The inexorable passage of time has ended the life of Helmut Oberlander. At 97, this old man with blue eyes and gray hair breathed his last on Wednesday at his home in Ontario, Canada. He did it, as his family has declared to ‘CBS’, “surrounded by his loved ones.” Although also in the middle of a battle with the local government to maintain his citizenship and avoid being deported for being part of a squad (‘Einsatzkommando’) of the fearsome ‘Einsatzgruppen‘: units made up of members of the Waffen-SS with the aim of ending the lives of Jews and Gypsies on the Eastern Front during World War II.
The news was revealed by
his attorney, Ronald Poulton, who has insisted that Oberlander was never convicted even though he was immersed in litigation for more than twenty years. “He was charitable and a family man who gave money to the church,” the lawyer said in a statement. His case made headlines in 1995, when he was charged with hiding his past as a member of an ‘Einsatzkommando’ in the immigration department. The process cost him citizenship in 2018 and the Supreme Court upheld the decision a year later. However, the case was recently stopped because of the defendant’s poor health. Thus, until his death.
The old man never denied having belonged to one of these units. What he did claim was that he was a mere translator. The reality is that it will be difficult to trace what was their work in the so-called ‘Death Squads’, those accused by the Allied courts of “organizing a ethnic cleansing in the rear of the ‘Wehrmacht’». “The instructions were that in the Russian operational areas the Jews should be executed, as well as the Russian political commissars. Between 1941 and 1942 the ‘Einsatzkommandos’ reported the liquidation of about 90,000 people, ”explained SS General Otto Ohlendorf, leader of the ‘Einsatzgruppen D’, to which Oberlander was attached, in Nuremberg.
Ohlendorf fell a little short in his calculations. In fact, it is estimated that the unit to which Oberlander belonged reached the figure of 100,000 killed, including women and children. Although the Canadian, born in 1924 in Ukraine, always defended that he had been forced to enlist at the age of 17 under the threat of being executed and that he had not participated in the atrocities. True or false, the reality is that his collaboration in the massacres has never been proven since he arrived in Canada in 1954. However, it is also true that he was included in the list of Nazi war criminals without prosecution that the Simon Wiesenthal Center – intended to document the victims of the Holocaust – published in 2016.
The controversy, in short, remains open. An example of this is that, last Thursday, the Jewish association B’nai Brith Canada criticized through a statement that the deceased was not expelled from the country. Helmut Oberlander’s peaceful death on Canadian soil is a stain on our national conscience. This country closed its doors to refugees, but it did give shelter to its torturers, ”explained the group’s director, Michael Mostyn. The Centro Simon Wiesenthal He did the same and stated in a press release that his death “is a great shame” without having been tried for his crimes.