A 92-year-old Ontario man who has been fighting deportation for 20 years over his link to a Nazi killing unit has won another reprieve.
Ottawa began legal proceedings to strip Helmut Oberlander, a retired Waterloo developer, of his citizenship in 1995, arguing he hid or lied about his service as an interpreter with a Nazi death squad during the Second World War.
But Oberlander has successfully fended off deportation through multiple appeals. Last week, the Federal Court of Appeal sent his case back to Ottawa for reconsideration over questions about the level of his complicity in war crimes.
In a statement Monday, Shimon Koffler Fogel, head of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the man was “contriving to abuse the judicial system to avoid responsibility.”
Oberlander was a member of one of the most savage Nazi killing units
“Oberlander was a member of one of the most savage Nazi killing units. … That he clearly lied about his wartime past to fraudulently gain entry into this country is not in question — nor the legal consequences of falsification of immigration documents,” the statement said.
“He is here illegally and he ought to have his Canadian citizenship revoked.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre put Oberlander on its annual list of the Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals for having served in the Nazi death squad, Einstazkommando 10a, which is estimated to have killed 23,000 civilians, mostly Jews.
Ronald Poulton, Oberlander’s lawyer, said in an email Monday his client’s role in the German unit was “limited and forced.”
Oberlander’s daughter, Irene Rooney, has told reporters her father is not a Nazi war criminal and wants his good name restored.
Oberlander, who was born in Ukraine, became a Canadian citizen in 1960. In 1995, when he learned immigration officials were recommending his citizenship be revoked, he asked for an opinion from the Federal Court.
In 2000, a federal judge found Oberlander had obtained his citizenship after falsely representing or knowingly concealing his wartime past, prompting the federal cabinet to revoke his citizenship in 2001.
But the Federal Appeal Court set aside that decision in 2004 and sent it back to cabinet to reconsider, in part because it didn’t weigh Oberlander’s personal interests against the public interest.