Nazi Commander Found to be Living in Minnesota for 60 Years

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 and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II

  • Share
  • Read Later

(BERLIN) — 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 and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II, according to evidence uncovered by The Associated Press.

Michael Karkoc, 94, 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 the 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.

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 Polish rebellion against German occupation.

(MORE: Germany’s Angst: A Country’s Culture Bumps Up Against Its Nazi Past)

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 refused to discuss his wartime past at his home in Minneapolis, and repeated efforts to set up an interview, using his son as an intermediary, were unsuccessful.

Efraim Zuroff, the lead Nazi hunter at 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 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.”

Former German army officer Josef Scheungraber — a lieutenant like Karkoc — was convicted in Germany in 2009 on charges of murder based on circumstantial evidence that put him on the scene of a Nazi wartime massacre in Italy as the ranking officer.

German prosecutors are obligated to open an investigation if there is enough “initial suspicion” of possible involvement in war crimes, said Thomas Walther, a former prosecutor with the special German office that investigates Nazi war crimes.

The current deputy head of that office, Thomas Will, said there is no indication that Karkoc had ever been investigated by Germany. Based on the AP’s evidence, he said he is now interested in gathering information that could possibly result in prosecution.

Prosecution in Poland may also be a possibility because most of the unit’s alleged crimes were against Poles on Polish territory. But Karkoc would be unlikely to be tried in his native Ukraine, where such men are today largely seen as national heroes who fought for the country against the Soviet Union.

Karkoc now lives in a modest house in northeast Minneapolis in an area with a significant Ukrainian population. Even at his advanced age, he came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.

“I don’t think I can explain,” he said.

Members of his unit and other witnesses have told stories of brutal attacks on civilians.

One of Karkoc’s men, Vasyl Malazhenski, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 the unit was directed to “liquidate all the residents” of the village of Chlaniow in a reprisal attack for the killing of a German SS officer, though he did not say who gave the order.

“It was all like a trance: setting the fires, the shooting, the destroying,” Malazhenski recalled, according to the 1967 statement found by the AP in the archives of Warsaw’s state-run Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates and prosecutes German and Soviet crimes on Poles during and after World War II.

“Later, when we were passing in file through the destroyed village,” Malazhenski said, “I could see the dead bodies of the killed residents: men, women, children.”

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.”

(MORE: 70 Years Later, German Prosecutors to Hold Nazi Death-Camp Guards to Account)

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’ feared 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.

It was not clear why Karkoc felt safe publishing his memoir, which is available at the U.S. Library of Congress and the British Library and which the AP located online in an electronic Ukrainian library.

Karkoc’s name surfaced when a retired clinical pharmacologist who took up Nazi war crimes research in his free time came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division who emigrated to Britain. He tipped off AP when an Internet search showed an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.

“Here was a chance to publicly confront a man who commanded a company alleged to be involved in the cruel murder of innocent people,” said Stephen Ankier, who is based in London.

The AP located Karkoc’s U.S. Army intelligence file, and got it declassified by the National Archives in Maryland through a FOIA request. The Army was responsible for processing visa applications after the war under the Displaced Persons Act.

The intelligence file said standard background checks with seven different agencies found no red flags that would disqualify him from entering the United States. But it also noted that it lacked key information from the Soviet side: “Verification of identity and complete establishment of applicant’s reliability is not possible due to the inaccessibility of records and geographic area of applicant’s former residence.”

Wartime documents located by the AP also confirm Karkoc’s membership in the Self Defense Legion. They include a Nazi payroll sheet found in Polish archives, signed by an SS officer on Jan. 8, 1945 — only four months before the war’s end — confirming that Karkoc was present in Krakow, Poland, to collect his salary as a member of the Self Defense Legion. Karkoc signed the document using Cyrillic letters.

  1. Previous
  2. 1
  3. 2

Wonder who he voted for while in the USA?  Would that be voter fraud?

spookiewriter 1 Like

There is one other touchy issue here. 

