Kill the messenger

May 12, 2001

The Right Hon. Jean Chretien
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

Apparently, the presidents of the World Jewish Congress and the Canadian Jewish Congress, unable to rationally refute the views of the Kitchener-Waterloo MP Andrew Telegdi - regarding his concerns about the unjustifiable deportation (and nothing else!) of his constituent Helmut Oberlander - took an easy way out of their predicament and decided to follow the advice of an old adage which suggests that "If you don`t like the message, then kill the messenger."

Thus, having heard the starter, invariably all approached politicians, the bigwigs of your party, members of your Government and the media en masse jumped on the combat bandwagon and began ferociously vilifying the democratically-elected MP Andrew Telegdi.

This avalanche of verbal harassment resolved absolutely nothing. It merely identified yet another target of defamation, giving a temporary repose to the real issues, namely, the fates of the two exemplary citizens of Canada, Wasyl Odynsky and Helmut Oberlander, who are facing deportation from their adopted homeland of 50 years, Canada.

Their one and only "war crimes and crimes against humanity" involvement (which occurred half a century ago and half a world away from Canada) consists of, according to Judge Andrew MacKay`s decision, the "balance of probabilities" that they might have lied to an immigration security screening officer, who "on the balance of probabilities" probably interviewed them, and who "on the balance of probabilities" might have asked them to name their wartime activities. That`s it!

Strangely enough, for those "crimes" your Government is ready to banish for life from Canada these two law-abiding Canadians. The logic behind your Government`s decision appears to be the assumption that if these two gentlemen had told the truth about their wartime involvements, they most definitely would not have been admitted to Canada. Sounds great!

And yet, another citizen of Canada, Adalbert Lallier, unabashedly boasts (please see the National Post of Wednesday, April 4, 2001, page A3) that he was welcomed to Canada even though he "admitted his Nazi past to the authorities when he emigrated" in 1951. Furthermore, he is now confessing that during WW2 he not only was an elite SS-officer-trainee, but also the only accessory to the murders of seven innocent and helpless Jews in 1945, which were committed by then his accomplice and comrade-in-arms, lieutenant Julius Viel.

Sir, is the half-century old cover-up conspiracy of this horrific atrocity, to which the confirmed ex-Nazi Adalbert Lallier confessed, a lesser crime than the "balance of probabilities" conjecture that Odynsky and Oberlander are accused of?

Why doesn`t your Government, the World Jewish Congress, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the thousands of Holocaust survivors or the media, as much as murmur about the unsavory wartime participations of Lallier, but get hysterical and panicky whenever Odynsky and Oberlander are mentioned?

Aren`t all Canadians supposed to be treated equally by your Government? Why is the guilty one rewarded, then, and the innocents punished? Indeed, why aren`t all citizens of Canada entitled to at least the same legal protection (free of charge yet!) as the one already afforded to even illegal immigrants accused of such heinous crimes as murder, rape, drug trafficking, child molestation etc?

Since I am unable to comprehend your Government`s immigration policies, I am left with no alternative but a depressing assumption (at least until the time it is dispersed by someone) that this deportation commotion has very little to do with war crimes, crimes against humanity, justice, fairness and morality, and is merely some kind of unseemly politically-correct public relations gimmick, called politics.

Hopefully, you will favour me with a convincing argument which would prove me to be wrong, dead wrong!

Sincerely yours
Myroslaw Prytulak

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April 4, 2001

'Lust for murder' nets Nazi 12 years

Executed 7 Jews in 1945: Canadian professor, a former SS trainee, was sole eyewitness

Karl-Anton Maucher and Kate Jaimet
Ottawa Citizen

RAVENSBURG, Germany and OTTAWA - A Nazi SS officer who murdered seven Jewish concentration camp prisoners was jailed yesterday on the evidence of a retired Canadian professor.

Julius Viel, 83, who is suffering from cancer, sat stunned and sullen as he was jailed for 12 years.

Viel acted "out of lust for murder and base motives," when he shot the prisoners in cold blood as they dug an anti-tank ditch in the spring of 1945, said Hermann Winkler, the presiding judge.

"We owe it to the victims that there be a redress of wrong," said the judge. "Still today, there are people being killed under unjust systems, and everyone should know that even after a long time, they will be called to account.

