The lawyer for a 97-year old former Nazi interpreter is seeking to have his Canadian deportation hearing thrown out, reported CBC News.
Helmet Oberlander’s lawyer argued on Wednesday that the Canadian government withheld important information in the case for a decade that it had an obligation to disclose.
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is currently holding a hearing on whether Oberlander will be allowed to stay in Canada or will be deported to Germany.
Oberlander, born in Ukraine, was a member of a Nazi death squad that operated behind the German army's front line in the eastern occupied territories during World War II.
It was part of a force responsible for killing more than two million people, most of them Jews.
Oberlander first served as a translator for Nazi death squads and later as an infantryman in the German army, according to 2018 court documents.
He said he was conscripted as a teenager, forced to join one of the Nazis’ “Einsatzkommando” mobile killing squads at the age of 17 and did not take part in any atrocities.
Oberlander, who lives in Waterloo, Ontario, arrived in Canada in 1954 and 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.
In June 2017, the federal government revoked Oberlander’s Canadian citizenship for the fourth time.
Oberlander has been listed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as one of the top ten most wanted Nazi war crimes suspects worldwide.
His lawyer stated that a confidential section of a 10-year old report on war criminals in Canada said that there was no evidence Oberlander was a participants in any wartime killings.
The Canadian Department of Justice responded that the report was made available to Oberlander 35 years ago and that the deportation hearing should not be adjourned.
On Tuesday, the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that Oberlander’s deportation hearing will be allowed to proceed in public. Oberlander had argued that he, his family and his lawyer were in danger, having received death threats after the media reported on the hearing, according to CTV News.
The board also ruled that the 97-year old is not mentally or physically fit to appear before the hearing, which will resume without him.
Oberlander’s lawyer had argued for an end to the hearing over his client’s worsening health, including cognitive impairment. He wrote in court documents that Oberlander “is not expected to survive much beyond the summer."
Oberlander’s hearing had been previously postponed in February after Canada’s Federal Court ruled he could have more time to prepare.
At the time, Jewish groups, which have long lobbied for Oberlander to be deported from Canada, expressed dismay that the case was being postponed.
Pinchas Gutter, Co-President of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants (CJHSD), said, "As Survivors, we are immensely pained that Nazi war criminals continue to evade justice by concealing their past. Mr. Oberlander served in a Nazi death squad and lied about his past to fraudulently gain his Canadian citizenship. Oberlander has cynically abused our courts to avoid prosecution in Germany. The CJHSD reiterates its call on the Government of Canada to complete the deportation process without further delay."