Nazi Commander Found Living in Minnesota

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 14 2013 1:03 PM

AP Investigation Uncovers Nazi Commander Living in Minnesota

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Michael Karkoc lives in northeast Minneapolis in an area with a large Ukrainian population

Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A 94-year-old man who has been in the United States for more than 60 years was a top commander in a Nazi SS-led unit, the Associated Press revealed Friday. Michael Karkoc now lives in Minnesota and when he entered the United States in 1949 told authorities he had not performed military service during World War II. That wasn’t really accurate. Karkoc was a founding member and an officer of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later was an officer in the SS Galician Division. Although there's no evidence he committed war crimes himself, there does seem to be pretty clear proof that “the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians" as well as suggestions that he "was at the scene of these atrocities,” according to the AP.

It’s a little surprising it has taken so long to uncover Karkoc's past considering he hasn’t done a very thorough job of hiding it. He published a Ukrainian-language memoir in 1995 in which he writes about how he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense League in 1943. But his name was only flagged by a retired clinical pharmacologist who carries out Nazi war crime research in his free time. When the AP knocked on Karkoc’s door in northeast Minneapolis, he refused to speak: "I don't think I can explain," he said.

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Polish prosecutors said Friday they will investigate Karkoc considering most of the unit’s crimes took place in Poland. German authorities have also said they are interested in exploring the case to see if there is enough evidence to prosecute.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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