According to an Associated Press investiagation, Michael Karkoc lied when immigrating to the U.S. in 1949, claiming that he was not a member of the military during World War II. He stated that he worked for his father and in a labor camp during the war. The truth, according to an AP Freedom of Information Act request, is that Karkoc was an officer and “founding member” of the SS Galician Division, then known as the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion. The SS-led division is accused of “burning villages filled with women and children” during WWII.
The information uncovered in the investigation has not linked Karkoc directly to any war crimes, though documentation does confirm that he commanded a unit that committed wartime atrocities, including massacring civilians. According to Nazi SS documentation, the unit he commanded was directly involved in the suppression of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising in Poland.
Polish authorities have begun their own investigation of Karkoc, and promised to provide assistance to the U.S. Justice Department in efforts to deport him. Unsurprisingly, German authorities have also announced they intend to investigate, and possibly prosecute, Karkoc.
Though Karkoc was contacted by the AP, he refused to be interviewed or speak about his life during WWII. Karkoc has reportedly lived in northeast Minneapolis since immigrating to the U.S., in an area with a significant Ukranian immigrant population.
A 1967 statement from one of the men in Karkoc’s unit was found in Warsaw’s Institute of National Remembrance archives. Though Karkoc was not named, the former soldier recalled being ordered to “liquidate all the residents” in the villiage of Chlaniow, Poland as reprisal for the death of an SS officer.
Karkoc himself admitted that he helped found and was a company commander for the Ukranian Self Defense Legion, in a memoir published in 1995 and found in an electronic Ukranian library. The AP also found a Nazi paroll document in Polish archives that has Karkoc’s signature to collect salary as part of the unit.
(via the Associated Press)