Helmut Oberlander (born 15 February 1924) is a Canadian citizen who was a member of the Einsatzgruppen death squads of Nazi Germany in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Oberlander is on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most wanted Nazi war criminals. Since 1994, the Government of Canada has made repeated attempts to revoke Oberlander's citizenship.
As an ethnic German born and living in Ukraine during World War II, he was conscripted into the German forces at the age of 17 to serve as an interpreter for the Einsatzkommando 10a which was part of Einsatzgruppe D when it entered Soviet Ukraine in 1941. His duties included listening to and translating Russian radio transmissions, acting as an interpreter during interactions between the military and the local population, and the guarding of military supplies.
The Federal Court of Canada, in Oberlander v. Canada (Attorney General), determined that Oberlander was part of the Ek 10a during World War II. The Federal Court of Canada characterized the group as one of several death squads, responsible for killing more than two million people, most of whom were civilians and largely Jewish. According to the ruling, from 1941 to 1943 Oberlander served with Ek 10a as an interpreter and an auxiliary. In addition to interpreting, he was tasked with finding and protecting food and polishing boots. He lived, ate, travelled and worked full-time with the Ek 10a. From 1943 to 1944, he served as an infantryman in the German army.
Life in Canada
Oberlander immigrated to Canada with his wife Margaret in 1954, where he ran a construction business and lived in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. He became a Canadian citizen in 1960. In 1995 the Government of Canada initiated a denaturalization and deportation process against him. On 28 February 2000, Judge Andrew MacKay reported his findings: he concluded that there is no evidence that Oberlander was involved, directly or indirectly, in committing any war crimes or any crimes against humanity. He might not have, however, disclosed his wartime record during his immigration interview in 1953 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The Government of Canada determined that withholding this information was sufficient reason to strip Oberlander of his Canadian Citizenship. Andrew Telegdi who was Oberlander's Member of Parliament, and who was at the time parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Citizenship of Immigration, resigned from that position in objection to this decision. In October 2008 the government revoked his citizenship. In November 2009 the Federal Court of Appeal struck down this decision thus reinstating his citizenship.
In 2012 Oberlander was again stripped of his citizenship through an Order in Council of the Government of Canada. Oberlander appealed the 2012 order to the Federal Court of Canada, which the court rejected in 2015. Oberlander then appealed the 2015 decision to the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal. In 2016 the court accepted his appeal, setting aside the government's 2012 Order in Council. In July 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied the government's request for leave to appeal the decision. Consequently, in order to deport Oberlander for trial, the government must first prove that he was a willing participant in death squad activities due to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that guilt by association is not sufficient grounds to be considered a war criminal.