of five suspected Nazi war criminals and collaborators living in Canada, according to a television report.

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe is expected to seek cabinet approval within weeks to rescind the citizenship of the five elderly men on the grounds they lied about their past to gain entry into Canada, CTV News reported last night.

"These individuals, we believe, the government believes, were involved as Nazi enablers in probably one of the worst atrocities of modern age," said Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Among those on Volpe's list is retired developer Helmut Oberlander of Waterloo, Ont., according to the report.

Cabinet revoked Oberlander's citizenship in 2001 based on a finding by a federal court judge that he lied about his service with a Nazi killing unit when he emigrated from Germany in 1954.

Oberlander was 17 when he served as an interpreter with a mobile unit that killed at least 23,000 civilians, mostly Jews, in Ukraine from 1941 to 1943, but there is no evidence he directly participated in the war crimes.

His citizenship was reinstated after an appeal court found cabinet erred because it didn't show that Oberlander's personal circumstances, including "50 years of irreproachable life in Canada," had been taken into account, or explain how his case met with government policy on denaturalization and deportation.

Oberlander's lawyer says the allegations are unfounded. "To refer to Mr. Oberlander as a collaborator as anything to do with the Nazi regime is a lie," Eric Hafemann said.

Hafemann also said asking people "to defend themselves 50, 60 years after an event is absurd."

As well as Oberlander, the government will also seek to revoke the citizenship of accused Nazi collaborators Jacob Fast and Vladimir Katriuk, CTV said.

Alleged labour camp guard Wasyl Odynsky and suspected SS member Michael Baumgartner are also on the list.

"We ought not to reward old age," Farber told CTV. "The fact they have lived longer than their victims is not a reason not to mete out justice."

Hafemann said the government is acting to "appease special interests" by "the harassment of senior citizens."

"They have been model citizens in Canada for over 50 years," he said.