Dutch authorities have announced they will free a 74-year-old Nazi collaborator who was jailed for life in 1992 after being deported from Canada.
Dutch Deputy Justice Minister Aad Kostol told Parliament he had commuted Jacob Luitjens’ life sentence and he would be freed in March 1995.
The decision was based in part on Luitjens’ age and in part because sentences in similar cases have been reduced, the minister said.
Luitjens was also praised for his irreproachable behavior while in Dutch prison.
A former botany instructor at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Luitjens was extradited to the Netherlands in 1992 after years of legal wrangling in the absence of any extradition treaty between the two countries.
Luitjens took part in wartime raids by a group of Dutch Nazi collaborators, the Landwacht (Blood Squad). during which Jews and several members of the Dutch resistance were killed.
He served as a guard in the province of Drcnthe in the years 1944 and 1945.
After being convicted in the Netherlands in 1948 for war crimes, he was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.
Luitjens spent two years in Allied prisons in the Netherlands at the end of World War II before escaping to Germany, from which he fled to Paraguay.
From there he emigrated to Canada in 1961.
In 1987 his name appeared on a report of Nazi war criminals living in Canada. In 1991, he became the first Canadian to lose his citizenship because of war crimes.
In 1992, after four years of hearings and appeals, Luitjens, by then a retired university teacher, was ordered to leave Canada because he lied about his past when he entered the country and again when he applied for Canadian citizenship in 1971.
Under a new treaty between the two countries that went into effect that year, the Dutch government in 1992 sought and obtained Luitjens’ extradition.
DUTCH GOVERNMENT WAS ‘RELENTLESS’
In 1983, Sol Littman, director of the Canadian office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, tracked Luitjens down in Vancouver.
But Littman took a balanced approach to the news.
Hearing that Luitjens would be freed from prison, Littman said he was nevertheless satisfied that justice had been done and felt the Dutch had acted honorably.
“The post-war Netherlands government has an excellent record in the pursuit and prosecution of war criminals and was relentless in its efforts to persuade the Canadian government to return Luitjens to Holland so that he would serve the balance of his sentence,” said a statement issued by Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
The decision was condemned by B’nai Brith Canada.
Jonathan Richler, a spokesperson for that group. said, “We are not in sympathy with convicted Nazi war criminals and their accessories being released. We regret the decision to allow Mr. Luitjens to go free.”
Irving Abella, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, was also angered but sanguine about Luitjens’ impending release. “We regret that the government of the Netherlands saw fit to commute his sentence. But we are happy he is not in Canada.”
Meanwhile, in Holland the news has aroused little protest.
(Contributing to this report was JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.