We seem to hate and need to punish anyone who wore an SS uniform...

...unless they had the words "V2" or "rocket" on their resumes. Every Allied country made a mad dash for engineers and scientists before the war even ended. The "Hero of Apollo" for NASA was a Colonel in the SS who appeared to be perfectly innocent of wrongdoing during the war. He died wealthy and famous. Funny though, shortly after he died, photo's of him standing with slave workers appeared as did a few memo's where he gave direct orders regarding such labor. Many of the folks that were brought out with him were also SS. 

The Soviets did the same thing only the hypocrisy increased as the Russians "hated" the fascists so bad they would have destroyed their own country than see Germany annex it. But, a few Nazi's were OK if the rocket program advanced.

So, is it fair to go after folks who are nearing 100 years old who weren't in the top leadership positions when those who were the order givers became hero's in their new countries? I know "I was only following orders" is not a defense but I'd be willing to bet that any 20 year old private who had the choice of shooting civilians or being shot themselves chose the former. It's much easier to say you would do the right thing and choose death over dishonor than to make that choice with a gun pointed at your head. We all think we are heroes but damn few really are.

spookiewriter 1 Like

Yes, anyone responsible for any atrocity should be punished. Having said that, the war ended almost 70 years ago. We are getting to the point where even the very youngest participants on any side of the war are in their 90's. There were many very young officers but the brain trusts and highest officers that gave the orders are long dead. Anyone born in 1940 can get social security now.

Memories morph over time. 7 decade old paper trails can be confusing or incomplete, especially if the case involves someone not in the German military. Nobody can match a photo from then to a living senior today. Does it really mean anything to spend years on deportation and other legal processes on someone in their 90's who are either too sick to get what's happening or will not live to see any punishment. Will anyone even imprison a person of such advanced age when compassionate release is the norm for such cases especially in Europe?

It just seems like the energy would be better spent going after those who would love to see another Hitler take power or those that espouse neo-Nazi agendas. There are hate groups gaining in power here in America and Europe that need a closer eye kept on them. 

Maybe it's time to stop using those involved in crimes of the War as boogeymen. "Never Again" means that those trying to emulate the past now are the ones to watch.

jpk 1 Like

A "top commander"? He was at most 24 years old in 1943. A company commander would mean a SS Unterstrmfuhrer (Lt) - SS Under Storm Leader or at most a 1st Lt, SS Senior Storm Leader. Hence, the "top" term is somewhat misleading, as there are at least 10 potential officer grades above him.

An example of a more accurate "Top Commander" was actually Gen. Walter Schimana, Waffen SS. He was the commander of the 14th "Galizien" SS Volunteers Division. He would be 115 years old today, if he were  alive. He was captured and committed suicide rather than face war crimes for his role in persecution of Greek Jews and other crimes in a different command roles.

On a different note, here is an interesting fact!  The Galizien Division has not been found guilty of any war crimes by any war tribunal or commission. Furthermore, the Canadian government and the Canadian Jewish Congress in their investigations of the division failed to find hard evidence to support the notion that it was rife with criminal elements.

The Canadian "Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes" of October 1986, by the Honourable Justice Jules Deschênes concluded that:

The Galicia Division (14. Waffen grenadier division der SS [gal. #1]) should not be indicted as a group. The members of Galicia Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada. Charges of war crimes of Galicia Division have never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before this Commission. Further, in the absence of evidence of participation or knowledge of specific war crimes, mere membership in the Galicia Division is insufficient to justify prosecution.[51]

Lying about an SS past prior to 1943 is a reason to eject him and remove his US citizenship. i.e. as it was deemed a criminal organization at Nuremberg. However, Ukraine/Baltic SS units were different in many ways. not sure what to think? Anyone interested, should read about their history.

