The revelation that a former commander of a Nazi SS-led military unit has lived quietly in Minneapolis for the past six decades came as a shock to those who know 94-year-old Michael Karkoc. World War II survivors in both the U.S. and Europe harshly condemned the news and prosecutors in Poland have said they'll investigate.
An Associated Press investigation found that Karkoc served as a top commander in the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion during World War II. The unit is accused of wartime atrocities, including the burning of villages filled with women and children.
Karkoc told American authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during World War II, concealing his work as an officer and founding member of the legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader. Nazi SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.


Polish prosecutors announced Friday they will investigate Karkoc and provide "every possible assistance" to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has used lies in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals.The AP evidence of Karkoc's wartime activities has also prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough to prosecute. In Germany, Nazis with "command responsibility" can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.Efraim Zuroff, the lead Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said that based on his decades of experience pursuing Nazi war criminals, he expects that the evidence of Karkoc's lies as well as the unit's role in atrocities is strong enough for deportation and war crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.


Karkoc worked as a carpenter in Minneapolis, and appeared in a 1980 issue of Carpenter magazine among a group celebrating 25 years of union membership. He was a member and a secretary in the local branch of the Ukrainian National Association, a fraternal organization, and voting records obtained by the AP show he regularly voted in city, state and general elections.Karkoc's name surfaced when a retired clinical pharmacologist who researched Nazi war crimes in his free time came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division who immigrated to Britain. He tipped off the AP when an Internet search showed an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.


Commander of Nazi unit linked to atrocities living in Minnesota; revelation spurs shock, anger | StarTribune.com