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The Helmut Rauca case

They committed acts of immense brutality and terror in their own countries. And then, seeking safe haven, they came to Canada. Not knowing their secret, we welcomed them with open arms. Decades later, shocking accusations would shatter the quiet obscurity in which they lived. CBC Archives examines Canada's limited success bringing war criminals to justice.

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The case against Helmut Rauca is overwhelming. He is charged with murdering 11,584 Jewish men, women and children as an SS master sergeant during the Second World War. Those who survived his notorious reign remember him as a zealous murderer. For years, he was nowhere to be found. Rauca, it seemed, had covered his tracks. But in 1982, his past becomes public when the RCMP close in on the accused criminal living comfortably in Toronto. 
• Helmut Rauca was the first Canadian citizen to be charged with war crimes. Specifically, he was charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of more than 11,500 persons between 1941 and 1943 in Kaunas, Lithuania.

• Rauca left Germany on the SS Beaverbrae on Dec. 19, 1950. Carrying a German passport, he arrived in Saint John, N.B. He then found employment as a farm worker, bricklayer, dishwasher, restaurant manager, dry cleaner operator and innkeeper.

• On Rauca's application for Canadian citizenship, he misspelled his last name Rauca "Rauka." This name change confused the RCMP who could find no trace of a "Rauca" in their immigration logs.

• In 1961, the West German state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Rauca but investigators had no luck in their search. In 1972, German authorities asked the RCMP to help find Rauca who they believed had immigrated to Canada. Several subsequent searches turned up evidence that Rauca was indeed living in Canada but privacy laws prevented government agencies from specifying his exact address.

• In 1982, Solicitor General Robert Kaplan personally requested the passport office to comply with providing Rauca's personal information on the grounds of fulfilling Canada's extradition obligations. Twenty-one years after his arrest warrant was issued, the RCMP closed in on Rauca.

• The defence team representing Rauca argued that their client should be protected by Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 6 prescribes, "Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada."

• The prosecution counter-argued that rights in the charter are subject to "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

• On Nov. 4, 1982, Chief Justice Evans found that the prosecution had presented sufficient evidence to commit Rauca to a German trial. On Nov. 22, 1982, Rauca wrote an open letter from his jail cell. He wrote, "I have.tried not to dwell on the events of the war in which I was involved, in much the same way, I expect, as others who fought in the war."

• In the Ontario Court of Appeal, Rauca's lawyers filed an appeal on Feb. 12, 1983. The appeal was dismissed on April 12. A further appeal was filed with the Supreme Court of Canada but Rauca chose not to pursue the issue further. On May 20, 1983, Rauca was extradited to Frankfurt, Germany. He died on Oct. 29, 1983, while awaiting trial.
Medium: Television
Stock-shot
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Nov. 4, 1982
Guest(s): Ann Mills, Jacob Rabinovich, Z.H. Szawlowski, Abraham Tory, Robert Wolfe
Host: Mary Lou Finlay, Peter Kent
Reporter: Sol Littman
Duration: 12:32

Last updated: November 7, 2014

Page consulted on November 13, 2014

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