"The killing of a human was a crime then as well. The defendant knows it was people, not animals, that he did away with."

Viel was put on trial four decades after German authorities first investigated the case and dropped it. The case was revived when a former subordinate -- Adalbert Lallier, a one-time Nazi officer trainee and former professor at Concordia University in Montreal -- provided an eye-witness account of the murders.

Reached at his home in Quebec's Eastern Townships yesterday, Mr. Lallier, 75, said he was satisfied justice had taken its course.

"I'm sad about an old man being put in prison. Part of his deed could have been the influence of Nazi ideology on him, we'll never know to what extent," Mr. Lallier said. "At least he can say, 'I've had 55 years of the life of a free citizen.' Even though he did live an exemplary life since the end of the war, he had that burden that he's now paying for."

Viel's lawyer, Ingo Pfliegner, said: "Mr. Viel will not live 12 years. He is old and sick. I told him not to lose his will to live. We will fight this."

But Viel, who denied the charges and became a respected journalist after the Second World War, said he would almost certainly die in prison. "I'm sorry for my wife's sake," he said.

The case would never have come to court had it not been for the testimony of Mr. Lallier, a native Hungarian who moved to Canada in 1951.

After more than 50 years of silence, Mr. Lallier came forward in the fall of 1997 to tell a story he said had burdened his conscience his entire adult life.

He told how, during the Second World War, he had served as a 19-year-old officer cadet in the Waffen-SS, an elite fighting unit with close ties to the Nazi party.

He said he did not believe the Nazi propaganda, having been unwillingly drafted into the Waffen-SS, but he did respect the creed of gentlemanly behaviour taught at the officers' school -- the oath of loyalty was Meine ehre heisst treue (My honour means loyalty).

He said he also greatly respected his commanding officer, Second Lieutenant Viel.

He told the German court that in the spring of 1945, he and other cadets were assigned to stand guard over a group of Jewish prisoners who were digging an anti-tank ditch on the plains of Leitmeritz, near the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. The mood among the German officers was grim. They knew they had lost the war, and that Russian troops were advancing rapidly through the woods.

Suddenly, without warning or provocation, Mr. Lallier saw Viel pick up a carbine, take aim, and shoot seven prisoners dead in the ditch.

"A group of officers was there. The Jews were there, half-starved, ragged. I see him grab the weapon, distance himself from the officers, approach a small group of Jews -- they were thin as ... ghosts," said Mr. Lallier.

"He starts shooting. A first man, a second, then a big one with a red beard. The shot hits him. He falls, raises himself up, looks to see where it came from, raises his arm. The second shot hits him. Then many more, the weapon was shot until it was empty."

Fifty witnesses were heard at trial, among them many of Mr. Lallier's former comrades-in-arms in the Waffen-SS.

Some of them denied any knowledge of the alleged crime; others testified that they heard rumours of the shooting, but did not witness it.

Mr. Lallier remained the only person who claimed to have seen the deed with his own eyes.

However, the defence claimed he had an ulterior motive for coming forward.

"He says his conscience is tormenting him after 55 years," Mr. Pfliegner said. "I don't believe it."

Mr. Pfliegner said Mr. Lallier fingered Viel in order to stave off investigation into his own membership in the Waffen-SS.

Rather than have someone denounce him as a former SS-man, Mr. Lallier took the pre-emptive move of voluntarily confessing his membership and simultaneously denouncing Viel, he claimed.

The year Mr. Lallier made his accusation, the Canadian Jewish Congress was lobbying the Justice Department to become more aggressive in pursuing the files of suspected Nazi war criminals living in Canada.

Mr. Lallier, who said he admitted his Nazi past to authorities when he emigrated, but did not tell the university or colleagues, said: "Pfliegner's allegations are linked with his last-ditch attempt to disparage my reputation and thereby slander me as a person in the hope that he will discredit me as a witness."

Yesterday Mr. Lallier said the verdict did not greatly change his life, but it did take a load off his conscience and confirmed that taking the risk to come forward with his story was the right thing to do.

"Maybe I'll stand a bit taller for having stuck my neck out," he said. "And having contributed a bit to making sure those memories about the Holocaust having happened are not forgotten."