Two war criminals imprisoned 43 years for the deaths of thousands of Dutch Jews were freed from prison Friday, officials said, hours after Parliament voted to pardon them and expel them to West Germany.
"They're not only out of prison, they're on their way to the Federal Republic where they will be handed over to the German authorities," Premier Ruud Lubbers said of Franz Fischer, 87, and Ferdinand Aus der Fuenten, 79.Lubbers gave no further details.
An ambulance left the prison in the southern city of Breda, where the two had been held, and a prison wagon followed 10 minutes later with police escorts, but neither Fischer nor Aus der Fuenten could be seen. Authorities would not confirm the men were in the vehicles.
The decision to pardon them came in the form of a rejection of a motion to keep the men in prison.
In West Germany, where the men have relatives, government spokesman Ulrich Strempel said they would be welcome and there was no record of charges pending against them. "Our records indicate that they will be free men," he said.
Several demonstrators stood outside Parliament during the debate."Don't make the victims suffer further. Never release the henchmen," read one placard.
During the war, Fischer headed a local branch of the Nazi Security Service and was held responsible for the deportation to death camps of 13,000 Jews. Aus der Fuenten was an SS administrator of a body that oversaw mass roundups of Jews in the Netherlands.
Both were sentenced to death in 1950, but a year later their sentences were changed to life imprisonment.
Of a prewar population of 150,000, only 6,000 Dutch Jews survived the Holocaust.