Canada trying to deport citizen accused as SS guard in Latvia

TORONTO — Canada's federal Justice Department has accused Eduards Podins, a 78-year-old resident of British Columbia, of being a former SS guard at the Valmiera concentration camp in Latvia.

The Justice Department is preparing denaturalization and deportation proceedings against Podins that are due to be heard in court this week.

Podins allegedly lied to Canadian immigration officials about his activities in the Latvian auxiliary police from 1941 to 1943.

He has been known to Canadian federal Nazi hunters at least since 1990, when he attempted to enter the United States.

At that time, he was turned back at the border because his name appeared on a computerized "watch list" of about 50,000 suspected war criminals maintained by the U.S. Office of Special Investigations, a branch of the Justice Department that investigates suspected war criminals.

However, despite letters in 1993 from the Canadian branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, federal officials waited nearly seven years to act against him.

Podins is the 11th alleged Nazi war criminal against whom federal officials have launched denaturalization or deportation proceedings during the past two years.

They have indicated that they intend to name a 12th suspect this month.

The action comes amid growing impatience within the Jewish community at the government's long-standing foot-dragging on the issue.

Simon Zuroff, head of the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, recently spoke at a community rally in Toronto where some 300 people protested the presence of alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada.

Zuroff noted that one suspect, Antanas Kenstavicius, died before he could be brought to justice.

Kenstavicius was allegedly a member of the 12th Lithuanian Police Battalion, which killed more than 50,000 Jews during World War II. He died in January at the age of 90.

A second suspect on the government's list of suspected war criminals also died before his case could be heard.

Josef Nemsila died at age 83 in April without facing justice for having been an officer in the Hlinka Guard, which slaughtered thousands of Jews and other civilians during the war.

Highlighting the government's recent resolve to bring alleged war criminals in Canada to justice, a federal court in which denaturalization and deportation arguments were being heard against Wasily Bogutin, 88, recessed in Toronto and reconvened in Donetsk, Ukraine, in late May.

Donetsk is a large southeastern Ukrainian city located near Selidovka, where Bogutin allegedly served in the police from 1941 to 1943; during that time he allegedly participated in the execution of a Jewish family and other brutal acts.

The court is expected to hear testimony from 13 Ukrainian witnesses before reconvening in Toronto in September.

As Canadian officials go to greater lengths to gather evidence against alleged Nazi war criminals residing in Canada, some Jewish officials are probing foreign archives to find out how so many people with such dubious reputations managed to slip into Canada with relative ease after the war.

Sol Littman, head of the Canadian branch of the Wiesenthal Center, recently charged that members of the British government willfully deceived Canadian immigration officials in order to get Canada to accept almost 2,000 suspected war criminals in the late 1940s.

Documents that Littman claims to have found in British archives show that officials there were aware that about 12,000 members of the 14th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division then being held in British internment camps had a reputation for brutality.

Although Britain assured Canada that all of these detainees had been investigated for war crimes, no thorough investigation was ever conducted, Littman said.

"They were desperate to get them out of Britain," said Littman.