Cape Breton Post
Oberlander’s deportation hearing won’t be kept secret
Complaining that media coverage of the case against Canada's last-known wartime Nazi brings violent threats against his family and lawyers, Helmut Oberlander's representatives asked for his immigration hearing to be closed to the public and the media.
The request delayed a lastditch hearing to deport Oberlander to Germany before he dies in Canada — another step in the 35-year struggle to hold him accountable as a member of a German killing squad during the Holocaust of the Second World War — while reporters objected to holding this week's Immigration and Refugee Board hearings behind closed doors.
“Each time the media issues a story about my grandfather, we receive unsolicited and often threatening messages by email and on social media platforms,” Oberlander's grandson, Jamie Rooney, told the IRB in an affidavit.
“The messages describe various means of killing one or all of my family members, including forcing my family members to drink Clorox; gassing my family members; hanging my family members; decapitating my family members; shooting my family members; and killing my family members by other means,” according to Rooney.
Rooney asked to replace his mother as Oberlander's designated representative before the IRB because of the fear of harm against her.
Waterloo Regional Police Service have been notified of the threats, Rooney said.
After an objection by Postmedia News and other media organizations, arguing the case was a matter of great public importance and the public interest was greater than privacy concerns of the family, IRB adjudicator Karen Greenwood ordered the case remain open to the public.
Greenwood did grant Rooney's request to replace his mother as Oberlander's designated representative.
Oberlander, 97, a retired businessman in Waterloo, Ont., was a member of a notorious Nazi killing squad in Ukraine and Russia during the Second World War. He entered Canada fraudulently in 1954 by failing to disclose his activities with the Nazis, tainting his citizenship application.
Now in frail health, Oberlander's family is set on delaying or postponing deportation to allow him to die
“He hallucinates, seeing squirrels or people with suitcases. We observed him picking at invisible things in the air with his hands. He is generally quite drowsy. Sleep is poor.” Doctor’s report on Helmut Oberlander
in Canada and be buried with his wife here.
After failing to hold the hearing in secret, Oberlander's lawyers' next order of business was to press applications to exclude evidence from being considered in the case and applications to halt the proceedings altogether, claiming an abuse of process and Oberlander's declining health.
Oberlander's current mental and physical health was chronicled to the IRB through a doctor's report from a June assessment after an hour-long assessment at his home in Waterloo, Ont.
“He was seen today in his family room. He sits on a Lazy Boy chair with his feet on an ottoman. He is next to the sliding doors to the back deck, with a view of the backyard,” the doctor's report reads.
“He answered at times tangentially, and at other times his answer was irrelevant and slurred. According to his family, this was one of his better days.
“At one point, he interrupted our conversation, asking what was out hanging and drying in the back yard (there was nothing). When asked to clarify, he lost track of his train of thought.
“He hallucinates, seeing squirrels or people with suitcases. We observed him picking at invisible things in the air with his hands. He is generally quite drowsy. Sleep is poor.”
His physical functions are also declining, the report says.
“A referral to palliative care services was recommended and accepted.”
The arguments on those applications were being made for the remainder of the hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Canada has been trying to deport Oberlander for decades because of his Nazi past.
He was among the first targets of a war crimes unit set up by the federal government in the 1990s.
Because of the passage of time and the difficulty in obtaining criminal prosecutions, deportation was seen as a more realistic goal. Even this tool, however, has been ineffective.
Four times his Canadian citizenship was stripped from him and three times that decision was overturned by the courts, in 2001, 2007, and 2012.
In 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear
Oberlander's appeal of the last revocation of his citizenship. The country's highest court accepted that Oberlander entered Canada fraudulently after the war.
His lawyers have continued to fight, on several legal fronts. His family has said they wish for him to remain in Canada until his death.
Oberlander is an ethnic German who lived in the Soviet Union — in what is now Ukraine — during the Second World War when it was invaded by Nazi forces. Then a teenager, he was assigned to work as a translator for Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek10a, one of the special police task forces that operated in occupied territory.
A Canadian judge described them as “mobile killing units” used by the Nazi SS for mass murder.
Oberlander's family earlier said he should be regarded as a former child soldier because he was “forcibly conscripted on the threat of death by the Nazis at age 17.”
The hearing is scheduled to continue all week.