GUELPH — Justice Norman Douglas felt it was morally and legally wrong to sentence an 83-year-old German native who scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti in public spots around the city to anything but a jail sentence to be served within the confines of a prison cell.

“This may be the last opportunity for a Canadian court to look into the eyes of a German military (subject) and state clearly to him what all Canadians think of this type of act that led to the death of six million Jews,” Douglas said Monday, just before delivering Max Mahr’s sentence.

Mahr was sentenced to six months imprisonment for willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group — Jews. He was arrested and charged on Sept. 30, 2009, in connection with writing hateful remarks against Jews with a black marker in various locations within the city last year from Jan. 2 to Sept. 29. The accused pleaded guilty in March.

The slight, grey-haired man slowly followed court officers as he was led out of the courtroom after the judge sentenced him. His wife watched, seated on a courtroom bench.

Once Mahr is out of jail, he will be on two years probation where he is to take counselling as required and serve 40 hours of community service. Douglas recommended he might volunteer to clean up graffiti in the community.

The judge said Mahr’s wilful promotion of hatred was obvious in the 19 separate occasions that he wrote in public places, such as in washrooms in Stone Road Mall and Wal-Mart, words urging others to kill all members of the Jewish race.

In a pre-sentencing review prepared for the court, Mahr indicated he understood that what he did was wrong and criminal and expressed remorse for his actions. But Douglas said there also appeared in that assessment a suggestion that Mahr saw himself as a victim, since he was initially discriminated against for being German when he arrived in Canada decades ago.

“I believe Hitler was right at the time,” Mahr said in a police interview after his arrest, Douglas told the court. “I didn’t know any better. I was (taught) like that and now I know the difference.”

Douglas wondered aloud however if Mahr truly appreciated the difference.

Last week, when Mahr was initially to be sentenced, defence lawyer Matthew Stanley requested a conditional sentence — known as house arrest — which was identified by the Crown as the best option for Mahr, given the offender’s lack of criminal record and his age. However, assistant Crown attorney Steve Hamilton sought a lengthier sentence than the three months requested by Stanley.

On Monday, Douglas said although he reviewed similar cases in coming to his decision, there weren’t any other cases that involved a man who grew up in Germany, served in the Second World War and committed offences in the present that embraced the mindset that led to the Holocaust.

“As I see the case, the crime wasn’t committed 65 years ago,” he said. “Mr. Mahr has brought this poisonous hatred into the 21st century.”

Every Jewish person alive today is a victim of Mahr’s crime, Douglas said. It isn’t just war veterans that might have an interest in Mahr’s sentence, he said, but every Canadian who values the basic freedom enjoyed as a citizen.

“The accused took advantage of those freedoms,” Douglas said. “He was welcomed after the war. He reaped all the benefits and he breached that trust.”

Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said the jail sentence speaks volumes about the importance of ensuring Canadians live in a tolerant society that accepts everyone.

“It takes into account that Canada’s hate laws are serious and will protect vulnerable minorities,” Farber said, adding Douglas delivered a strong message and an absolutely necessary message in the 21st century.

Thana Dharmarajah is a Mercury staff writer. She can be reached at