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2000 People Demonstrate Against the Release of Convicted War Criminal

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More than 2000 people demonstrated in The Hague against the release of convicted Nazi war criminal Pieter Menten while former Dutch resistance fighters petitioned the Justice Minister to have him re-tried. The mass demonstration, last weekend, was the first since World War II to bring together 27 organizations representing resistance fighters, Nazi victims, the legal profession and a new group organized specifically to deal with the Menten affair.

Menten’s release was ordered on a technicality two weeks ago by a special tribunal of The Hague district court, overturning the 15-year prison sentence imposed on the millionaire art dealer last May by an Amsterdam district court. Menten was convicted of the mass murders of Jews and others in the Polish village of Podhorodze during World War II when he served with the Nazi SS.

The court’s action was denounced by speakers at the demonstration, among them Dutch Jewish journalist Hans Knoop whose series of articles exposing Menten’s wartime activities led to his arrest two years ago. Others were Eva Furth, chairman of The Netherlands Auschwitz Committee and Hans Teengs Gerritsen, chairman of the National Organization of Ex-Resistance Fighters. The demonstration was followed by a silent march from The Hague Congress Center to the Resistance Monument where a wreath was placed on behalf of the participating organizations.

Two motions were unanimously adopted. One called on Justice Minister Jacob de Ruiter to do all in his power to bring Menten to trial again. The other was addressed to Premier Menachem Begin of Israel asking him to withdraw his government’s request for Menten’s extradition so that he can be brought to final trial in Holland “as a matter of national honor.”

Meanwhile, Knoop and three other journalists filed a written complaint with the Dutch Supreme Court against Menten’s release. The other signatories were Haviv Kana of Tel Aviv, Nico Polak of Amsterdam and Adrzej Gass of Warsaw. They based their complaint on a law that permits interested parties to intervene in the cases where a criminal offender accused of collaborating with the enemy is not prosecuted. They are interested parties because “having been acquainted in their profession with Menten’s crimes they consider themselves representatives of the victims of those crimes who no longer can raise their voices,” the petition said.

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