Shock lingers after Nazi unit leader found in US

Shock lingers after Nazi unit leader found in US

The revelation that a top former commander of a Nazi SS-led military unit has lived quietly in Minneapolis for the past six decades came as a shock to those who knew 94-year-old Michael Karkoc.

World War II survivors in both the US and Europe harshly condemned the news and prosecutors in Poland have said they'll investigate.

An Associated Press investigation found that Karkoc served as a top commander in the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion during World War II. The unit is accused of wartime atrocities, including the burning of villages filled with women and children.

"I know him personally. We talk, laugh. He takes care of his yard and walks with his wife," his next-door neighbor, Gordon Gnasdoskey, said yesterday. Gnasdoskey, the grandson of a Ukrainian immigrant himself, said he was disturbed by the revelations about his longtime neighbor.

"For me, this is a shock. To come to this country and take advantage of its freedoms all of these years, it blows my mind," he said.

Karkoc 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 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.

Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader.

Nazi 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.

No one answered the door yesterday morning at Karkoc's house on a residential street in northeast Minneapolis, where several television news trucks were parked outside.

Karkoc had earlier declined to comment on his wartime service when approached by the AP, and repeated efforts to arrange an interview through his son, including again yesterday were unsuccessful.

Late yesterday, Karkoc's son, Andriy Karkos, read a statement accusing AP of defaming Karkoc, and pointed to the portion of the story about records not showing Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes.

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