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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 05:34PM

Washington Post:

"Helmut Oberlander, 97, who served as an interpreter for a roving Nazi death squad that killed more than 20,000 people in the German-occupied eastern territories during World War II, died “surrounded by loved ones in his home” and “will be dearly missed,” his family said in a statement.

“Notwithstanding the challenges in his life, he remained strong in his faith,” his family said. “He took comfort in his family and the support of many in his community. He gave generously to charity, supported his church and was a loving family man.”


"A man believed to be Canada's last suspected Nazi war criminal has died aged 97.

"Helmut Oberlander had been fighting the Canadian government's latest effort to revoke his citizenship over his involvement with a Nazi death squad.

"He admitted to working as a translator with the squad, but maintained he had been forcibly conscripted at age 17 and did not participate in the atrocities.

"Born in Ukraine, Oberlander first became a Canadian citizen in 1960.

"His death at his home in Waterloo, Ontario, was confirmed by his family, who released a statement to local media. They portrayed the former real estate developer as a community-minded man, devoted to his family.

"Notwithstanding the challenges in his life, he remained strong in his faith. He took comfort in his family and the support of many in his community," the statement said, according to the Globe and Mail newspaper.

"Oberlander came to Canada in 1954. The country had revoked his citizenship and attempted to deport him three times since 1995. Each time he appealed.

"The government said when Oberlander first applied for citizenship he had knowingly concealed he had been an auxiliary of the Einsatzkommando, a force that operated behind the German army's front line in the Eastern occupied territories.

"The squad is responsible for killing more than two million people, many of them Jewish people."


"Helmut Oberlander (15 February 1924 – 20 September 2021) was a naturalized Canadian citizen who was a member of the Einsatzgruppen death squads of Nazi Germany in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Oberlander was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most wanted Nazi war criminals. Beginning in 1994, the Government of Canada made several attempts to revoke Oberlander's citizenship, on the basis of his having withheld or misrepresented his involvement with Nazi war crimes."


I note that the Post states the death squad killed 20,000 people. The BBC states it was 2 million. I'd guess the latter is correct.

According to the Wiki entry, Oberlander was a "most wanted Nazi war criminal" of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

In neither article does Canada come off looking good. How does an accused, and wanted, war criminal get to live to age 97 and die "surrounded by loved ones" without having to answer the charges. Needless to say, Nazi victims didn't get to live and love and be loved for their natural life span.

It's maddening to see how slow (stagnant) our legal system is. This guy gets to live a long and seemingly pleasant life in Canada without having to answer the accusations against him, after having lied to get into the country in the first place.

I understand that all of the issues are complex, starting with the war itself and all those caught up in it.

But if a person is known to be wanted for war crimes I think we have a duty to make them available to the bodies they should answer to. Otherwise, Justice denied. Which is letting down the millions who suffered and perished due to the actions or inaction of those who could have changed the outcome.

I'm not saying I'd be courageous myself or that any puny efforts on my part could have stopped a war machine. I don't know what I'd do. I'm not lion-hearted (physically courageous) that I know of - haven't really been tested.

But in this case, if all Canada could do is hand the guy over to a judicial body to answer the charges that's what should have happened.

I never get used to the appalling spectacle of humans' injustice to humans.

One of the worst impulses is to protect the system over and above fellow humans.

Kind of like, to a much lesser degree obviously, when the missionaries withhold information from investigators, or even lie, to turn them into converts. Like the machine is everything and people are incidental and disposable.

(edited to add quotation marks and fix spacing)

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/23/2021 05:42PM by Nightingale.

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Posted by: Kentish ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 06:09PM

I suspect more escaped prosecution than met the demands of justice.

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 06:42PM

"On 28 February 2000, Judge Andrew MacKay reported his findings: he concluded that there is no evidence that Oberlander was involved, directly or indirectly, in committing any war crimes or any crimes against humanity."

Although Oberlander may have been guilty of withholding information about his wartime record in applying for immigration, a Canadian judge found no evidence of war crimes. Oberlander held the lowest possible rank in his military organization. I'm reluctant to assign to a 17 year-old conscripted (equivalent of a) private, who was assigned the duties of translating, finding and protecting food supplies, and polishing boots, the same level of culpability as his higher-ups.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 07:11PM

Yes, I understand, summer. I took note of his age during the war too. I tried to be careful with phrasing, that he was accused, not convicted. But he should have had his day in court to answer the charges. The fact that our system allowed him to live here for decades without having to face the proper court and the fact that he entered Canada with a lie doesn't sit well.

