Helmut Oberlander, Canada’s last suspected Nazi war criminal dies at 97

WATERLOO REGION — Helmut Oberlander of Waterloo, the last suspected Nazi war criminal in Canada, has died. He was 97.When he died, Ottawa was in the final stages of trying to deport Oberlander, saying he would never have been allowed into Canada if immigration officials had known he was a member of Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen — the mobile death squads that killed 1.5 to 2 million people, mostly Jews, when Germany invaded the former Soviet Union in June 1941 — and he was complicit in crimes against humanity.Oberlander died after successfully delaying every legal challenge mounted by the Department of Justice lawyers for decades. Ottawa spent millions of dollars since the 1980s to remove Oberlander from the country for concealing his membership in the Einsatzgruppen.His lawyer, Ronald Poulton, shared a statement from the family on Thursday.“Helmut Oberlander has passed away peacefully. In the end, he was surrounded by loved ones in his home. Notwithstanding the challenges in his life, he remained strong in his faith. He took comfort in his family and the support of many in his community. He gave generously to charity, supported his church, and was a loving family man. He will be dearly missed.”Born Feb. 15, 1924 in the former Soviet Union at Halbstadt, Oberlander had one sister. His father Johann was a doctor, his mother Lydia a nurse. The family history is rooted in a German Mennonite community that had lived there for 250 years. Oberlander was Volksdeutsche — ethnic Germans who had lived in Eastern Europe for generations. He grew up speaking Russian, Ukrainian and German.The German speaking families called his hometown Halbstadt while the Russian and Ukrainian speaking families called it Molochansk. It is about 75 kilometres north of the Sea of Azov. When Ukraine became an independent country in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Oberlander’s hometown was part of the new country. Germany military units moved through this area on the way to the oilfields of Baku on the Caspian Sea when Oberlander was 17. Oberlander volunteered for the Waffen SS in October 1941 and was still a member in May 1944, when he was granted German citizenship.As an interpreter for the security and counter-intelligence units of the Waffen SS — the SD and SiPo, Oberlander was on the payroll of the Nazi party. For a while he was posted to a concentration camp. The SD and SiPo went into those camps, identified the Jews and political officers with the Soviet Red Army, the Commissars, and executed them.He was part of Einsatzgruppe D, which was made up of several smaller units known as Sonderkommandos or Einsatzkommandos. Einsatzgruppen units started the mass murder that became The Holocaust. Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, the 3,000 members of the Einsatzgruppen murdered 1.5 to 2 million from 1941-43.Oberlander’s 120 man unit, Einsatzkommando 10a, moved through 30 villages around the Sea of Azov and into the Northern Caucuses. It killed about 47,000 people, mostly Jews. Oberlander was part a two-day operation outside Rostove-on-Don in southern Russia, where more than 27,000 Jews were shot over a mass grave. It was the second largest massacre to occur on Russian territory during the war.Oberlander was stripped of his Canadian citizenship four times for concealing his wartime record. The last time he lost his citizenship was in 2017, and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear more appeals from his lawyers. That paved the way for a deportation hearing before the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Oberlander died before his deportation hearing was held.Transcripts of interviews with several other members of EK 10a, conducted by West German investigators in the 1960s formed the main evidence against him. The transcripts make for gruesome reading and include first person accounts of mass executions.“A general directive had been issued requiring every member of a commando to participate in an execution at last once,” said Lothar Heimbach, a member of EK 10a.Another member of the death squad, Leo Maar, said Oberlander worked as a translator when EK 10a killed 27,000 Jews in Rostow. The Jews had to report to different collection points where they were loaded on trucks and taken to the anti-tank ditch outside the town where they were shot.“I remember that numerous members of the commando were utilized in this operation,” said Maar. “The two interpreters, Seetzen and Littich, and Oberlander were involved in it as I recall.”Otto Nurnberg told war crimes investigators the killing operation in Taganrog started at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26, 1941 and continued until about 3 p.m. German military records show EK 10a killed 7,000 Jews in Krasnador.When the Soviet Red Army broke the German siege at Stalingrad, German units retreated, including Oberlander’s. After getting his German citizenship, Oberlander surrendered in the British Sector at the end of the war.He later worked on a farm, studied constr

Helmut Oberlander, Canada’s last suspected Nazi war criminal dies at 97

WATERLOO REGION — Helmut Oberlander of Waterloo, the last suspected Nazi war criminal in Canada, has died. He was 97.

When he died, Ottawa was in the final stages of trying to deport Oberlander, saying he would never have been allowed into Canada if immigration officials had known he was a member of Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen — the mobile death squads that killed 1.5 to 2 million people, mostly Jews, when Germany invaded the former Soviet Union in June 1941 — and he was complicit in crimes against humanity.

Oberlander died after successfully delaying every legal challenge mounted by the Department of Justice lawyers for decades. Ottawa spent millions of dollars since the 1980s to remove Oberlander from the country for concealing his membership in the Einsatzgruppen.