KeepBack200ft 1 Like

In light of the fact that there is still no agreement regarding the use of chem weapons in the current Syrian conflict, let's not be too quick to judge this man for his alleged involvement in war crimes that occurred 70 years ago.

buffalo.barnes102 1 Like

I think an earnest "apology" should cover it, huh? That seems to be all the current rage. Did you just blurt out a racist remark, "accidentally"? Just apologize. In fact, you don't even to stand face to face with the person you insulted. Just "tweet" it. Or have your lawyer compose a blurb on your FaceBook page that covers you in case of a lawsuit. No problem-o! In this case, pull him out of his house, burn it to the ground and deport him. Time does not heal all wounds.




Jay-Z uses the N word in 13 of 16 tunes on his latest CD, and the rabble scream "GENIUS!". Go ahead, get back to lynching Paula and Riley, after you lynch this 90 yr old who behaved himself for 70 years in North America, while S Chicago, Philly, DC, Detroit and other Ghettos become modern murder/crime capitals.

carterpeterson24 2 Like

Regardless of time elapsed, the atrocities of the Nazis demand justice- however belated.

FrancisMulhare 2 Like

I understand the importance of holding people responsible for their crimes and especially removing them from society if they are still capable of committing further offenses. However at some point we have to leave the past in the past and cease responding to it, otherwise we are just perpetuating an endless cycle of persecution and revenge. I grew up in Ireland and remember people bitterly hating the English for the executions of 1916 , an event that had occurred 60 years ago at the time. In the meantime both GB and IRL had joined the Common Market and you really could not tell the difference if you flew from one  to the other. So many conflicts in the world are occurring because people cannot wipe the slate clean and look to the future instead of the past. There is a time sensitive quality to some point delayed justice is not really justice but a pointless bureaucratic exercise. Most of these guys are in their 90's and don't even know  the time of day ..never mind fully understand the gravity of what they did..and they can hardly still  be considered a threat . Hell most of them are in such a state of cognitive  decrepitude that they are not even the same person anymore. While we should extract some lessons from the past ,in order to prevent recurrence, basically at some point we have to forgive and forget so we and our descendants can move forward.


@FrancisMulhare  This wiping-the-slate-clean philosophy only helps benighted mankind repeat the worst atrocities. Men like these must be used a heinous bookmarks in the saddest tales of human cruelty. The Republican Party has protected a nest of convicted Nazi war Criminals since WWII, like Laszlo Paztor, who header the RNC's Heritage committee under Nixon until he was discovered whereupon he moved to found the "respected Heritage Foundation. The past IS prologue. To compare the British cruelty and the Irish Resistance to the Holocaust is disproportional and callow more equivalence.

What could possibly inform those who fear the past and, therefore, demand its return to a forgiving and forgetting world?

MustBeReallyBored 4 Like

Hey, I think there's a Nazi buried out in the orchard behind my home, let's go dig him up and ship him to Germany for prosecution!

Where's the hue and cry over catching the perpetrators that massacred millions of Russians during Stalin's reign of terror? Oh I forgot, they killed their own, and they were godless heathens anyways, so who cares.....

If we're not going to try all mass murderers in the press, then we should just quietly ship this guy off to Germany without making a David O Selsnik production out of it. Jews will rejoice at killing off another old geezer, Germans will somehow feel less guilty about what they as a nation allowed to happen, and we can get back to our cable TV.

USArmy(Ret) 3 Like

I am retired from the Army & I can tell you there is a Holocaust, occurring in our country right now and none of you have done anything about it. Full term babies are being killed in abortion clinics every day. So if you really want to stand up for something stop the killings in our own country. This is a Holocaust of the worst kind, how about babies feet in bottles and trash bags full of baby body parts in the clinic they found this week. I am in no way diminishing the cruelty or pain that was inflicted in those Nazi camps I saw them first hand but lets take care of what's going on in our own country right now

GerardDonovan 3 Like

I sense a disagreement on many levels beginning in the comments section, based on what's already been posted. I offer a small insight: The "Iron Cross" was not a "Nazi award for bravery," as is stated in the article's current version. It was a military award for courage awarded before the Second World War--in the 1914-1918 war and in the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870s. To term it a "Nazi" award is to dishonor the actions in the field of many soldiers of at least three wars and indicates to me that the writer is parroting information, which is understandable, since not many alive now were adults then. I say this at the risk of appearing to condone what's alleged here, which I am not. Further, as with any military award, it was open to political and other influences, and that may be the case here. But please, get basic facts right.

