The commander of a Nazi SS unit in Ukraine was discovered living comfortably in Minneapolis.
The Associated Press uncovered documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that showed 94-year-old Michael Karkoc lied to American immigration officials in 1949 claiming he did not perform military service during WWII. Karkoc’s unit, the SS-led Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, burned villages filled with women and children to the ground. Wartime documents even show Karkoc on a Nazi payroll sheet dated Jan. 8, 1945.
He was later an officer in the SS Galacian Division, a group blacklisted from entering the United States. He participated in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising when the Polish attempted to resist Nazi power. The Nazis brutally put down the uprising. The town was left in ruin and 150,000 Poles died.
In 1944, one of his men, Vasyl Malazhenski, said the unit was ordered to “liquidate all residents” in the town of Chlaniow in retaliation for the death of a German SS officer, according to Soviet investigators.
AP was tipped off by a retired clinical pharmacologist who spends his free time researching Nazi war criminals. The retiree discovered an address online for Karkoc in Minnesota. Karkoc now resides in a modest home in northeast Minneapolis with significant number of other Ukrainians.
In the past the Justice Department has used lying to immigration as grounds to deport Nazi war criminals. Efraim Zuroff, the lead Nazi investigator at Jerusalem's Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he believes there is enough evidence to deport Karkoc.
"In America this is a relatively easy case: If he was the commander of a unit that carried out atrocities, that's a no brainer," Zuroff said. "Even in Germany … if the guy was the commander of the unit, then even if they can't show he personally pulled the trigger, he bears responsibility."
Karkoc answered the door when the AP knocked. Reporters noted he was not using a cane or walker.
When they asked about his service to the SS, all he said was, “I don’t think I can explain.”
In a 1995 memoir that Karkoc published he claimed he helped found the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion along with the SS in 1943. The memoir is not just available in an electronic Ukrainian library, but also at the U.S. Library of Congress and the British Library. It is unclear why he felt comfortable publishing his story.
In his memoir he claims he won an Iron Cross, an Nazi medal for bravery after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
DOJ spokesman Michael Passman did not comment on the AP’s discovery.
In America, Karkoc remarried and had four children.