The Associated Press has uncovered that a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit, accused of burning villages filled with women and children, lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States.
The evidence uncovered by the news agency on Friday finds that Michael Karkoc, 94, has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II.
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 SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Galician Division and a Ukrainian nationalist organization he served in were both on a secret American government blacklist of organizations whose members were forbidden from entering the United States at the time, the report said.
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 rebellion against German occupation.
In a background check by U.S. officials on April 14, 1949, Karkoc said he had never performed any military service, telling investigators that he “worked for father until 1944. Worked in labor camp from 1944 until 1945,” according to AP.
However, in a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 in collaboration with the Nazis’ SS intelligence agency, the SD, to fight on the side of Germany — and served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.
The U.S. Department of Justice has used lies about wartime service made in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. The evidence of Karkoc’s wartime activities uncovered by AP has 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.
Karkoc now lives in a modest house in northeast Minneapolis in an area with a significant Ukrainian population, AP reported, adding that he would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.
Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said that based on his decades of experience pursuing Nazi war criminals, he expects that the evidence showing Karkoc lied to American officials and that his unit carried out atrocities is strong enough for deportation and war-crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.
“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 told AP. “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.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)