Michael Karkoc, Nazi commander accused of massacres, living in US

SS company leader lied on immigration forms to gain entry to United States shortly after war

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 2:48am


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 the second world war.

Michael Karkoc, 94, told US authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during the war, concealing his work as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defence Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

I could see the dead bodies of the killed residents: men, women, children

The Galician Division and Ukrainian nationalist organisation were both on a secret government blacklist of groups whose members were forbidden from entering the US 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 that the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader. SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the Nazi's brutal oppression of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

The US Justice Department has used lies about wartime service in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. The evidence of Karkoc's wartime activities has prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough to prosecute him for war crimes.

Karkoc refused to discuss his past when he answered the door at his Minneapolis home. "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.

"It was all like a trance: setting the fires, the shooting, the destroying," Malazhenski recalled.

"Later, when we were passing in file through the destroyed village, I could see the dead bodies of the killed residents: men, women, children," he added.

In a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defence Legion in 1943 and served as a company commander through the end of the war. It was not clear why Karkoc felt safe publishing his memoir, which is available at the US Library of Congress and the British Library.

Karkoc's name surfaced when a retired British clinical pharmacologist turned Nazi-war-crimes researcher came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division. "Here was a chance to publicly confront a man who commanded a company alleged to be involved in the cruel murder of innocent people," Stephen Ankier said.