Society

Minnesota Man May Be Nazi War Criminal

| by Sheena Vasani

A prosecutor in Poland says he is "100 percent" sure a 98-year-old Minnesota man is actually an infamous Ukrainian Nazi commander who killed 44 civilians.

Robert Janicki says after years of investigations, he is certain Michael Karkoc was a part of an SS military police unit that burned Polish villages and massacred women and children, reports the Daily Mail.

Official records reveal that a Michael Karkoc was lieutenant of the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which killed many villagers in Chlaniow and Wladyslawin in July 1944.

It is not clear if Karkoc was responsible for the killings, although other documents hint he may have been present. In 2014, investigations by The Associated Press revealed there was evidence indicating Karkoc may have ordered the deaths himself.

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The man named Karkoc who lives in Minnesota may now face extradition for his alleged war crimes.

His family denies he was the SS leader. On March 13, Karkoc's son -- Andriy Karkoc -- called the accusations "misinformation or disinformation" spread by Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.

Andrij also claims his father was a part of the Defense Legion to defend Ukraine against Nazis, reports Star Tribune. In 2002, Karkoc helped create a Ukrainian memorial in Minnesota in honor of those in the legion killed by Nazis.

The incident is provoking controversy on social media, with some divided whether Karkoc -- if convicted -- should face punishment, particularly at his age.

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Even a German court debated the same question.

In 2015, Germany's courts excused the man after "comprehensive medical documentation" from U.S. doctors revealed Karkoc was not well enough to stand trial.

Still, many don't think Karkoc's age or health should matter.

"I don't care how old he is or how sick he is," wrote one Daily Mail reader.  "It may seem heartless but I think what he did was even more heartless. It's very clear what he was up to. His own men ratted him out right after the war but he lied about his identity."

Some commenters defended his actions.

"He was just doing what his country asked of him," responded another. "Why was he released at the end of the war? Every power did not consider him criminal as he was drafted into the SS. None of them did and that includes France, Great Brittan, The Soviet Union and The U.S."

Karkoc emigrated to the U.S. in 1949 with his two sons, telling officials he never served in the military.

After becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1959, Karkoc eventually settled in Minneapolis. He remarried, had four children, and became heavily involved in Ukrainian community affairs.

Sources: Daily Mail, Star Tribune / Photo credit: St. Michael's and St. George's via Daily Mail

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