This morning, the AP reported the disturbing news that Michael Karkoc, a 94-year-old man living in Minneapolis, MN, was a top commander of a Nazi SS-led Ukrainian unit involved in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Karkoc, who arrived in the United States in 1949, was in fact a founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which has been accused of setting fire to villages filled with women and children, and was later an officer in the SS Galician Division.
According to the AP:
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.
The AP launched an investigation into Karkoc after receiving a tip from a London-based retired clinical pharmacologist who was researching former members of the SS Galician Division—and found an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.
The Atlantic Wire points out one of the stranger elements of this whole story: Karkoc wrote a memoir about all of this in 1995.
Perhaps even more remarkable than the facts that Karkoc lied to American officials, passed a background check, and lived in the United States unnoticed for more than 60 years, is that he actually a published a memoir in 1995 in which he admits to founding the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, serving as a company commander, and collaborating with the SS. The book is available in the Library of Congress, but was written in Ukrainian and has likely been read by very few people.
Karkoc will likely face deporation and war-crimes prosecution, either in Germany or Poland, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff told the AP. “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.”
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.