"Mr. Oberlander served with the Ek 10a as an interpreter and an auxiliary," reads a 2009 decision from the Federal Court of Appeal. "In addition to interpreting, he was tasked with finding and protecting food and polishing boots. He lived, ate, travelled and worked full time with the Ek 10a." The Ukrainian-born German then served as an infantryman from 1943 to 1944.Oberlander joined the Ek 10a around his 17th birthday, and told the court that "he was conscripted and that his participation in Ek 10a was under duress because the penalty for desertion was execution."The Canadian government, in 1995, moved to revoke his citizenship, arguing that simply by being a member of Ek 10a, Oberlander was guilty enough to warrant the title of 'war criminal.' They also argued that, by not informing the government of his Nazi past when he entered Canada in 1954, he had illegally obtained his Canadian citizenship.
"Einsantzkommando10a killed babies, children, women, men and those categorized by the Nazis as being physically or mentally infirmed. If murderers such as Oberlander are not prosecuted, what precedent is set for the future?"
Oberlander appealed and, thanks to the government's inaction in the appeal, the order was overturned. Ottawa had his citizenship revoked once more, and ordered him deported, only to have that decision successfully appealed again. The courts held lingering concerns that Oberlander may have only been party to Ek 10a under duress. The government is now in the throes of trying to remove Oberlander for a third time.However, in 2000, the court found that "there was no conscription of non-Germans to serve with the German army" and that Oberlander, as a Ukrainian citizen, was likely not pressed into service out of fear of death and may have joined voluntarily.Oberlander's job, as translator, may have also been instrumental in the atrocities committed by the death squad."Translators were critical cogs in the Einsatzgruppen [SS death squads] machinery of murder," wrote Bernie Farber Eric Vernon and in the Canadian Jewish News last year. The pair, through the Canadian Jewish Congress, investigated Nazis like Oberlander."One can hear the echoes of their voices as they rounded up human targets with local informers and collaborators: ('How many Jews were in this village? Where would they be apt to hide?'); assisted with interrogations ('Where are the others? Do they have weapons?'); and ordered victims to places of execution while maintaining the German obsession over control and order ('Line up over there in front of that ditch. Remove your clothing. Be silent.')"
"Translators were critical cogs in the Einsatzgruppen machinery of murder."