People visit a World War II memorial in the former village of Khatyn, some 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Minsk, May 7, 2011. Historians say Nazi troops killed 149 villagers, most of them children and women, and burned down their houses. The village was never restored. Belarus will mark the 66th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 on May 9.
Credits: REUTERS/VASILY FEDOSENKO
A study in the latest edition of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, based on declassified Soviet-era files, claims Montrealer Vladimir Katriuk committed mass murder in the village of Khatyn, Belarus, on March 22, 1943.
Swedish researcher Per Anders Rudling, relying on KGB interrogation reports, wrote that Katiuk was allegedly a member of the infamous Battalion 118 made up of Ukrainian nationalists who were helping the Germans to create "dead zones."
The dead zone policy involved exterminating entire Belarusian villages to root out "partisans" who had launched ambushes against occupying Nazi forces.
German and Ukrainian commandos surrounded the tiny village of Khatyn, herded everyone into a barn and set it on fire. The 1986 Russian trial of former battalion leader Hryhorii Vasiura heard that anyone who tried to escape was shot.
"One witness stated that (Katriuk) was a particularly active participant in the atrocity," said one KGB report. "He reportedly lay behind the stationary machine-gun, firing rounds on anyone attempting to escape the flames."
Another war-crimes trial in 1973 heard that Katriuk and two others killed a group of Belarusian loggers earlier on that fateful day, suspecting they were part of a popular uprising.
"I saw how Ivankiv was firing with a machine-gun upon the people who were running for cover in the forest, and how Katriuk and Meleshko were shooting the people lying on the road," the witness said.
Katriuk, who now lives in east-end Montreal, did not return phone calls. He emigrated to Canada in 1951 and was a prominent member of the local orthodox church for a number of years.
The Federal Court in 1999 ruled that he lied on his initial application in 1951 and that he could be deported from Canada. But cabinet in 2007 decided there wasn't enough evidence to deport him.
His Nazi ties were known at the time but details only emerged when documents from Soviet-era war-crimes trials were released in 2008. B'nai Brith Canada said Wednesday the new evidence against Katriuk is devastating.
"Certain actions are so reprehensible that time does not erase them," said Montreal-based legal counsel, Steven Slimovitch.
"Canada should never be a safe haven for war criminals."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a report released earlier this month, listed Katriuk and Waterloo, ON, resident Helmut Oberlander among its 10 "Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals."
Canada says Oberlander, 88, lied about his past when he immigrated here in the 1950s.
He's believed to have been a member of a Nazi death squad that executed thousands of civilians in Ukraine during the war.