The "Looting Dutchman"
Pieter Nicloas Menten was born on the 26 May 1899, in Amsterdam into a wealthy Amsterdam family. He claimed descent from the founders of Van den Bergh’s (Unilever) and that his father had been in Royal Dutch Petroleum, but broke away after the Shell take-over.
In truth and this was not to become apparent until well after the war, in 1980 at the conclusion of a protracted War Crimes Trial, it was disclosed that his predecessors had never had anything to do with Shell or Unilever.
His father had been a dealer in rags and waste paper, the company was named Menten and Stark and his grandfather had been a butcher’s assistant. Pieter had a brother Dirk who was two years younger, had joined the family’s waste paper business, but lived most of his life in the shadow of his elder brother.
On his father’s death in 1922 Menten broke away from the family empire and established a business in Danzig under the name “Menten and Stark.” With his business activities and deals of a dubious nature, he became a millionaire overnight, and the largest timber trader between Holland and Eastern Europe.
Most of his acquired wealth in Danzig was the result of fraudulent activities and as a result he fled with his wife to Lvov where they occupied a small flat. Dirk took over the family business in Amsterdam, and was to pay regular visits to his elder brother on his country estates in Poland.
In Lvov, Menten was introduced to the Jew Isaac Pistiner who had two large estates which he had purchased from Princess Maria Lubomirska. Both men went into partnership, Menten renting from Pistiner the timber rights and the hunting lodge of the Sopot estate and almost immediately, Menten acquired the stance of benefactor and employer of the local peasants.
The “Dutchman” or “Petro Menten” as he was known throughout the Stryj valley became “family” to Frieda and Isaac Pistiner and their eight children. This fatherly figure extended to relatives of the Pistiners in particular to a young boy named Lieber (Bibi) Krumholz.
Pieter Menten befriended the young impressionable “Bibi” Krumholz and they would often be seen together in their walks around the woods and fields in the Stryj valley. The Dutchman and Bibi Krumholz had become inseparable and remained so until Bibi Krumholz left Podhorodze for Palestine on the 24 October 1935.
Bibi Krumholz took the name Chaviv Kanaan and kept in touch with his family by letter, also with postcards to his uncle Pieter Menten. A regular correspondence was maintained for years, the dialogue ended when Poland was partitioned in 1939.
Five years later in 1944 met the Jew Jacob Loebel, a survivor from the war years who had just arrived in Palestine. When Kanaan (Krumholz) asked for news of his family, Loebel replied:
“Menten has murdered them! Your parents, your brother and almost all your other relatives who lived in Lemberg”
In 1935, Poland’s hyper-inflation was nearly as bad as Germany’s and provided rich opportunities for anyone with ready Dutch guilders. Pistiner now sorely pressed for cash was obliged to sell the Sopot estate to his partner Pieter Menten.
Pieter Menten and his wife became prominent among the Polish landowners and Jewish timber merchants around Lvov, and did many deals – some of a dubious nature –with the Jew Isaac Pistiner. But also in 1935 Menten and Pistiner quarrelled, this time the basis of the dispute was a shady land and property fraud on Menten’s holdings in the Stryj valley allegedly committed by Pistiner on Menten.
A bitter legal fight between the two men ensued and never abated. Meanwhile Menten had established his position in Lvov society. He became a naturalised Pole and also the honorary Dutch consul for Krakow. It was in this capacity he met Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, arriving in 1937 for a Carpathian honeymoon with her German husband Prince Bernhard.
When Hitler invaded Poland on the 1 September 1939 the Menten’s sought refuge on their estate in Sopot near the town of Stryj and awaited the imminent arrival of German troops.
Unknown to Menten and a great many other people the Nazi-Soviet Pact provided for East Galicia’s absorption into the USSR, and on the 17 September 1939, the Soviets arrived in East Galicia and immediately began confiscating Polish estates and distributing them to the Ukrainian peasants and deporting the owners to labour camps.
Menten had been operating in the area as an agent for the Sipo – SD – Abwehr in Berlin for some time, which was well known to pro-Soviet Ukrainian sympathisers.
He was arrested and detained in the Stryj jail, from which Samuel Schiff, a Jew from Podhorodze, somehow extricated him. Pieter Menten and his wife fled to Lvov, where they sought assistance of the Dutch Consul to reach Nazi occupied Poland. On the 27 December 1939 the Merten’s arrived in Krakow, the capital of Germany’s colonial rule over Western Poland.
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/economics/menten.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010