Pieter Nicolaas Menten, one of the Netherlands' more notorious Nazi war criminals, died Saturday in a nursing home that he had entered five months ago. He was 88.
Paulus Oostelbos, director of the Beukenhof nursing home, declined to disclose the cause of death.
Menten, a millionaire art collector, was convicted in the killings of dozens of Jews in Podhorece, a village in Poland, while he was serving as a translator with a Nazi SS unit in 1941. He was freed from prison in 1985 on good behavior after serving two-thirds of his 10-year sentence and entered the nursing home in July.
Lived in Mansion
For more than 25 years, Menten and his wife, Meta, lived in obscurity in postwar Holland in a 40-room mansion 20 miles outside Amsterdam. In 1949 he served an eight-month prison term after being convicted of collaborating with the Nazis, and in the early 1950s Poland twice tried unsuccessfully to have him extradited for war crimes.
In 1976, the Amsterdam daily De Telegraaf interviewed Menten and reported that he would be auctioning off some of his artworks. The story was published in Israeli newspapers, where it brought to light accounts of Menten's wartime past.
Dutch journalists delved further into his background after receiving tips that Menten had been involved in Nazi atrocities, and their disclosures led to a full-scale criminal investigation.
Menten fled to Switzerland but was expelled as an undesirable alien in December, 1976, and brought home to face trial. The legal proceedings that followed were the most expensive in Dutch judicial history, costing the government a record 9 million guilders (then $4.5 million).
Brought to Trial in 1977
He was brought to trial in 1977 in Amsterdam on charges that while attached to the SS unit, he had taken part in the massacre of at least 195 inhabitants of two Polish villages, both now part of the Soviet Ukraine.
Menten was acquitted of atrocities in one village but found guilty of participating in the Nazi slaughter of between 20 and 30 Polish Jews in Podhorece on July 7, 1941.
Witnesses brought from the area testified that Menten had been known to them before the war as a businessman with a large country estate outside Podhorece. They testified that they saw him on the day of the killings wearing a German military uniform and helping round up victims for a Nazi firing squad.
Menten always maintained his innocence, claiming he was a victim of a plot by the KGB, the Soviet secret police.