That's why I said he should have at least had to answer the charges.

Too, we say we support the war crimes tribunals and related bodies but stand in the way of this accused man having to make his case to them.

I believe that him being listed as a "most wanted" war criminal should have been addressed. It was by far the larger potential crime than lying to get into this country post-war. I understand that many people did what they had to do to survive. But alleged war criminals shouldn't be protected by the system (if only by its inertia). Rather, they should have to answer the allegations.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/23/2021 07:12PM by Nightingale.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 07:49PM

I'm not finding that sentence about Judge MacKay ruling there was no evidence. I'll look again.

Meanwhile, here is some more info. The legalities can get complex, I know, and on some major points Canadian law was changed between cases. It can be a challenge to follow it all. Bottom lines are yes, the man was young when the war started, yes he was conscripted, yes, a teen couldn't go up against the Nazi machine, yes there is no smoking gun providing absolute foolproof evidence that he personally committed atrocities, yes it's all completely horrific.

CBC News 2019:

“In June 2017, the federal government revoked Oberlander's Canadian citizenship for the fourth time since the mid 1990s. In doing so, the government maintained he was complicit in war crimes by belonging to Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek-10a.

“[Federal Court Judge] Phelan was asked to rule on the government's citizenship revocation decision in September 2018. He found it reasonable to strip Oberlander of his Canadian citizenship for misrepresenting his war-time activities when he immigrated.

“In reaching his conclusion, Phelan said a 2000 ruling from Federal Court Judge Andrew MacKay found Oberlander to have been aware of the unit's brutality and complicit in its war crimes by acting as an interpreter.

“The [Federal Appeal Court] judges also noted that Phelan had to rely on different legal procedures in his two rulings, since the Supreme Court had changed the test for war crimes complicity in 2013.

"The Supreme Court changed the test ... from participation or indirect complicity to complicity based on a knowing, significant, and voluntary contribution," the decision reads.

"The judicial review before Phelan in 2018 involved a different legal test than that which governed in 2008."

The Washington Post, March 2021

“During the war, Oberlander served as an interpreter for a roving Nazi death squad that killed at least 20,000 people in the German-occupied eastern territories. Canada stripped him of his citizenship 20 years ago for concealing those activities from immigration authorities. Now, prosecutors are in a race against time to deport the 97-year-old, whose removal case is the country’s last dating to World War II.

“Oberlander claims he was conscripted and never killed anyone. He says he spent his time doing menial tasks such as shining officers’ boots and guarding grain barges. He has never been charged with a crime.

“Oberlander was questioned by German officials in Toronto in 1970 in a separate war crimes investigation. He told them that he didn’t know his unit’s name or that it was responsible for executing Jews.

“In 2000, Federal Court of Canada Judge Andrew MacKay said there was no evidence he took part in those atrocities but it was “implausible” that he was unaware of EK 10a’s name. He found that Oberlander had obtained Canadian citizenship “by false representation or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.”

“The Applicant’s work as an interpreter facilitated the screening process for executions and served as an important step toward the realization of EK 10a’s criminal purpose,” Federal Court Judge Michael Phalen wrote in 2018.

“[Justice Department spokesperson] McLeod said the [war crimes] program [in Canada] prioritizes cases based on “available resources” and factors such as the gravity of the offenses, the availability and accessibility of evidence and the presence of diaspora groups in Canada that might have been victims.

“Since 2011, Germany has been reopening some old cases and prosecuting low-level Nazi officials such as guards and switchboard operators as accessories to a murderous system even if there’s no evidence linking them directly to specific killings.

“This whole system — the concentration camps and the prisoner of war camps and the Einsatzgruppen — would not have been possible without a lot of people that were working there,” said Thomas Will, a German prosecutor.”


So now he is dead. The whole thing is likely to remain murky. I do give some weight to the Simon Wiesenthal Center re their designation of certain people as being war criminals. At least enough that those people should stand trial if the charges and available evidence support that outcome.

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Posted by: anybody ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 06:58PM

Ironically, the killing became too much even for them and they had to find more "detached" ways to exterminate people. This is how and why the first death camps (like Sobibor and Treblinka) were established.

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Posted by: bradley ( )
Date: September 23, 2021 11:40PM

For a German, being forced to settle for Canadian beer may be punishment enough.

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Posted by: knotheadusc ( )
Date: September 24, 2021 05:25AM

Meh... I live in Germany, and the beer is great here, but it lacks variety. Sometimes I really miss American craft beers. They're catching on here, too.

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