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Posted Wednesday, August 5, 1998



Canada's Wannabe Nazi-hunters: A Question of Inference by Orest Slepokura, CANADA

IT'S BEEN just over 20 years since the Polish-American named Frank Walus stood in a Chicago court and heard a dozen Jewish Holocaust survivors give "eyewitness" testimony that described him as a sadistic SS officer responsible for brutal murders of Jews and Poles in wartime Poland.

On the basis of their testimony, the presiding judge, Julius Hoffman, ordered that Frank Walus be stripped of his American citizenship and deported forthwith.

In fact, Frank Walus was not "the Beast of Kielce," as the media had by then dubbed him. Anything but! Being of the wrong race (Polish, not German), too short and too young (at 17 years old), it was impossible he could ever have attained to any rank, let alone a high one, within Hitler's SS.

In 1940, while he was alleged to be committing atrocities in Kielce and Czestowchowa, Walus was doing forced labour on German farms, where the farmers agreed that wimpiness was his most salient characteristic.

Only his documents from the German tax department, the Red Cross and the German health plan into which he paid during the Second World War saved him from being extradited.

Eventually, the U.S. Justice Department dropped its case, apologized, and paid Walus $34,000 in compensation (of the $120,000 he had spent defending himself).

It's been just over 10 years since the Ukrainian-American named John Demjanjuk stood in a Jerusalem court and heard five Jewish Holocaust survivors give "eyewitness" testimony that described Demjanjuk as one of two motormen who operated the gas chamber at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland.

On the basis of their testimony, a panel of three judges found John Demjanjuk guilty and ordered that he be hanged for his war crimes.


In fact, John Demjanjuk was not "Ivan the Terrible" as the media had by then dubbed him. During his trial, it was disclosed that his principal accuser, one Eliyahu Rosenberg, had signed two affidavits wherein he described Ivan's murder at the hands of Jewish inmates during the Aug. 2, 1943, camp uprising. In a 1945 affidavit, Rosenberg even related witnessing Ivan being bludgeoned to death with shovels as he lay sleeping.

Only the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 allowed the Demjanjuk defence team to obtain exculpatory documents from KGB files inside the moribund empire. Exculpatory documents had also been retrieved from a dumpster just behind OSI offices in Washington after they had been tossed out by OSI staffers. (The OSI, the Office of Special Investigations, by the way, is the American Justice Department's Nazi-hunting arm.)

Eventually, the Israeli Supreme Court acquitted Demjanjuk of the war crimes charges leveled against him, and allowed him to return to his family home in Cleveland. By late 1997, his American citizenship was restored.

What went around in the Walus case and came around with the Demjanjuk affair is in danger of entering yet another spin cycle, given the Canadian government's determination to denaturalize and deport Vladimir Katriuk, Wasyl Odynsky, and other elderly emigres either suspected or alleged to have been involved in Nazi-era atrocities.

Understand that, in these cases, mere suspicion or allegation might prove sufficient to see that the accused's citizenship is revoked and the former citizen is deported.

Addressing the file of Vladimir Katriuk, a 76-year-old beekeeper from Ormstown, Quebec, the federal government's prosecutor, David Lucas, admitted as much in a July 4th interview with Canadian Press. Lucas: "We have no direct evidence that he actually did that [i.e., was involved in Nazi-era atrocities]. Adding: "It's a question of inference."


However, inferences can sometimes be plainly wrong or very much mistaken. Consider, for example, the following syllogism.

Major premise: Israel was a good friend to apartheid-era South Africa. Minor premise: Canada was then (and still is) a good friend to Israel. Conclusion: Therefore, Canada was a good friend to apartheid-era South Africa.

While both the major and minor premise are correct, the conclusion or inference is dead wrong.

Certainly, Israel was, it's true, a very strong ally of apartheid-era South Africa.

When the South African prime minister, John Vorster, paid an official visit to Israel in April 1976, it began with a tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, where the late Yitzhak Rabin invited the onetime Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist, and implacable white supremacist to pay homage to victims of the Holocaust.

According to Israeli law, Vorster should have been arrested for being a former Nazi collaborator. Instead, the reception he was afforded by the Jewish state was a warm and cordial one. Welcoming articles in the Israeli press described him as a deeply religious man on a personal pilgrimage to the Holy Land. And, compared, say, to the hue and cry of organized Jewry in Israel, Europe and North America in the wake of the 8 minutes President Reagan spent at the Bitburg Military Cemetery in West Germany in 1985, no less remarkable was the calm equanimity it displayed toward the Vorster visit.

Vorster's stay in Israel lasted 4 days (or 5,760 minutes). Its denouement was described by Leslie and Andrew Cockburn in their 1991 bestseller Dangerous Liaison: "The old Nazi sympathizer came away with bilateral agreements for commercial, military, and nuclear cooperation that would become basis for future relations between the two countries."

Born in 1915, Vorster died in South Africa in 1983. Today, he's chiefly remembered by many of South Africa's black citizens for having been among the more viciously racist of its apartheid-era leaders.



But, for the moment, let's suppose his life had taken a different turn; that in 1950 he had emigrated to Canada (after hiding his Nazi past) and used his skills to build a prosperous and comfortable life for himself and his family.  

Let's also suppose that Vorster was still alive; now a retired, reasonably healthy octogenarian. Let's further suppose that his name had been included in the list alongside that of Katriuk, Odynsky, and the other suspects so named.

However, seeing as Vorster's record of collaboration with the Nazis was easy to verify -- being analogous to that of an Adrien Arcand -- let's say our federal government had announced its intention to fast-track the denaturalization and deportation processing of his file. I think it an altogether reasonable inference to conclude that the ones to applaud the fed's decision longest and loudest in this instance would have been Canada's various Jewish organizations, ironically enough. It is they, after all, including the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'Nai Brith Canada, and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, to name the most prominent ones, who lobbied long and hard for this D & D (read: denaturalization and deportation) solution to the problem of Nazi war criminals and collaborators on Canadian soil.

Still, this Vorster fantasy is only a hunch, merely a matter of speculation, of -- that word again! -- inference.

But nowadays in Canada, government lawyers playing hunches that a man might have behaved criminally nearly 60 years ago, during World War Two, is, apparently, entirely permissible; even though it may wantonly destroy a hitherto productive life and ruin a spotless reputation.

Of course, one might well ask, What if among the old men our federal government has earmarked for denaturalization and deportation there should happen to be one or more Frank Waluses?

To that "our" government has a one-word answer. Sure, it's not stated explicitly, let alone bannered from rooftops, but it can be discerned by anyone who can read the telltale signs mouthed by its silent, conspiratorial, bureaucratic lips: "Tough..."

Was it Stalin -- or Hitler -- who liked to say: "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs..."? 

© copyright Orest Slepokura 1998

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