Sunday 18 March 2001

Small fish

Robert H. Keyserlingk
The Ottawa Citizen

I support the sentiments expressed by Dagnija Innus regarding the government's push for the citizenship revocation of very small fish such as Wasyl Odynsky ("Ordinary people, caught in Nazi evil, shouldn't be treated as criminals," Ottawa Citizen, March 8, 2001).

Our policy of prosecuting Nazi and other war criminals is one that we all can support. However, the judge in this case concluded that Mr. Odynsky was not a war criminal, that he had not taken part in criminal activities during the Second World War, and that his service had not been voluntary.

What about going after the bigger fish, the Nazi Party, Gestapo or SS higher-ups and other important collaborators whom we let legally into the country during and after the late 1950s? I expect the problem for the government would be that we knew their background and still allowed them to enter the country.

As a retired history professor who taught about this period and as a member of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society who was also an immigration officer in the 1950s stationed in Germany, I know that the few Canadian immigration officers overseas in the late 1940s were overwhelmed by instructions to take in tens of thousands of "displaced persons" from Germany needed for our work force. They processed them quickly as regards their trades and generally avoided asking questions about their wartime background. The immigration forms of the time did not even have a section covering wartime activities.

Today we appear to have forgotten that our inexperienced RCMP security officers overseas had no legal basis at that time for operating overseas and possessed no real security capabilities. They depended on the International Refugee Organization or British and American organizations, and even the rehabilitated ex-Nazi Gehlen intelligence organization, for data. They looked not for Nazi collaborators but worried about Communists. They generally understood that young Ukrainians like Mr. Odynsky had often been forced to join German-led police forces without being Nazi collaborators in fact.

If we are serious about searching for real war criminals, picking on small fry non-war-criminals like Mr. Odynsky makes us look like amateurs.

Robert H. Keyserlingk,