Edmonton Journal | Mar. 30, 2004 | Shoshana Szlachter
Letter to Editor

Turning a blind eye to war criminals

V. G. Wood ("Weary of campaign to avenge Holocaust," Letters, March 24, 2004) needs to be reminded that ensuring mass murderers do not go unpunished is not an issue of revenge, it is one of justice, the hallmark of any civilized society.

Wood mentions feeling "battered and bruised" by B'nai Brith's "continuous condemnations" about a "terrible event that none of us are able to change." It would, indeed, be much more comfortable to forget the unpleasant details of history, but let's not dress this up as being a contribution towards teaching "faith, hope, charity, forgiveness and love."

If we are going to talk about "faith," how about keeping faith with the victims by never forgetting them? How can we ensure a world in which hope, charity, forgiveness and love prevail unless we demonstrate that we will not turn a blind eye to criminality simply because this is the most palatable route? Surely modern-day war criminals and potential perpetrators of any crime need to hear that message?

For V. G. Wood, this is merely an unpleasant "era of history," but to Holocaust survivors and their families this is a much more personal and painful reality. I grew up without grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and an older brother because of Nazi war crimes. And surely, this is not just an issue for the Jewish community. We need to remember that the Nazis targeted not just Jews, but also the intellectually and physically handicapped, gays, Gypsies, Communists and anyone else who did not fit their description of the perfect Aryan nation.

There is an expression that "time heals all," but time should not erase guilt.

Let the world bring to justice those who perpetrated crimes against humanity not only in Nazi Germany, but such places as Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda, and let's not advocate merely consigning them to history.

Shoshana Szlachter,
Western regional director of B'nai Brith, Edmonton

� The Edmonton Journal Tue., Mar. 30, 2004

[W.Z. It is highly ironic that, less than a year after writing the above words, Ms. Szlachter would be convicted of embezzling money from a non-profit organization during the time period of January 1999 through October 2002. (See article appended below.) One would have expected B'nai Brith and the Edmonton Journal to be aware of the ongoing investigation and court case. If so, it is disturbing that they would allow Ms. Szlachter to write and publish the article above.]

Edmonton Sun | Feb. 25, 2005 | Tony Blais

Excuses don't cut it

A prominent Jewish spokesman who defrauded an Edmonton non-profit organization says she was depressed because her parents were Holocaust survivors. Shoshana Szlachter, the western regional director of the Edmonton-based Jewish human rights group B'Nai Brith, yesterday pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000.

Court heard she defrauded the Alberta Underwater Council of nearly $8,000 between Jan. 1, 1999, and Oct. 31, 2002, while she was working as their executive director.

Provincial court Judge David Tilley gave Szlachter, 54, a suspended sentence and placed her on 12 months of probation. If she breaches the probation, she could be jailed.

Defence lawyer Simon Renouf said Szlachter was "under a great deal of emotional and financial pressure" at the time because child-support payments coming from her former husband were reduced because he had a stroke.

Renouf also cited a written report from Szlachter's psychologist in which it says she suffered depression as a result of her parents being survivors of the Holocaust.

That doesn't sit well with Tom Davies, the president of the Alberta Underwater Council, the governing body for underwater sporting activities in Alberta.

"That's pretty hard to eat for me," said Davies yesterday. "That to me is a real cop-out," he said.

"I find it hard to believe that she would blame her crime on being the child of Holocaust survivors."

Davies said the theft caused the volunteer organization a lot of hardship, including making them unable to fund the 2002 underwater hockey world championship in Calgary.

The council has also launched a civil lawsuit against Szlachter, alleging she actually stole closer to $40,000, and seeking the balance between that number and the $7,927.43 she repaid in court yesterday.

Crown prosecutor Joan Blaine told court Szlachter's duties with the council included running the office, paying bills and keeping track of gaming accounts.

In October 2002, she was let go due to "poor work performance," and a review of the books revealed she had been writing herself extra cheques for unauthorized items.

The cheques were made out to cash and the money went into her personal bank account, said Blaine.

As well, Szlachter made numerous long-distance calls on the office phone, bought furniture from Office Depot which she used in her home, and billed the council for a water cooler in her home as well as delivered water.

During her 12-month probation, Szlachter was ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and continue taking counselling and treatment with her psychologist.

Szlachter's B'Nai Brith office is in the building owned by the Jewish Community Centre of Edmonton. However, nobody with the Jewish Federation wished to comment.

A spokesman with the B'Nai Brith's Canadian head office in Toronto was unavailable yesterday.