Toronto, ON — For years, Holocaust Survivors and their families have been calling for Helmut Oberlander to be brought to justice.
On September 27, Canada’s Federal Court ruled that a government decision to strip Oberlander of his Canadian citizenship was ‘reasonable’.
Oberlander, who served in a Nazi mobile killing unit responsible for murdering more than 90,000 Jews, has been living in Canada since 1954. When it was later exposed that he lied about his wartime past when applying to enter Canada, authorities moved to strip him of his citizenship and deport him from the country.
For decades, Oberlander has exploited every possible tool to avoid being removed from Canada and face justice in Germany for his crimes.
In a move hailed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants (CJHSD), the Federal Court dismissed Oberlander’s latest attempt to evade justice.
“Today’s ruling is an important step in ending Oberlander’s cynical abuse of Canada’s judicial system,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel. “He actively participated in genocide, lied about his past, and has since done everything possible to avoid prosecution in Germany.”
For years, CIJA and others in the Jewish community have been advocating for justice for Oberlander’s victims. In 2016, CIJA helped mobilize thousands of Canadians to urge the federal government to revoke his citizenship. The government did so in 2017 – the fourth time Oberlander has seen his Canadian citizenship stripped.
Despite Oberlander’s effort to have the court intervene to restore his citizenship, the Federal Court today ruled that the government’s decision to strip his citizenship was “justifiable, transparent, and intelligible”.
“In upholding the government’s revocation of his citizenship, today’s decision is a victory for anyone who cares about justice and human rights,” Fogel added, “The Government of Canada deserves significant credit for continuing to prioritize the Oberlander case.”
The Holocaust Survivor community also lent its voice in support of the court’s decision. “We commend the Federal Court of Canada’s decision to dismiss Oberlander’s latest attempt to evade justice for his crimes,” said Sidney Zoltak, Immediate Past President of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants – an independent organization affiliated with CIJA.
“For Survivors, this issue remains an open wound. It is painful to think that Oberlander and others who perpetrated heinous crimes against our families have, for so long, concealed their past and taken advantage of welcoming countries like Canada,” he said. “Today, we are heartened by the knowledge that the government and courts stand with us in pursuing justice.”
Acclaimed human-rights lawyer David Matas served as the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada’s senior legal counsel in this matter. The League has been involved in the Oberlander case since before the first court decision in 2001.
“This is a very positive decision from the court,” Matas said. “We are pleased that it appears the court picked up some of our arguments from this and other related interventions. The federal government must now take the next step towards removing Oberlander from Canada immediately.”
Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, echoed his sentiments, saying, “The League intervened in this case to send out a message that justice, however delayed, must ultimately be served, and old age is not a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.
“For decades, Canadians have been haunted by the knowledge that this Nazi found safe haven in our country by lying about his past. Helmut Oberlander has lived a long, peaceful and fulfilling life, something he helped rob from so many innocent victims as a member of a notorious mobile Nazi death squad.”
The court determined that Oberlander “had obtained citizenship through false representation or by knowingly concealing material circumstances” and that he was “found to have significantly misrepresented his wartime activities when he and his wife applied to enter Canada.”
“There can be no more delays,” Mostyn said. “We call on the federal government to immediately and permanently remove Helmut Oberlander from Canadian soil, before it’s too late.”