The Canadian government, with British complicity, admitted more than 2,000 members of a notorious Ukrainian Waffen-SS division in 1950, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has charged.
In a related case, the CBS news program “60 Minutes” reported that about 1,000 SS men and Nazi collaborators, mainly from the Baltic states, immigrated to Canada about the same time.
And the German public broadcasting network reported that 50,000 war criminals are receiving “victim pensions” from the German government. According to German sources, 1,882 of them are Canadian residents.
Canadian officials have acknowledged that almost all the suspected war criminals and Nazi collaborators have lived openly under their own names in Canada for the last 47 years.
The Wiesenthal Center’s dean, Rabbi Marvin Hier, and its Canadian representative, Sol Littman, outlined the case of the 2,000 SS veterans at a news conference Monday after returning from Ottawa.
They spoke about their meeting with Canadian Solicitor General Herb Gray, the Cabinet minister in charge of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“Mr. Gray seemed genuinely disturbed by the material we presented and promised to investigate the charges,” Hier said.
Littman, who has been investigating the Nazi presence in Canada since 1980, said the 14th Volunteer Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, also known as the Galicia Division, was made up mainly of Ukrainians who had served with Nazi police battalions and death squads.
The surviving 9,000 members of the division surrendered to the British army at the end of the war, and eventually were brought to England.
In 1950, Britain appealed to Commonwealth countries to admit them.
Canada agreed to take 2,000, after receiving assurances from London that their backgrounds had been investigated and that they had been cleared of any complicity in war crimes.
But according to recently released British documents and interviews with officials who conducted the investigations at the time, the Ukrainians were not screened, partly because none of the interrogators could speak their language, Littman said.
The 2,000 settled in major Canadian cities, and it is estimated that about half of them are still alive.
One of the ways of getting into Canada during the postwar period “was by showing the SS tattoo,” Canadian historian Irving Abella told “60 Minutes” interviewer Mike Wallace. “This proved that you were an anti-Communist.”
Abella cited his meeting with longtime Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to illustrate the lackadaisical attitude of the Canadian authorities.
Trudeau said the reason his government did not go after war criminals “was because they were afraid of exacerbating relationships between Jews and Eastern European ethnic communities,” Abella said. “So he didn’t do anything, and he admitted it quite openly.”
John Sims, the Canadian official in charge of prosecuting war criminals, acknowledged to “60 Minutes” that “Canada did virtually nothing for decades after the Nuremberg trials.”
However, Sims promised that “1997 is going to be an important year, in which I think considerable progress will be made in ridding this country of Nazis.”
The latest revelations about suspected war criminals living openly in Canada come in the wake of a Jerusalem Post series in November that described Canada as a “near-blissful refuge” for Nazis.
Steven Rambam, a private detective from New York, working with two Post reporters, uncovered the whereabouts of about 150 suspected war criminals living in Canada, often by simply looking up their names in phone books.
Masquerading as a professor from a fictitious Central American university, Rambam, a former member of the Jewish Defense League, obtained secretly taped interviews with a former Lithuanian police chief, who described in chilling detail his part in the execution of 5,000 Jews.
Meanwhile, the German television program Panorama reported last week that 50,000 war criminals and members of army units who participated in atrocities were receiving bonus pensions, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars each month.
These so-called “victim pensions” are paid on top of regular pensions to anyone who suffered from a disability linked to World War II, or to their dependents.
Although a 1950 German law excludes war criminals living abroad from receiving these pensions, the law is apparently not enforced for Canada, or the United States.
Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, has charged that some 3,300 German veterans living in the United States are receiving pensions.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.