His lawyer, Ronald Poulton, shared a statement from the family on Thursday.

“Helmut Oberlander has passed away peacefully. In the end, he was surrounded by loved ones in his home. Notwithstanding the challenges in his life, he remained strong in his faith. He took comfort in his family and the support of many in his community. He gave generously to charity, supported his church, and was a loving family man. He will be dearly missed.”

Born Feb. 15, 1924 in the former Soviet Union at Halbstadt, Oberlander had one sister. His father Johann was a doctor, his mother Lydia a nurse.

The family history is rooted in a German Mennonite community that had lived there for 250 years. Oberlander was Volksdeutsche — ethnic Germans who had lived in Eastern Europe for generations. He grew up speaking Russian, Ukrainian and German.

The German speaking families called his hometown Halbstadt while the Russian and Ukrainian speaking families called it Molochansk. It is about 75 kilometres north of the Sea of Azov. When Ukraine became an independent country in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Oberlander’s hometown was part of the new country.

Germany military units moved through this area on the way to the oilfields of Baku on the Caspian Sea when Oberlander was 17. Oberlander volunteered for the Waffen SS in October 1941 and was still a member in May 1944, when he was granted German citizenship.

As an interpreter for the security and counter-intelligence units of the Waffen SS — the SD and SiPo, Oberlander was on the payroll of the Nazi party. For a while he was posted to a concentration camp. The SD and SiPo went into those camps, identified the Jews and political officers with the Soviet Red Army, the Commissars, and executed them.

He was part of Einsatzgruppe D, which was made up of several smaller units known as Sonderkommandos or Einsatzkommandos. Einsatzgruppen units started the mass murder that became The Holocaust. Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, the 3,000 members of the Einsatzgruppen murdered 1.5 to 2 million from 1941-43.

Oberlander’s 120 man unit, Einsatzkommando 10a, moved through 30 villages around the Sea of Azov and into the Northern Caucuses. It killed about 47,000 people, mostly Jews.

Oberlander was part a two-day operation outside Rostove-on-Don in southern Russia, where more than 27,000 Jews were shot over a mass grave. It was the second largest massacre to occur on Russian territory during the war.

Oberlander was stripped of his Canadian citizenship four times for concealing his wartime record. The last time he lost his citizenship was in 2017, and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear more appeals from his lawyers. That paved the way for a deportation hearing before the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Oberlander died before his deportation hearing was held.

Transcripts of interviews with several other members of EK 10a, conducted by West German investigators in the 1960s formed the main evidence against him. The transcripts make for gruesome reading and include first person accounts of mass executions.

“A general directive had been issued requiring every member of a commando to participate in an execution at last once,” said Lothar Heimbach, a member of EK 10a.

Another member of the death squad, Leo Maar, said Oberlander worked as a translator when EK 10a killed 27,000 Jews in Rostow. The Jews had to report to different collection points where they were loaded on trucks and taken to the anti-tank ditch outside the town where they were shot.

“I remember that numerous members of the commando were utilized in this operation,” said Maar. “The two interpreters, Seetzen and Littich, and Oberlander were involved in it as I recall.”

Otto Nurnberg told war crimes investigators the killing operation in Taganrog started at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26, 1941 and continued until about 3 p.m.

German military records show EK 10a killed 7,000 Jews in Krasnador.

When the Soviet Red Army broke the German siege at Stalingrad, German units retreated, including Oberlander’s. After getting his German citizenship, Oberlander surrendered in the British Sector at the end of the war.

He later worked on a farm, studied construction engineering, married and applied to come to Canada in 1953. Starting in April of 1953 every German had to list his occupations, addresses and military service for the previous 10 years. Oberlander concealed his voluntary membership in the Waffen SS, the Einsatzgruppen, the SD and SiPo.

“There is no doubt but for (Oberlander’s) misrepresentation to Canadian immigration authorities, he never would have obtained permanent residence or Canadian citizenship,” said Department of Justice lawyers in written arguments filed with the Immigration Division.

“That misrepresentation gave him the undeserved privilege of living a long life in Canada, something that the victims of EK 10a never had,” they said.

Oberlander and his wife Margaret arrived in Quebec City in May 1954. They settled among the large German community in Kitchener-Waterloo.

In 1958, he started Oberlander Construction Ltd. Initially focusing on building school additions and gas stations, then houses. From houses, he branched into apartments, putting up about 1,000 rental units in K-W, Woodstock, Stratford and Guelph by the mid-1960s, when he shifted from construction to land development.

Oberlander’s firm was behind what was Waterloo’s most ambitious residential subdivisions — Lakeshore Village.

Oberlander Construction prospered in the rapidly-growing postwar economy. He had two daughters and obtained Canadian citizenship in 1960.

While he became a community leader, the RCMP Security Service quietly built a file on Oberlander’s wartime activities. They opened a file on Oberlander in May 1963 when Foreign Affairs alerted the Mounties to press reports that described Oberlander’s participation in shooting Jews. At that time, the RCMP collected information on suspected war criminals, but it did not launch investigations.

