The Associated Press has uncovered that a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit, which was accused of burning villages filled with women and children, has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II ended.
Michael Karkoc, now 94, lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States in 1949. He told authorities that he hadn’t been in military service during World War II. However, according to records obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request, it was revealed that Karkoc worked as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, there are no records showing that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, but “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.” Due to these wartime actions, both the Galician Division and the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion were both on a secret American government blacklist of organizations whose members were forbidden from entering the United States at that time.
Karkoc currently lives in northeast Minneapolis near the local Ukrainian community. Though reports indicate he his still able to walk “without help of a cane or a walker” and communicate, he has thus far refused to discuss his wartime past. His only comment to reporters: “I don’t think I can explain.”
There is still a chance he will be forced to pay for his crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice has deport suspected Nazi war criminals in the past, and in Germany, Nazis with “command responsibility” can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.