Kitchener-Waterloo Record | Thursday August 09, 2001 | Aaron Klassen

Oberlander case is moral issue

Helmut Oberlander is to be stripped of his Canadian citizenship. As Alice in Wonderland tells us, "Things are getting curiouser and curiouser." Rescued as a 17-year-old teenager from Stalin's purges by the advancing German armies into Ukraine, he finds himself conscripted as a junior translator for the infamous Einsatzkommando during the turmoil of war.

It is alleged that Oberlander, upon applying for entry to Canada, did not tell all. No record appears to be available to say conclusively whether he had lied to immigration authorities. In the absence of such proof "beyond a shadow of a doubt," this appears to have left Justice Andrew McKay in a difficult position based on "probabilities."

Had most of us, if not all, found ourselves in similar circumstances and at a similar age, with a desire to come to Canada, it is doubtful whether any of us would have acted much differently than did Oberlander at the time.

Ethical sensibilities need time to form. Unless specifically asked about my involvement with the Einsatzkommando, I would most likely not have volunteered it.

I believe that the 36 cabinet ministers, who made the decision to strip him of his citizenship, would not have acted much differently had they been in Oberlander's circumstances. Nor would most of the members of the Jewish community who have lobbied against Oberlander.

If this is indeed the case, then we have as a society and as a country collectively sunk to a new low in hypocrisy. Vengeance is not a substitute for justice and the perversion of justice is strongly condemned by the shared heritage of both Christians and Jews. This is a moral issue. To make it into a political issue is indefensible. Small wonder the cabinet has been reluctant to state its reasons for the decision.

Aaron Klassen