via The Guardian
AP investigation alleges Michael Karkoc lied about his role in the second world war when emigrating to the US in 1949
A commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of torching villages filled with women and children lied to American immigration officials to get into the US and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after the second world war, according to evidence uncovered by Associated Press.
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 by AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Galician Division and a Ukrainian nationalist organisation in which he served were both on a secret US government blacklist of organisations 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 led 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 1944 Warsaw uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.
The US justice department 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 material 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, speaking from his home in Minneapolis, refused to discuss his wartime past, 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 expected 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.”