Russia says it has asked Canada to hand over case files on a 95-year-old former Nazi death-squad member to help Moscow investigate the mass murder of children at a Soviet orphanage during World War II.
Helmut Oberlander, who was born in Ukraine and became a German citizen during the war, lives in Canada.
He obtained Canadian citizenship in 1960 and courts have repeatedly ruled Oberlander’s citizenship should be revoked because he lied about his participation in a Nazi death squad during the war. In December Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal on the government’s decision to strip him of his passport, bringing him a step closer to actual deportation from Canada.
Russia’s Investigation Committee announced on February 14 that it wanted Canada’s case and legal files on Oberlander, saying it was checking his possible involvement in a 1942 “genocide” at an orphanage in the Sea of Azov town of Yeysk.
The committee said in a statement that a death squad equipped with “mobile gas chambers” was deployed in 1942 and 1943 to the German-occupied Krasnodar region.
“As a result of one such operation, on October 9 and 10, 1942, a mass murder of children at the Yeysk orphanage was committed,” it added.
At the time, Oberlander served as a translator for the Nazis’ mobile killing squads, the committee said.
Oberlander has said he was forced to join one of the squads at the age of 17 and did not take part in any atrocities.
Last year, Russian investigators said they had opened a probe into suspected genocide after declassified documents in the Krasnodar region revealed that the bodies of 214 disabled foster children who had fled the Crimean Peninsula for nearby Yeysk were found after Nazi forces were driven out of the area.
With reporting by Interfax, Reuters, and The Moscow Times