Transcript Excerpts

Peter Warren Interview, June 23, 2002
10:05 a.m. PDT = 1:05 p.m. EDT

Interviewer: Peter Warren ("PW")
Interviewed Gentleman: Robert Keyserlingk ("RK")
Woman's Voice: Olya Odynsky ("OO")

PW: What can you tell us at the … how was immigration as far as the Foreign Service was concerned at the time this man entered the country?

RK: I just want to say one thing Peter, if I might. You are quite right, this is not a war crimes trial. Mr. Odynsky was claimed not to have been a war criminal at all and so the case turns into an immigration one. Did he or did he not lie on entering Canada? And I was in the Foreign Service myself for years and then I left it and became a History Professor. I taught Germany, I taught the war trials, I had students, graduate students who worked for the War Crimes Commission in Ottawa; so I have been keeping up very much on this sort of thing. And this is not an unusual case, unfortunately. Many of the people are claimed not, or found by the judge not, to be war criminals but then they have to, they think they have to deport them anyway because they may possibly have lied on immigrating to Canada. The trick of this, of course, is that it looks good in policy. I understand you, too, at first thought that Odynsky might have been a war criminal because the government was thinking of deporting him and they don't make the distinction between a man who is a war criminal and should be deported, which is quite right, and these other men who are being deported for weak immigration grounds and that was what I was really interested in was the immigration grounds.

PW: Sure, okay, what are they actually claiming, that he did not state that he'd been conscripted by the Nazis?

RK: Yes, they are claiming that he must have lied because at that time there was a rule that collaborators were not allowed into Canada. And that was the policy but the practice and policies as you know in government are two different things quite often. And the word "collaborator" certainly when I was in station in Germany in the 1950s was a totally incomprehensible term. Nobody understood what it meant, nobody paid the slightest attention to it and, in fact, the chief government witness at another trial, Mr. D'Ombrain, in cross-examination in 1998 said that he had no idea what "collaborator" meant, even today. And certainly that was a term which was not really regarded at all by immigration officers at the time.

PW: Olya, where does your dad live these days?

OO: He lives at home in Scarborough, Ontario and he knows, he is very hopeful that this is going to come to closure very soon.

PW: Robert, am I wrong here, but in all the years I've been on radio the cases where you know, where you, there have been other cases where there was no question that the person was not guilty of war crimes but merely something at immigration either did not mention or glossed over or something like that but they all seemed to be of Ukrainian background.

RK: Yes

PW: Is that true?

RK: It seems to be. Well there have been some Estonians or Latvians, too, but I think you are right, most of them have been Ukrainians. Olya, you would know this better than I would?

OO: Yes, that is something that has been pointed out, Peter, several times. Even in the cases where the individual's background was like in Mr. Dueck's case, he was a Mennonite and in other cases people were Volksdeutschers, but all of the evidence has come out of old KGB archives and I think it is very interesting that the Ukrainian government has allowed the RCMP to come into Ukraine and go around digging up this supposed evidence. What is also very interesting is the evidence in the end is generally refuted and becomes inconsequential. But it is the basis for the actual case coming to the courts. You know, you did something wrong, you tried to hide it, therefore you lied to get into Canada. However, if you proved that you didn't do anything wrong then really you had nothing to hide. Why would you have misrepresented yourself? I mean, that is what I don't understand why the government at that point if the person is found to be innocent of war crimes, there is no case. So at that point, you shouldn't be waiting another year to find out whether or not the Minister is going to refer this matter to Cabinet to make a decision on whether or not to strip you of citizenship.

PW: With no right of appeal, I understand?

OO: Oh, of course not. And then the other part of it is…

PW: Hang onto that thought Olya, I got to take a break cross country. Robert, as a Foreign Service Officer, what is the situation because they obviously get involved in a lot of these cases from the Canadian Jewish Congress?

RK: Well, I don't know what the Jewish Congress policy is, of course, they want to look for war criminals just like I think everyone of us does. It is just that if the man is not a war criminal he shouldn't really be considered this way because I can only talk to the immigration procedures at the time and the immigration procedures at the time were absolutely lax. The RCMP didn't have authority to do security screening in Europe until 1959, that is, yes about '59, that is 10 years after Odynsky was let in. They did it informally but they only looked for Communists and the Deschenes Commission in '86 that set up this whole warcrime system came to the conclusion that the immigration screening procedure and interview procedure of immigration was so lax that nothing could be derived from it. All the files are gone, the actual immigration application form had nothing on it for military work in the war, immigration officers had nothing to do with security screening anyway, they were only looking for people who had particular skills and they were absolutely overwhelmed by the numbers, in '47, '48, C.D. Howe started the year in '48 with 10,000 DPs ended up with 40,000 and there were six little teams running around absolutely out of their tree, being presented by thousands of these DPs of the various camps and being forced by the government to take them. In many cases, they didn't even interview them and to say nowadays that they have interviewed them and particularly they asked about their wartime experience, which was not the job of an immigration officer at all, is absolutely untrue.

PW: Why is there no appeal in this case? If they deport him, they strip [him] of his citizenship, they take a 78 year old man who since arriving in this country, Olya, I'm going on memory here, has an exemplary record, he hasn't even had a parking ticket.

OO: Yes, he has had a very good record, he has been a very solid Canadian citizen and it is certainly an outrage what has happened to him. It is so unjust and unfair and quite honestly, I think that the Cabinet sits back and looks at this and says, "Oh well, we are just going to strip his citizenship, we are not really going to deport him or we don't intend to, or whatever, and it is out of our hands. All we are doing is taking away the citizenship", so then it goes before the Immigration and Refugee Board. And then, it is out of the government's hands supposedly, so everyone, you know, doesn't feel guilty about deporting a 78 year old man because they didn't deport him, they only took away his citizenship.

