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Canadas Nazi War Criminals

Chrystia Freeland Canada’s Foreign Minister praises her Nazi grandfather and uses fascist slogan at Ukrainian Nationalist Event

Chrystia Freeland, the Foreign Minister of Canada, has a serious problem: her support for extremist nationalists in the Ukrainian diaspora community.

There are accusations that Canada is a nest of Nazi war criminals. Is this true? This accusation has intensified following Canadas parliament giving two standing ovations to a member of the Nazi Ukrainian Waffen-SS-Division “Galicia” who was introduced by the speaker of the Canadian House of Commons as a hero. All the parliamentarians of every hue stood in enraptured applause not once but twice. Are they historical morons or just morons? Their guilt and their ignorance is not exonerated by the resignation of the Commons speaker. The Nazi Ukrainian Waffen-SS-Division “Galicia” was responsible for the killing of thousands of Poles and Jews. Its members were willing volunteers and not conscripts.

Canada after World War II became a safe haven for Nazi war criminals with the influx of between 2000 and 6000 war criminals and collaborators. This has remained largely a taboo subject in Canada. The blame lies not with the Canadian authorities but lies rather with the war criminals and collaborators who gained entry to Canada by forged identities or by giving false information about their wartime history. That’s the official line. The great majority of Nazi war criminals and collaborators who settled in Canada after the Second World War were not admitted on purpose, but rather as a result of the absence or the inaccessibility of information about their wartime activities. That is the official line.

Liberal View on Immigration

The greatest influx of war criminals into Canada is attributed to Norman Robertson, who held a liberal view on immigration. Other include then Prime Minister King, who was rather hesitant in 1945 to change immigration restrictions, Hugh Keenleyside, Maurice Pope at the Canadian military mission in Berlin and Morley Scott.


Canada was “far more concerned–indeed, obsessed–with screening out Communist sympathizers than suspected Nazi war criminals.” ‘Reds under the bed’ was the mantra in 1946 and until the end of the Soviet Union. At the end of 1946, the intensified pressure of business interests and lobby groups led to an increased danger of infiltration by Nazi war criminals and collaborators. Among the major lobbyists, were the Canadian Christian Council for Resettlement of Refugees (CCCRR) which fronted for various German-Canadian immigrant-aid societies. Its unambiguous goal was to bring in as many Volksdeutsche as possible. In November 1947, it was recognized as an agent of the Canadian government.


On June 6, 1947, the government enacted PC 2180, therewith formally authorizing the refugee movement. Within eighteen months, immigration reached a total of 50,000 with a significant part of Volksdeutsche included. Among immigrants taking advantage of the IRO programs some 1500 are said to have evaded their criminal past as Hitler’s henchmen and fled to Canada, most of them disguised within the bulk-labour contingents.

Enemy Aliens?

Despite this immigration of criminals Canada was not on the surface considered a safe haven for them. Under the provisions of PC 1373, most German nationals, as enemy aliens, were not eligible to immigrate to Canada, unless they could demonstrate their opposition to the Nazi regime. This restriction ended just four years after the war in September 1950 when German nationals were removed from the category of enemy aliens. Germans, particularly those with professional and technical skills, were considered by Canada to be among the most desirable European immigrants.

The Ratline

As well as the loosening of Canadas official restrictions on post war undesirable Germans entering Canada there was of course the underground networks smuggling fugitives and undercover agents out of hostile territory and into countries including Canada was the so-called ratline. Due to still-classified documents the actual numbers who made it to Canada via the ratlines still cannot be determined. Thus, the true number of Nazi war criminals who took up residence in Canada is not yet complete or absolute. The numbers may be in the thousands, nobody knows. It is almost impossible to gain access to the highly restricted files of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) or the reports on individual cases.

Ukrainian Waffen-SS-Division “Galicia”

Three exceptions to Canadas immigration restrictions were namely German scientists, Estonian refugees from Sweden and for some inexplicable reason former members of the Ukrainian SS-Division “Galicia”. That proved the rule of a well-administered, good-faith effort on the part of Canadian immigration officials to prevent the entry of undesirables.  By the mid-1950’s, West Germany’s demand for lenient treatment for convicted Germans was met and the trials were winding down.

Canada Admits Waffen-SS

The CCCRR intensified its calls for a facilitating of immigration restrictions, sometimes even untruthfully stating in revisionist tones that Waffen-SS troops had been subjected to the same military draft as regular army counterparts. By February 1956, those who had served voluntarily in the Waffen-SS were no longer considered a reason for automatic refusal of entry to Canada.

The accusations of Canada’s failing immigration screening procedures was prepared in 1986 by Alti Rodal for the Deschênes Commission. Rodal’s extensive study noted that the “predominant concern of screening policy and practice in the postwar decade was, in fact, not to identify and bar Nazis or Nazi collaborators, but, rather, to weed out possible communist infiltrators and spies, now seen as the primary security threat.” Ottawa was not indifferent to the problem of war criminal immigration but makes the excuse that it was the imperfect screening system combined with fraudulent statements of war criminals and collaborators that opened up possible sneak-in holes.


Ottawa further claims that a majority of “criminals” entering Canada were Nazi-collaborators who had escaped from Eastern Europe. The evidence of their crimes remained hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Canadian immigration authorities were bound to commit mistakes and the mistakes committed were according to themselves within acceptable limits. According to Alti Rodal or Reginald Whitaker the numbers of some alleged 6000 war criminals living in Canada is exaggerated. Was it?

End Notes

[1]. See Hon. Jules Deschênes, “Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals Report; Part 1: Public,” (Ottawa, December 30, 1986). Shortly before, Alti Rodal prepared a report for the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, “Nazi War Criminals in Canada: The Historical and Policy Setting from the 1940s to the Present” (Ottawa, September 1986). For the 1990s, Patrick Brode, Casual Slaughters and Accidental Judgments: Canadian War Crimes Prosecutions, 1944-1948 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), puts an emphasis on the legal perspectives; James E. McKenzie, War Criminals in Canada (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 1995), is a journalistic, secondary-source-based listing of single cases with no in-depth analysis. For two recent examples of a revival of the issue see “The Man Ottawa Won’t Leave Alone,” The Globe and Mail (June 10, 2002), and “Ottawa May End Effort to Expel Nazis,” National Post (September 20, 2002).

[2]. Howard Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998).

[3]. For a definition of war crimes, see Deschênes, “Commission,” pp. 37-44, which also includes an interesting discussion on the status of the members of the “14th SS Volunteer Division Galicia”, pp. 249-261.

[4]. David Matas and Susan Charendoff, Justice Delayed: Nazi War Criminals in Canada (Toronto: Summerhill Press, 1987), p. 21.

[5]. For a first-hand account of the German POW experience in Canada, see Yves Bernard and Caroline Bergeron, Trop loin de Berlin: des prisonniers allemands au Canada (1939-1946) (Editions du Septentrion, 1995). The book does not provide an in-depth historical analysis, but its numerous illustrations and personal accounts give an idea of individual POW experiences in Canada.

[6]. Alti Rodal, Nazi War Criminals in Canada: The Historical and Policy Setting from the 1940s to the Present (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Management Development, 1996), pp. 475-476.

[7]. Reginald Whitaker, Double Standard: The Secret History of Canadian Immigration (Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1987).

[8]. See the listings of alleged numbers of war criminals living in Canada presented in the Deschêches “Commission”, pp. 245-249. The alleged number of 6000 was given by Simon Wiesenthal in the New York Daily News (May 16, 1986). Also see Edward Greenspan’s findings in The Globe and Mail (November 21, 1983).



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