Canada court rejects appeal by Nazi collaborator

Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:26pm EDT
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Canadian judge refused on Monday to review an order revoking the citizenship of a man who lied when he moved to Canada about working with a Nazi death squad in World War Two.

The Federal Court rejected Helmut Oberlander's claim that the Canadian government had erred in finding he had been complicit in atrocities committed by the Nazi Einsatzkommando (EK) unit that he worked with as an interpreter.

Oberlander, who immigrated to Canada with his wife in 1954 and became a citizen in 1960, argued he was forced as a teenager to work with Nazi forces that invaded his native Ukraine because he was fluent in German and Russian.

Canada barred former members of the Nazi SS, SD and related units such as the Nazi EK because of the groups' involvement in war crimes.

Oberlander argued that Ottawa had shown there was a only suspicion of complicity, but Judge Michael Phelan ruled that was good enough because the unit's only purpose was to be a "mobile mass killing squad."

The EK conducted mass executions of civilians, particularly Jews, in the occupied Soviet Union, with Oberlander's unit killing so many thousands of people its operational area was declared "Jew free," the court said.

Canada's has tried to strip Oberlander of his citizenship since the late 1990s, but his supporters argued that Ottawa was unfairly targeting an old man who had lived a productive life in southern Ontario.

Phelan refused to review the government's decision and ruled the issue was not whether Oberlander had led a good life in Canada, but whether he hid an involvement in a Nazi death squad in order to illegally gain Canadian citizenship.

The Canadian Jewish Congress has estimated that between 1,000 to 3,000 people with Nazi pasts were able to get into Canada illegally between 1947 and 1956.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)