Toronto Sun | 08Dec2009 | Peter Worthington

Feds' witch hunt isn't punishing real war criminals

In the name of common sense, one hopes the case of Helmut Oberlander persuades the federal government to abandon efforts to deport aging Ukrainians who may not have told the whole truth when they entered Canada after WWII.

In October, last year, the federal government revoked Oberlander's citizenship and ordered him deported -- not on grounds that he'd committed war crimes, but because he may not have told the truth when he emigrated to Canada in 1954, raised a family and became a successful developer in the Kitchener area.

An ethnic German, Oberlander lived in Ukraine. In 1941, when he was 21, he was conscripted to work as a translator for the infamous Nazi Einsatzcommando, which was in the business of killing Jews.

The government has been after Oberlander since 1995, along with other Ukrainian-born individuals conscripted to work for the Germans in WWII, often as prison guards, some on pain of death to their families if they deserted, as some did.

None of the mostly Ukrainian-Canadians now on lists was ever proven to have been a Nazi sympathizer -- just that they'd been conscripted, and hadn't declared this connection, when they entered Canada.

As for Oberlander, the federal court that ruled the government had a right to deport him, also made it clear there was never evidence he had committed crimes against humanity, or had ever killed anyone.

In fact, there is no hard evidence that any of them "lied" to immigration authorities on entering Canada, just the "probability" they didn't tell the whole truth. In fact, most records have long since vanished.

Oberlander was financially better off than many, and this month the Federal Court of Appeal ordered the federal cabinet to re-assess its decision to strip him of citizenship.

That's a polite way of telling cabinet to back off, and leave the guy alone.

One of the parliamentary defenders of Oberlander and others is Andrew Telegdi, former Liberal MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, who was defeated when Tories formed the government. As a former parliamentary secretary to the immigration minister, Telegdi resigned because of the Liberal government's apparent vendetta against these aging Ukrainians.

In theory, the federal government can appeal to the Supreme Court. Tories have never been as enthusiastic as Liberals regarding the deportation process, so the whole matter may now be dropped.

Oberlander is 85. What's the point of keeping after a man who has committed no war crimes, when there are many out there who've committed horrendous crimes against fellow human beings?

Also slated for deportation is Jacob Fast, now close to 100 years old, suffering from Alzheimers, who can't appear in court. Is his deportation now stayed?


The success of Oberlander's appeal may extend to others on the list.

All major Nazi war criminals have been convicted or have died. Only small fry are left, and evidence is frail that any are war criminals.

Ukrainians conscripted as teenagers by Nazis have tended to be branded as suspect war criminals by the media, which overstates their "crime."
Anyway, Oberlander is once again a Canadian citizen, and with luck his ordeal is over.

For those interested, there's no shortage of recent crimes against humanity that warrant investigation, exposure and retribution.