By the early 1980s, Ottawa wanted to identify immigrants who had concealed their Nazi pasts to obtain visas, strip them of their citizenship and deport them. The RCMP opened more than 200 investigations.

The RCMP described Oberlander as their most promising case.

Those investigations were interrupted by the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in 1985 — the Deschenes Commission. It too concluded Oberlander should lose his citizenship and be deported for concealing his membership in the Einsatzgruppen.

Nobody had any idea this was happening to one of the most prominent members of the Kitchener-Waterloo community. The Deschenes Commission did not identify the people it investigated. The Waterloo Region Record obtained Oberlander’s files from the commission and the RCMP using the federal Access to Information Act.

Oberlander first hired lawyers in the fall of 1986 and sent them to a closed-door Deschenes Commission hearing in Toronto. In March 1987 the commission’s final report included Oberlander among 29 cases flagged for special attention because of the seriousness of the allegations and the availability of evidence.

Only a small circle of people connected to the commission knew about Oberlander’s past, and it stayed that way for another eight years. During that time, Ottawa tried to prosecute four Nazi war criminals in Canada but failed to win a conviction. In 1995 it adopted the strategy of citizenship revocation and deportation. That’s when Ottawa publicly announced it was going after Oberlander.

“I will fight this case until death do us part, or until I run out of money and have to put a mortgage on my house — whatever comes first,” he said in a May 2000 interview with a reporter from The Record.

In September this year, Oberlander’s lawyers argued for temporary or permanent stays in the proceedings in his deportation hearing citing his health. The Immigration Division member hearing his case reserved her decision.

More to come.

Terry Pender is a Waterloo Region-based reporter for The Record. Reach him via email: tpender@therecord.com

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Blue Jays working with province to increase capacity for fans at Rogers Centre during final homestand

The Blue Jays are hoping to boost fan support for their final homestand of the regular season, as well as a potential playoff run.The club announced on Thursday it is working with provincial health officials on increasing ballpark capacity, in line with all public health protocols. Additional tickets will be sold for the team’s final six home games.In the event that capacity limits are not approved by the government in time, “impacted ticket purchasers will be directly notified of their ticket cancellation and issued a refund via their original method of payment,” according to the Jays.The Jays returned to the Rogers Centre on July 30, 670 days after its last game in city because of border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team has since been playing in front of up to 15,000 fans, under Stage 3 of Ontario’s recovery plan.“The Blue Jays are in the final days of a heated postseason wild card race and need fan support more than ever to create the home field advantage that our fans and team deserve down the stretch,” the team said in a statement. The Jays are now a half-game behind the Yankees for the second wild-card spot after Thursday’s action with a little more than a week left in the season.Toronto is expected to release extra seats in the 100 and 200 levels and open up sections in the 500 level, with tickets in that level starting at $15. Rogers Centre is not expected to return to full capacity with the sale of the additional tickets but the extra seats could represent a good bump in crowd size. As of the most recent homestand, which began on Sept. 13, the organization is requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and older entering Rogers Centre. A negative COVID-19 test is no longer acceptable, except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.The Jays play the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre next week from Tuesday to Thursday and the Baltimore Orioles from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3, in the final two series of the regular season. Laura Armstrong is a Star sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy

Blue Jays working with province to increase capacity for fans at Rogers Centre during final homestand

The Blue Jays are hoping to boost fan support for their final homestand of the regular season, as well as a potential playoff run.

The club announced on Thursday it is working with provincial health officials on increasing ballpark capacity, in line with all public health protocols. Additional tickets will be sold for the team’s final six home games.

In the event that capacity limits are not approved by the government in time, “impacted ticket purchasers will be directly notified of their ticket cancellation and issued a refund via their original method of payment,” according to the Jays.

The Jays returned to the Rogers Centre on July 30, 670 days after its last game in city because of border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team has since been playing in front of up to 15,000 fans, under Stage 3 of Ontario’s recovery plan.

“The Blue Jays are in the final days of a heated postseason wild card race and need fan support more than ever to create the home field advantage that our fans and team deserve down the stretch,” the team said in a statement.

The Jays are now a half-game behind the Yankees for the second wild-card spot after Thursday’s action with a little more than a week left in the season.

Toronto is expected to release extra seats in the 100 and 200 levels and open up sections in the 500 level, with tickets in that level starting at $15. Rogers Centre is not expected to return to full capacity with the sale of the additional tickets but the extra seats could represent a good bump in crowd size.

As of the most recent homestand, which began on Sept. 13, the organization is requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and older entering Rogers Centre. A negative COVID-19 test is no longer acceptable, except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.

The Jays play the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre next week from Tuesday to Thursday and the Baltimore Orioles from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3, in the final two series of the regular season.

Laura Armstrong is a Star sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy

Source : Toronto Star More   

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