Kitchener-Waterloo Record | Wednesday August 1, 2001
Peter Bufe

Oberlander should not lose his citizenship

According to The Record, the federal cabinet has decided to strip Waterloo resident Helmut Oberlander of his Canadian citizenship.

I ask the government to reverse this decision because I believe Oberlander did not lie about his wartime activities and that he was never asked.

I appeared as a witness at this judicial inquiry. After finishing my testimony, I was told by Justice Andrew MacKay that I had been a good witness.

I told the court that my wife and I had been interviewed in Karlsruhe by one person only, and that I was not asked any questions about my war record.

We also did not undergo a medical examination there then or at any other time.

When MacKay's findings were announced in The Record on May 6, 2000, it was reported that MacKay: "dismissed his [mine] evidence as having no weight" primarily because "it provides no direct evidence of the process followed a year or more later when Oberlander was interviewed."

When I subsequently obtained a copy of MacKay's findings, I discovered that he had said no such thing.

He rejected my evidence because it did not agree with the procedure the RCMP claimed was followed in Karlsruhe when my wife and I were interviewed there -- and he then rejected both Oberlander and his wife's sworn testimony that they were also interviewed by only one person (which would have been an immigration officer, and not an RCMP visa officer) on the same grounds.

The procedure, which MacKay believes was followed without any exception, called for each applicant to have a medical examination, to be interviewed first by an RCMP officer, and only when passed by him, by an immigration official.

This is not what took place at our interview and there was no evidence that the procedure had been changed between our interview and that of the Oberlanders.

Because the only RCMP witness who had ever been in Karlsruhe was there only in 1954, is it not most probable that, even if this procedure was followed then, it might not have been in previous years?

This leaves three possibilities for the Oberlanders to have been granted a visa:

1) Oberlander, while being interviewed by an experienced RCMP officer, managed to conceal his employment as an interpreter by an Einsatzkommando.

Oberlander would not have been aware that his interviewer was an RCMP (political) officer -- nor would he have known what, if any, part of his history might disqualify him as an immigrant.

2) He could have been interviewed by an RCMP visa control officer, who found that Oberlander's employment as interpreter with an Einsatzgruppe had been in the nature of what is now called forced labour, and who therefore did not veto his application.

3) He and his wife might not have been seen by an RCMP visa control officer at all, but only by an immigration official.

Under the circumstances and considering sworn eyewitness testimony, only the third possibility meets the known facts.

If Oberlander was not asked and did not lie, why should he lose his citizenship just because he had the misfortune to be conscripted by an Einsatzkommando?

Is it not time that his good name be restored after all he and his family have had to endure?

Peter Bufe is a resident of Kitchener.