OTTAWA–An appeal court has ordered the federal cabinet to revisit its decision to strip accused Nazi war criminal Helmut Oberlander of his Canadian citizenship.
In a 2-1 decision made public Wednesday, the Federal Court of Appeal told cabinet to reconsider the issue of whether Oberlander was a willing member of his military unit, given that the penalty for desertion was execution.
In writing for the majority, Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson said Oberlander’s citizenship is a matter for cabinet to determine.
"However, in view of its serious consequences, it is critical that all relevant issues be considered and analyzed. The process must not only be proper and fair, it must be seen to be so."
Oberlander, a retired real-estate developer from Waterloo, is alleged to have been a member of a Nazi death squad, the Ek 10a, which operated behind the German army’s front lines in Ukraine during World War II.
The squad was part of a liquidation force on the Eastern Front responsible for killing more than 2 million people, most of them Jews.
Oberlander, 85, argues he was conscripted into duty and that he participated in Ek 10a under duress because the penalty for desertion was death.
He says he never took part in any killings and has been fighting attempts to strip his citizenship and deport him since 1995.
Oberlander served with the Ek 10a as an interpreter and an auxiliary from 1941 to 1943. He lived and travelled full-time with the unit and his responsibilities also included finding and protecting food and polishing boots. He later served as an infantryman in the Wehrmacht.
Oberlander and his wife came to Canada in 1954. He became a Canadian citizen six years later. He did not disclose his wartime experience when he applied to emigrate, upon entering Canada or when seeking citizenship.
Canadian Jewish Congress president Mark Freiman said Wednesday it was frustrating that the court based its decision on a "hyper-technical point of interpretation."
Ultimately, the issue is not how Oberlander came to be attached to the unit, but rather that he lied about it to gain entry into Canada and to obtain Canadian citizenship, Freiman said in a statement.
The Canadian Press