Things have been slow down at the lake so when I recently read about two elderly men that are in process of being deported for allegedly lying to Canadian immigration officials about their activities during WW2, I hauled out a book that I had started many times but never managed to finish. It is heavy reading with voluminous notes and the author admits in his introduction that it is sure to make some people angry, though not for the same reasons.
The book is Unauthorized Entry, The Truth about Nazi War Criminals in Canada, 1946-1956. The author is Howard Margolian and the publisher is University of Toronto Press Incorporated. Although the copyright date is 2000, the material is still relevant today.
Margolian considers the royal commission report titled “Nazi War Criminals in Canada: The Historical and Policy Setting from the 1940’s to the present” prepared in 1986 for the Deschênes Commission by Alti Rodal, a historian employed by the federal government to be seriously flawed. He wrote that Rodal’s report at its core was informed by a cast of mind argument. Citing the bias of Canadian bureaucrats against Jewish would-be immigrants during the 1930’s, she linked their attitudes and the Canadian government’s handling (or more properly, mishandling) of screening after 1945. Rodal’s report accused the Canadian government of negligence in permitting the entry of Nazi war criminals and collaborators.
The term “war criminal” refers to persons who perpetrated crimes against allied soldiers or civilians during WW2. The term “collaborator” refers to persons who assisted the Germans in maintaining the occupation of conquered territories. The term is limited to persons that enforced Nazi rule in an official capacity, for example as civil administrators, auxiliary police or volunteers in the German armed forces.
Control Council Directive No. 38 issued by the occupying powers listed all Nazi organisations and agencies considered to be criminal or dangerous to the allied occupation. Although its primary intent was to facilitate the arrest and punishment of war criminals, it was well suited to immigration screening and was used as such by Canadian officials. The directive set out 5 different categories. These were: “major offenders”, “offenders”, “lesser offenders”, “followers”, and “exonerated”. In 1955 mainly as the result of Cold War realities, the Canadian government decided that henceforth only “major offenders” would continue to be rejected as immigrants.
All Waffen SS officers above the rank of captain were classified as “major offender” as were all concentration camp guards. Anyone below the rank of major was classified as “offender” except for those rank and file troops that had been conscripted. On the other hand, conscripts could be classified as offenders if there was evidence that they had been promoted to NCO or officer rank after enlistment.
The International Refugee Organization (IRO) issued instructions to its officers that service in Baltic SS units was considered voluntary, even when it had resulted from a general mobilization which was considered to have occurred in the case of Estonians, on January 30, 1944. This was because recruits had been given a choice from among labour duty, auxiliary police service or enlistment in the Waffen SS. Thus these persons were ineligible for admission to the refugee camps. Canada adopted IRO guidelines for immigration purposes.
Notwithstanding these guidelines, Margolian writes that the refugee camps were rife with Nazi and collaborative elements, many of which had fled from the formerly German occupied territories in Eastern Europe where evidence of their crimes remained largely inaccessible behind the Iron Curtain. He admits that the number of collaborators from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union cannot be determined with any degree of precision but even if one accepts the most conservative estimate that only 10% of the people in Nazi occupied eastern territories had collaborated, this would mean that at least 60,000 ex-Nazis continued to find sanctuary in German refugee camps.
After the war Canada suffered a severe labour shortage. Canadian companies showed a marked preference for Balts, who they regarded as the most desirable of the European refugees. This created a problem because the rate of service in the German armed forces had been higher for Balts.
Tiny Estonia raised a complete SS division (the 20th) as well as at least 22 police battalions consisting of about 500 men. Although not mentioned in the book, four Estonians consisting of one non-commissioned officer and 3 field grade officers were decorated for battlefield bravery with Nazi Germany’s highest decoration the Knight’s Cross. All units except the division were commanded by Estonian officers, although Estonia did have one staff officer holding general rank.
C.D. Howe, (also known as the “Minister of Everything”) instructed his bureaucrats not to disqualify Baltic German Army veterans unless there was clear evidence they had been volunteers.
Margolian concludes by writing that Canada accepted about a million European immigrants in the first decade after the war. Within that mass influx he estimates that there were perhaps 2,000 Nazi war criminals and collaborators. The contribution made by the overwhelming majority was well worth the risk.
There is however, one caveat to Margolian’s book. By his own admission, Rodal was allowed “virtually unfettered access” to the still secret files of Canada’s security organs. He was not.
As I noted above, I found the book heavy going. To my mind it should be read together with Estonian Freedomfighters In World War Two published by the Võitleja Relief Foundation Book Committee.