TORONTO (Aug. 2)
The University of British Columbia has refused to dismiss a convicted Nazi war criminal, Jakob Luitjens, from its faculty and the federal government has refused to extradite him.
Disclosure of the refusal to dismiss Luitjens, a botany lecturer, was made in a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which had sent a telegram to George Pedersen, president of the university, declaring Luitjens “cannot be allowed to maintain a position of honor” at the university.
The Wiesenthal Center said Luitjens should be dismissed even if all efforts failed to have him extradited to The Netherlands to serve a 20-year sentence on charges of wartime collaboration with the Nazis.
Robert Kaplan, Canada’s Solicitor General, in declaring he was refusing to extradite Luitjens, said the charge of collaboration for which Luitjens was tried and convicted in absentia in 1948, was not covered by the extradition treaty between Canada and The Netherlands.
A spokesman for the university said that the university’s position was that any action was up to the government and that the university considered Luitjens innocent until proven guilty. He added that the university dismisses employes on legal grounds and not because of the demands of “outside organizations.”
In his July 20 letter to the Wiesenthal Center, Pedersen said it was not “at all clear” that the courts in British Columbia “would hold that a conviction in absentia of a foreign person constituted reasonable cause for his dismissal, expecially when the conviction took place 35 years ago and the person concerned has been a satisfactory employe of the university for 20 years and is, moveover, now in the final year of his employment before his retirement.”
RESPONSE BY THE WIESENTHAL CENTER
The Wiesenthal Center responded that the obstacles to dismissal Pedersen had listed “are indeed serious” but added that “a great university has moral responsibilities to the generation of young people it seeks to educate.” The Center asked whether the university “should be rewarding a convicted criminal for evading the bar of justice all these years.”
The Center suggested that the university urge Luitjens to return to Holland and make his appeal at the Hague with the understanding that his university position and tenure would be held for him pending his return.