TUE, JAN 27, 2015 insidebelleville.com
Oberlander prosecution enters third decade
By Jeff Outhit

WATERLOO — Retired developer Helmut Oberlander plans another court appeal, 20 years to the day after Canada began prosecuting him for serving as a low-ranking interpreter with a Nazi death squad.

The government launched its case on Jan. 27, 1995, aiming to strip Oberlander of his citizenship and then deport him, without presenting evidence that he personally committed a war crime.

Since then, lawyers have retired or moved on. A judge who delivered a key ruling has died. Governments have changed. Court decisions have piled up, with 13 rulings archived at the Federal Court of Canada or the Supreme Court of Canada.

What hasn't changed is that Oberlander, 90, is still in Canada and still fending off deportation, while the government is still making mistakes in its case against him, according to the latest court ruling made this month.

As the battle enters its third decade, frustration is mounting among organizations demanding that Oberlander face justice.

"The system (in Canada) makes it very difficult," historian Efraim Zuroff said, from Jerusalem in Israel. He's the chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization.

Zuroff has asked the German government to seek Oberlander's extradition, so that he may be tried in Germany as an accessory to war crimes.

Equally frustrated are organizations that argue the government is targeting Oberlander unfairly, without evidence that he committed a crime.

"I'm just simply appalled that our government is acting this way," said Tony Bergmeier, president of the German-Canadian Congress. "It's just ludicrous."

Oberlander served with a mobile death squad that's estimated to have murdered more than 23,000 people, mostly Jews, in the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

No evidence has been presented in court that he committed a war crime. But he lied about his membership in the death squad to immigrate to Canada and to secure citizenship, a court determined.

Oberlander lost a court ruling this month but plans a further appeal, his lawyer Ronald Poulton said. It will be the third time that Oberlander has asked the Federal Court of Appeal to overrule a federal cabinet decision that strips his citizenship.

Oberlander won two previous rounds when appeal judges found government mistakes. Round one began in 2001 and took six years to conclude. Round two began in 2007 and took five years to conclude.

Round three began in 2012 and may conclude in 2017, based on previous timing. But it might also take a new direction. Oberlander may expand his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, said his former lawyer Eric Hafemann, now retired but still advising Oberlander.

Meanwhile, the government refuses to say if it still plans to deport Oberlander, should its third attempt to strip his citizenship survive court appeal. And there's no guarantee that the government's case is finally airtight.

In ruling this month, Judge James Russell rejected Oberlander's claim that he served the Germans under duress, but also cited "mistakes" made by the government in its case against Oberlander. Russell deemed the mistakes too minor to upset the government's decision to strip his citizenship.

Poulton expects Oberlander will highlight those mistakes in his next court appeal, along with other legal issues.