OTTAWA (Reuters) - A 92-year-old man who has confessed to being a former member of a Nazi death squad won a court victory on Thursday against Canada, boosting his chances of staying in the country that has been trying to revoke his citizenship for two decades.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the government’s appeal of a lower court decision in favor of Helmut Oberlander, who says he was forced to act as a translator for the squad and never took part in atrocities.
Oberlander emigrated to Canada in 1954 and became a citizen in 1960 but did not reveal his wartime record.
The Canadian government, which banned those who took part in war crimes, has revoked his citizenship three times since 1995 but had the decision overturned each time on appeal.
Ronald Poulton, a lawyer for Oberlander, said he was pleased by the Supreme Court’s move.
“It’s taken a great toll on his family. Over and over again the courts have exonerated him,” he said in a phone interview.
“It’s been tiring and difficult and unnecessary and now the Supreme Court - the highest court - has told the government that’s enough.”
Oberlander says he was conscripted as a 17-year-old to interpret for one of the Nazis’ Einsatzkommando mobile killing squads which murdered a total of more than 2 million people in eastern Europe, most of them Jews.
Shimon Fogel, head of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Oberlander had “lied about his complicity in these atrocities and gained Canadian citizenship fraudulently ... he should be deported without further delay”.
Time is running out to bring to justice to those who took part in the Nazi Holocaust, which had more than 6 million victims. A 94-year-old former guard at the Auschwitz camp was sentenced to jail in Germany last month by a judge who branded him a “willing and efficient henchman” in the Holocaust.
Although Oberlander concealed his wartime service, Poulton said this should not be cause for him to lose his citizenship after living for 50 years in Canada, especially since he had neither committed nor been complicit in war crimes.
Poulton said Ottawa had never moved to deport Oberlander, since it could only do so once his citizenship had been irrevocably revoked.
No one was available for comment at the federal immigration ministry, which filed the request for appeal that the Supreme Court rejected.
Reporting by David Ljunggren Editing by W Simon and David Gregorio