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Special to the JTA New-found Confidence of Ireland’s Jews

A sense of relief is sweeping the 2,000 Jews of the Irish Republic after the government’s ban of Pieter Menten, the 85-year-old Dutch millionnaire found guilty of slaughtering Jews in Poland in 1941. Menten owns a big estate near the city of Waterford and was planning to spend the rest of his life there after serving eight years out of a 10-year sentence in a Dutch prison.

But last Thursday, following strenuous protests by the Dublin Jewish representative council, backed by a handful of Jewish members of the Irish Parliament, the Cabinet declared Menten an undesirable alien and prohibited him from entering the Emerald Isle.

The decision demonstrates the new-found confidence of Irish Jewry, the change which has overcome the Irish people’s appraisal of World War II, as well as Ireland’s sensitivity to international public opinion now that it is a fully-fledged member of the European Economic Community.

It may have also been not unconnected with the fact that Ireland is shortly to pay host to Israel’s Irish-born President Chaim Herzog and its healthy respect for Jewish public opinion in the United States.

The protests against Menten’s possible return to Ireland were initiated by Community leader Joe Briscoe, dentist son of the late Robert Briscoe, a Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin. They were energetically taken up by Briscoe’s politician son Ben, a member of the late Eammon de Valera’s Fianna Fail Party, and two other Jewish parliamentarians, Alan Shatter, of the ruling Fine Gael Party, and Mervyn Taylor, the Irish Labor Party’s chief whip.

MENTEN VISITED IRELAND BEFORE

Menten, whose wealth is believed to stem from valuables stolen from his victims during the war, had last visited Ireland in 1975, but his links go back to 1964 when he bought a large country house on a 22-acre estate near Waterford.

The house, which he used to visit about four times a year, is reputed to contain much of his art and antiques collection said to be worth some 10 million Pounds Sterling. Some of it is said to have been looted from Jews in 1943 when Menten was permitted by Heinrich Himmler to bring three train loads of booty from Poland to Holland.

Menten was first arrested in Holland in 1948 but released a year later after successfully appealing against a conviction of collaborating with the Nazis. Subsequently, Holland turned down requests for his extradition by Poland, the Soviet Union and Israel.

In 1976, he left Holland secretly the day before his re-arrest was ordered following new allegations about his 1941 activities in Poland. Brought back to Amsterdam, he stood trial in May 1977 and was found guilty of complicity in the murder of over 100 Jews, including women and children, in August, 1941, near Lvov. The unprecedented campaign by the normally politically passive Jewish community against Menten, palpably influenced the Irish government decision.

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