THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Nazi war criminal Pieter Menten, convicted for supervising a mass killing of Polish Jews in 1941, was released from prison today after serving seven years of a 10-year term.
Menten, 85, a Dutch millionaire, was convicted of complicity in the killing of 20 to 30 Jews by German SS troops. He walked out of Scheveningen Prison and drove away in a rental car with his lawyer, Adriaan Oomen.
Police prevented reporters from following Menten's car but he was believed to have driven to the town of Blaricum, southeast of Amsterdam, where his ex-wife Meta Pauw has a house.
The Irish government Thursday declared the art collector, a former Nazi SS officer, an undesirable alien and banned him from entering Ireland.
The ban followed growing controversy over whether Menten should be allowed to return to his luxury mansion, Comeragh House, set in 30 acres of wooded land in Waterford County, where he lived between 1964 and his arrest and conviction for war crimes against the Jews by a Dutch court in 1979.
Menten's Nazi past came to light when he tried to auction off part of his art collection, some of which was alleged to have been looted from Nazi victims.
After walking out of prison at 12:05 a.m., Menten told reporters he might still be able to enter Ireland.
'But I also have friends in the United States,' he said.
Oomen said Menten planned to visit Meta Pauw at the Blaricum house and that he was also looking for accommodations in The Hague.
Menten was convicted in 1980 but had already served 20 months in prison in pre-trial detention. He served just under seven years in prison.
Dutch Justice Minister Frederik Korthals-Altes told a news conference Thursday that the panel of judges who sentenced Menten had been well aware of the fact that he would come up for parole in less than seven years.
'We must respect the verdict,' he told reporters.
A diabetic, Menten was in and out of the prison hospital since the start of his sentence. Reporters who has followed his case said Menten would probably spend the remainder of his life traveling between Holland, Spain and the United States.
Menten was found guilty of complicity in the 1941 mass murder of Polish Jews by SS troops in Podhoroce, now in the Soviet Ukraine. At least 195 Jews died but charges against Menten mentioned only 20 to 30 deaths. Five witnesses to the massacre said Menten supervised it.
Protests against Menten's intended return to Ireland were led by Ireland's Jewish community, who urged the government not to allow him back. Some of Menten's neighbors in Waterford also opposed his return.