NEW YORK (Feb. 29)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry has learned that Roman Rutman, a well known Jewish scientist and friend of Vladimir Slepak, has gone on strike from his job at the Central Research Institute of the Cotton Industry in Moscow. Rutman charged that “because I have been made a second class citizen, I have quit my job.” He said that, among other things, his employers had falsely accused him of missing work and that he had been refused his holidays. Rutman was among those arrested in Kiev on Feb. 18 when the police tried to prevent Jews from entering a synagogue.
An explosive situation, threatening to sweep the present Dutch government in its wake and to divide deeply the Jewish Dutch community, has arisen after Justice Minister Andries Van Agt decided to ask Queen Juliana to pardon the last three Nazi war criminals still held in Breda prison. The projected release of the three old former Nazis, who have expressed sorrow for their past crimes and served over 25 years in a closed prison has become, from a painful subject and an evocation of past fears, the political issue exploited by the Dutch Communist Party to try and topple the government.
The hue and cry of anti-Nazi protests, directed against Franz Fischer, 70, Joseph Kotaella, 65, and Ferdinand Aus Den Fuenten, 73, is now threatening to backfire against the Jewish community, particularly among those younger Dutch gentiles who have no memories of the dark era of World War Two. The explosive issue has been treated silently by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which refused to adopt an official position either for or against the release of the three former war criminals.
Meanwhile “circles opposing the pardon” sent messages to the press threatening that “disasters will happen” if Parliament agrees to ratify the Justice Minister’s decision for a pardon. The Cabinet spokesman’s declaration that if Parliament does not approve of the pardon this would not be a cause for a government crisis or a dismissal of Van Agt shows, by itself, how far things have gone in this matter.
JEWISH PUBLIC OPINION DIVIDED
Parliament members known for their opposition to the campaign being waged against the government reported yesterday they had received anonymous phone calls threatening them and their families if they vote for a pardon for the three Germans. The vote was scheduled for this afternoon. Dutch police stated yesterday that the area known as “Parliament Square” would be “hermetically sealed” today to all unauthorized persons during the debate on approval of the pardon.
In a special radio broadcast yesterday. Mrs. Hannah Lichtenstein of the Jewish Welfare Foundation advocated the Dutch government give war pensions to Jewish Nazi victims, including the so-called “second generation victims.” Sources close to Dutch Premier Barend Biesheuvel revealed that Gideon Hausner, the Prosecutor General in the trial of Adolf Eichmann and at present the chairman of the Yad Vashem Institute had cabled the Premier and the chairmen of the Second Chamber and of the Senate appealing not to pardon the three Nazis “in the name of Dutch Jewish wartime solidarity.”
A group of Jewish youngsters acting under the name of “Jewish youth” Sunday night stuck posters with the words “superfluous query” on most wartime resistance monuments throughout Amsterdam.
Meanwhile, the Jewish community has not reacted officially as a body, nor have its leaders done a thing to calm the mounting tension. Jewish Dutch public opinion remains deeply divided on this issue, as can be seen from such – courageous under the circumstances – statements as that of veteran Jewish Zionist leader, Abel Herzberg, who called for a pardon and expulsion of the three in order to calm the tension.
Whatever the vote today, it is clear that the case of Holland’s last three Nazis will leave wounds both among Dutch Jews and gentiles which will take long to heal.