Bichbetru 1 Like

The comments below by Nazi sympathizers is testament to the fact that America has turned into a Nazi, eugenist country. The new "Jews" in america are men under 6 ft. tall.

Concernedabouthistory 1 Like

I am guessing from the comments I just read that none of these writers are old enough to remember the Holocaust.  How can anyone who knows what actually happened think that there should be no consequences for ones actions?  Any of you familiar with the concept of "a nation who ignores its history is doomed to repeat it?


@Concernedabouthistory Christians are still imposing their heavenly Revanchism for what happened two centuries ago...but the rest of us cannot go back a century? Some of those inhuman beasts survive and still live among us. I understand the reason for lusting for history's eraser but I don't mistake it for noble amnesia.


@Concernedabouthistory Going after this man won't bring a single one of those people back & won't ease a single second of their suffering. So...what in the world would be the point? Incidentally, everyone is familiar with the concept you quoted. It's a well-worn platitude and, like all such, ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

dogsrulecatsdrool 2 Like

@Concernedabouthistory He's 94 years old, went undetected for 60 years and clearly didn't get into any trouble while here. I'm not saying that he shouldn't be punished but that he's not really going to feel the consequences of his actions at his age. He probably doesn't care cuz he's on his death bed anyways. He lived a long, good 60 years here. Sickening, yes, but it's just a fact of life that people get away with crimes. He's probably gonna die with a smile on his face and his middle finger raised to the world.

LogicalPosition 1 Like

What type of criminal activity has he been involved with while in the US? NONE? Why not look closer at S Chicago, or Philly, where Ghetto Ppl thrive off their prey on a daily basis?


@LogicalPosition Getto people .is that a country  called Ghetto .LOL    hurry back your rock is closing .and please don t climb out again.


@WillVazquez @LogicalPosition 

Hey Will!

You know exactly what a Ghetto is, I'd bet a dollah to a donut you live in one. Just step outside your front door, hear those gunshots and Poh-lice sirens? 

I notice how you cannot stay on topic, preferring to attack me since you have no argument to present. That's ok, I understand. Judging from the inprecise grammar in your post, you probably dropped out of school around the 6-8th grade. Not to worry, my kids will support your welfare soaked buttocks till one of your homies caps you over a drug deal.

dogsrulecatsdrool 2 Like

I don't see what good prosecuting him now would do....congrats on sneaking through the cracks of the system. You're a lucky one. I don't think he cares at this point in life. He got away with it. He's not the first to get away with a crime, and certainly not the last!

EyeONCitrus 1 Like

It's almost laughable, if it wasn't so sad, when a big deal is made about a Nazi living here for the last 60 years, the U.S. government invited and accepted untold numbers of Nazi into the country at the end of the second World War in every field imaginable and they've raised families and taught the Nazi line to thousands, if not, millions, here and over seas. The "homeland" has reemerged as the greatest military power the world has ever seen and continues to march across the globe acquiring territories setup with their puppet governments. 


@EyeONCitrus you must be  a member of the Florida DEPT of citrus nazi party .  Mr mckenna is that you behind the eye.....                                                    a nine billion dollar business  in control by a few not so good men  ... for a little longer .

AndreasInamorato 2 Like

Yes, what he did was absolutely horrible, but... come on, 60 years in Minnesota? He's been punished enough.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,106 other followers