PW: So they stand there and wash their hands like somebody else in history?

OO: Yes, I think, I mean it is easy to do that. But by the same token, I think that, here is an opportunity for Cabinet to become aware of what these situations are really about and, you know, if they read their own policy which Allan Rock came out with in 1995 when he clearly stated when introducing the new war crime strategy and the policy was that if there is no individual criminality, no proceeding will commence. So when we started this case they start with the very first thing that [our] lawyer said to Justice MacKay was that there should be no case here and there should be a stay of proceedings because this man is not charged with any criminal wrongdoing. And the answer from the judge was, "Well, we owe it to the Minister (at that time, Anne McClellan) to answer her query of investigating (and Madame Robillard was the Immigration Minister at the time) and we owe it to answer her question which is 'Did this man misrepresent himself?'". So on that basis, the situation proceeded, which, of course, never made any sense to anybody, because if there is no war crime, why is there even a hearing?

[Material excluded.]

RK: Well, I can answer some of that. I guess there is a pressure from this.

I want to correct one misinterpretation. When we brought in our war crimes law originally after the Deschenes Commission in '86, it didn't work because you had to find the man guilty under two points. One, under the Nuremberg rules which was very easy because you couldn't use superior orders [as a defense]. But as soon as they got into Canadian rules, which they had to find him guilty for, the last one was a Police Officer in Hungary who rounded up Jews, then he had superior orders [as a defense] because he could claim superior orders, which a Canadian policeman can do. So they were let off and, in desperation, because that kind of operation didn't work, they went into this second mode, which we are now talking about today.

As far as the Jewish organizations you are talking about, yes, not all of them are in favour of these trials. "B'nai Brith" is not, for instance, as far as I know. But, no, there haven't been any, and there have been, of course, Jewish collaborators. They wouldn't have been able to run the ghettoes without the Jewish councils and there were Jewish police there, which rounded up the Jews and sent them off and many of them are here and they had trials in Israel about that, but then they decided it was a little bit too divisive and so they gave up the whole thing. But no, there haven't been any of these things at all.

And I want to make one other comment if I might. This has little to do with compassion, as far as I am concerned. I am a Historian, I was a Foreign Service Officer but I am a Historian who worked in the war crimes business. This isn't a matter of justice. One forgets how scared we were in '46 to '49 when the Communist threat was growing. When we were ..., the Communists had their atomic bomb in '49, there had been a Berlin airlift in '48, '49. It ended up in war in '50 in Korea and we started at that point to rehabilitate the Germans on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And while we were dealing with Odynsky and people like that in '48 and '49, we were already letting in Germans, officially only in '50. But in the '50s when I was there, my goodness, we were letting in ex-SS Officers, ex-Gestapo Officers. They came in legally into this country.

And as far as Ukrainians are concerned, there is another very interesting story there that some day you can perhaps look at. In 1950, on the recommendation of the British, the French and the Americans, the Canadian government let in a whole Ukrainian Waffen SS Division, claiming that they were not security threats at all. That gives you a feeling of what life was like. We were out for Communists, we were no longer interested in World War II, that was a completely different thing. And the claim today, as Immigration Officers do, that we were interested about what went on in World War II is absolutely wrong.

Barry in Calgary: I am concerned by this phrase that your guest mentioned "on a basis of a balance of probabilities" it really makes it sound as though the judge in the case of Odynsky had rolled the dice and the dice had come up in such a way that he decided this man must have in a purely conditional sense, must have been deceitful in trying to get, gain entry into Canada. My question is a very simple one, whatever happened to "beyond a reasonable doubt"? Whatever happened to that? Why are we rolling the dice in this man's life? It is outrageous.

OO: It is outrageous and what happened was that this case was held in a civil process and there are those who will argue that the civil process is there and let's face it, we use this civil process for tax evasion cases, we use it for all kinds of different types of cases but where you are taking a man's life and his 55 years in Canada and, and it is not so much as a roll of the dice, what I think it is, is that you know, 51% says that maybe Odynsky lied and 49% chance that he didn't lie. As far as I am concerned, why would he have lied, what did he have to lie about? So I think that when you look at it that way, yes, it is totally outrageous and these cases belong in criminal court. If you have evidence of criminality, go to criminal court, but in a case like Odynsky where you didn't even claim that he hurt anybody, that you didn't even claim that he was a war criminal, and yes he had to live with his humiliation, the degradation of having the press scream that out that, you know, in Scarborough, Ontario lives an alleged war criminal. I mean that is horrible, horrible stuff.

PW: Barry, while you are on the line from Calgary and I think Olya will confirm this, isn't it right that your dad has had to use all his life's savings and help from elsewhere just to fight this?

OO: Absolutely, you know, about half way through the, well actually very early in the process, we realized we would not have enough money to do this as a family and we had already sort of drained everything we could and in order to continue my father and mother had to mortgage their house. I mean, you know, for them I think that was a very, very critical time, it was very brutal and they have drained their life savings and it is heartbreaking.

Barry: Can I just add one thing?

PW: Yes

Barry: This is happening, Warren, at a time when people like …

PW: We have lost you.

RK: Could I make a comment?

PW: Yes go ahead.

RK: It is a crap shoot, really. And in another sense that hasn't been mentioned yet and that is each individual federal judge who hears his case and makes up his mind about this in anyway he wants and there is no appeal to it. They, first of all, have no background [in] immigration matters at all, most of them have been on tax things and things like that. But the same testimony, the same two officers, Mr. Gunn[?] and the other fellow, whom I know because I was head of the Immigration Historical Society and these fellows were members of it and I worked with them too. They are the same two people that come in and give the same testimony in all these cases and some judges accept it and some don't. So it's really a crap shoot, who do you get as your judge.

[No further transcripts]