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Germany Ends Investigation of Former SS Commander, 96, Who Lives in Minnesota

Michael Karkoc deemed ‘not fit for trial’

Jonathan Zalman
July 31, 2015
German soldiers fighting the Polish resistance at Theater Square in Warsaw, September 1944. (Wikipedia)
German soldiers fighting the Polish resistance at Theater Square in Warsaw, September 1944. (Wikipedia)

Two years ago, the AP uncovered records suggesting that a former Nazi commander named Michael Karkoc led SS units that had been at the scene of “burning villages filled with men and women” as well as “the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.” The documentation, however, did not indicate that Karkoc was directly involved in war crimes. The AP also claimed that the records revealed that Karkoc, now 96, had lied in order to immigrate to the U.S.:

[He] 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.

According to the AP, Karkoc’s wife died in 1948, one year before he entered in the U.S. and moved to Minneapolis, where he worked as a carpenter. Multiple attempts by the AP to reach him in 2013 were unsuccessful.

On Friday, the AP published a follow-up story, reporting that Germany had “shelved” their Nazi war crimes investigation, citing that Karkoc was not fit for trial:

Munich prosecutor Peter Preuss told the AP that Michael Karkoc’s attorney had refused to allow him to be examined by a medical expert from Germany, and that his office’s decision was instead based on “comprehensive medical documentation” from doctors at the geriatric hospital in the U.S. where he is being treated.

The report stated that Karkoc’s family “have denied he was involved in any war crimes.”

When cases in Germany are shelved they can be reopened at any time if circumstances change, but in this case Preuss said that is very unlikely.

Earlier this month, a German court ruled that 94-year-old former SS guard Oskar Greoning was guilty on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, sentencing him to four years in prison.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.