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Sunday, July 13, 2014

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Canada gets failing grade on Nazi war crimes file

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Efraim Zuroff

Canada’s record in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice has earned the country yet another failing grade, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.

Canada joined Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Australia and Austria with an “F-2: Failure in practice” mark, states Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, the centre’s annual report.

The mark refers to “countries in which there are no legal obstacles to the investigation and prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals, but whose efforts (or lack thereof) have resulted in complete failure… primarily due to the absence of political will to proceed.”

Canada has been given failing grades for several years. According to data compiled in the report, Canada has not filed a single new case since 2003-04 and there have been no new convictions in four years. Efraim Zuroff, author of the report, said Canada’s grade should improve next year, as the report will take into account the recent decision of the federal cabinet to strip Helmut Oberlander of his citizenship. Oberlander was a translator in a Nazi killing squad.

Zuroff said there are currently 1,138 investigations underway in 10 countries. A very small number will ever reach trial, perhaps 10 to 15, he suggested.

The report found that in the year up to March 31, 2012, 10 individuals were convicted on charges related to Nazi war crimes, including Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, a guard at the Sobibor death camp.

During the period under review, cases were initiated against six suspects, five in Italy and one in Spain. Germany, Italy and the United States were the only countries to receive an “A” grade, while Spain, along with Hungary and Serbia, were given “B.”

The report noted that in the 18 years since Canada shifted to the civil remedies of denaturalization and deportation, 21 cases have been initiated, of which 10 could be considered successes. 

Two of the 10 suspects left the country voluntarily, but “to date… not a single one of the eight persons who appealed against the decision has been deported and seven of the eight have since died in Canada.” Six others died in the course of proceedings against them.

“I know Canadians hate being compared to Americans, but the fact is that the Nazi war criminals and collaborators [in the countries] are the same,” Zuroff said. The United States has a much better record of deporting Nazi war criminals. From 2001 to March 31, 2012, the United States was responsible for 39 of the 99 convictions registered worldwide.

“The results achieved by the Americans clearly underscores the professional excellence and dedication of the [Justice Department] agency and the critical role played by political will in the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators,” the report states.

Zuroff said the centre’s “most wanted” list includes several with ties to Canada. Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary, who left Canada rather than face deportation, currently lives under house arrest in Hungary. He was charged on July 17, 2012, with torturing Jews in the Kosice, Slovakia, ghetto. Csizsik-Csatary served as a senior Hungarian police officer in Kosice, where he allegedly helped organize the deportation of 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944.

Another Canadian high on the list of most wanted is Vladimir Katriuk. Katriuk was stripped of his Canadian citizenship in 1999, but in 2007, a Federal Court reinstated it. The Wiesenthal Center says subsequent research by Swedish historian Per Anders Rudling implicates Katriuk personally in war crimes in Belarus. Zuroff said he has forwarded the new information to Canadian authorities but Rudling has not been contacted by Canadian prosecutors.

Contacted by The CJN, the Justice Department declined to comment on specific cases. However, department spokesperson Stephen Slesso stated, “Since 1987, the government of Canada has upheld its policy to ensure that this country does not become a safe haven for people involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide… The government remains committed to identifying, preventing entry, locating, apprehending, prosecuting, detaining and removing those individuals who pose a safety and security risk or threat to Canada.”

Zuroff, author of Operation Last Chance, acknowledged that little time remains to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. It may be that Canadian governments of all political persuasions “never considered this a priority,” he said. “And it’s possible the Jewish community lost interest and considers it an issue that’s going nowhere.”

That’s an assertion that Shimon Fogel disputes. Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said bringing Nazis to justice “is a priority for us. It has been for the last three decades.”

CIJA did push for a fresh look at the Oberlander case, which led to the revocation of his citizenship, but it is aware of only two other suspects – Katriuk and Wasyl Odynsky – who could be subject to legal actions.

“It’s not that the government is not willing to investigate cases. There are no cases,” Fogel said. “I think the government is not just implicitly but explicitly committed to this.”

“I don’t think the government is hesitant or shy to do the right thing about alleged Nazi war criminals. The reality is that in 2013, and each year after, it becomes less likely to find people still living that fit in that category,” he said.

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