For the fourth time in two decades, the federal government has stripped an ex-Nazi interpreter of his Canadian citizenship.
Helmut Oberlander, 93, of Waterloo, Ont., is accused of hiding or lying about his past service with a Nazi death squad prior to becoming a Canadian citizen in 1960.
As he has done in the past, Oberlander intends to challenge his citizenship revocation — which came down through a recent federal order-in-council — in court, his lawyer said Tuesday.
“This is the fourth time the Canadian government has attempted to revoke Mr. Oberlander’s citizenship. We have successfully overturned three previous revocation decisions and will be seeking to overturn the fourth,” Ron Poulton said in an email.
“In their desperation to take away his Canadian citizenship, the government has once again tried to stretch facts beyond recognition, to fit their idea of history. Once again, we are confident that the court will see through the rhetoric, and find the truth and for the fourth time, restore Mr. Oberlander’s citizenship.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group based in Los Angeles, previously put Oberlander on its list of the Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals for having served in the Nazi death squad, Einstazkommando 10a, during the Second World War. The unit is estimated to have killed 23,000 civilians, mostly Jews.
But Poulton has maintained that Oberlander’s role in the German unit was “limited and forced.”
The federal government previously revoked Oberlander’s citizenship on three occasions, beginning in 1995, but Oberlander was able to win it back each time.
The government’s last attempt failed after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the question of the degree of Oberlander’s complicity — and whether he made a “significant and knowing” contribution to a crime or criminal purpose — had not been fleshed out.
Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which has been pushing for Oberlander’s deportation for years, thanked the government Tuesday for pursuing the case a fourth time.
“There is no statute of limitations for such heinous crimes, and the government deserves credit for its tireless efforts in this case,” he said in a statement. “This latest development is an important milestone in bringing a measure of justice to his many victims and their families.”