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Commander in Nazi SS-led unit living in U.S.

By David Rising, Monika Scislowska & Randy Herschaft

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:51 p.m. HST, Jun 14, 2013

BERLIN » 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 World War II, according to evidence uncovered by The Associated Press.

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.

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.

Polish prosecutors announced today after the release of the AP investigation that they will investigate Karkoc and provide "every possible assistance" to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has used lies in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. The AP evidence of Karkoc's wartime activities has also prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough to prosecute.

Karkoc refused to discuss his wartime past at his home in Minneapolis, 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 expects 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.

The deputy head of the German office that investigates Nazi war crimes, Thomas Will, said that based on the AP's evidence, he is interested in gathering information that could possibly result in prosecution.

Karkoc now lives in a modest house in northeast Minneapolis in an area with a significant Ukrainian population. Even at his advanced age, he came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.

"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, Poland, in a reprisal attack for the killing of a German SS officer, though he did not say who gave the order.

In a background check by U.S. officials on April 14, 1949, Karkoc said he had never performed any military service, telling investigators that he "worked for father until 1944. Worked in labor camp from 1944 until 1945."

However, in a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 in collaboration with the Nazis' feared SS intelligence agency, the SD, to fight on the side of Germany — and served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.

The AP located a copy online in an electronic Ukrainian library.

Karkoc's name surfaced when a retired clinical pharmacologist who took up Nazi war crimes research in his free time came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division who emigrated to Britain. Stephen Ankier, who is based in London, tipped off AP when an Internet search showed an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.

The AP located Karkoc's U.S. Army intelligence file, and got it declassified by the National Archives in Maryland through a FOIA request. The file said standard background checks found no red flags that would disqualify him from entering the United States but noted that key information from the Soviet side was missing.

Wartime documents located by the AP also confirm Karkoc's membership in the Self Defense Legion. They include a Nazi payroll sheet found in Polish archives, signed by an SS officer on Jan. 8, 1945 — only four months before the war's end — confirming that Karkoc was present in Krakow, Poland, to collect his salary as a member of the Self Defense Legion. Karkoc signed the document.

Karkoc, an ethnic Ukrainian, was born in the city of Lutsk in 1919, according to details he provided American officials. At the time, the area was being fought over by Ukraine, Poland and others; it ended up part of Poland until World War II. Several wartime Nazi documents note the same birth date, but say he was born in Horodok, a town in the same region.

He joined the regular German army after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and fought on the Eastern Front in Ukraine and Russia.

He was also a member of the Ukrainian nationalist organization OUN; in 1943, he helped negotiate with the Nazis to have men drawn from its membership form the Self Defense Legion, according to his account. The legion eventually numbered some 600 soldiers and was folded into the SS Galician Division in 1945.

Policy at the time of Karkoc's immigration application — according to a declassified secret U.S. government document obtained by the AP from the National Archives — was to deny a visa to anyone who had served in either the SS Galician Division or the OUN.

In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Michael Passman said the agency was aware of the AP story but could neither confirm nor deny details of specific investigations as a matter of policy.

Though Karkoc talks in his memoirs about fighting anti-Nazi Polish resistance fighters, he makes no mention of attacks on civilians. He does indicate he was with his company in the summer of 1944 when the Self Defense Legion's commander, Siegfried Assmuss, was killed by a partisan attack near Chlaniow.

He did not mention the retaliatory massacre that followed, which was described in detail by Malazhenski in his 1967 statement. An SS administrative list obtained by AP shows that Karkoc was Malazhenski's commander.

Malazhenski said the Ukrainian unit was ordered to liquidate Chlaniow in reprisal for Assmuss' death, and moved in the next day, machine-gunning people and torching homes. More than 40 people died.

"The Ukrainians were setting fire to the buildings," Chlaniow villager Stanislawa Lipska told a communist-era commission in 1948. "You could hear machine-gun shots and grenade explosions. Shots could be heard inside the village and on the outskirts. They were making sure no one escaped."

Witness statements and other documentation also link the unit circumstantially to a 1943 massacre in Pidhaitsi, on the outskirts of Lutsk —today part of Ukraine — where the Self Defense Legion was once based. A total of 21 villagers, mostly women and children, were slaughtered.

Heorhiy Syvyi was a 9-year-old boy when troops swarmed into Pidhaitsi on Dec. 3 but managed to flee with his father and hide.

"When we came out we saw the smoldering ashes of the burned house and our neighbors searching for the dead. My mother had my brother clasped to her chest. This is how she was found — black and burned," said Syvyi, now 78.

There is evidence that the unit took part in the brutal suppression of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, fighting the nationalist Polish Home Army as it sought to rid the city of its Nazi occupiers.

The uprising was put down by the Nazis in a house-to-house fight characterized by its ferocity.

The Self Defense Legion's exact role is not known, but Nazi documents indicate that Karkoc and his unit were there.

An SS payroll document, dated Oct. 12, 1944, says 10 members of the Self Defense Legion "fell while deployed to Warsaw." Karkoc is listed as the highest-ranking commander of 2 Company — a lieutenant — on a pay sheet.

Following the war, Karkoc ended up in a camp for displaced people in Neu Ulm, Germany, according to documents obtained from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The documents indicate that his wife died in 1948, a year before he and their two young boys — born in 1945 and 1946 — emigrated to the U.S.

After he arrived in Minneapolis, he remarried and had four more children, the last born in 1966.

Karkoc told American officials he was a carpenter, and records indicate he worked for a nationwide construction company that has an office in Minneapolis.

A longtime member of the Ukrainian National Association, Karkoc has been closely involved in community affairs over the past decades and was identified in a 2002 article in a Ukrainian-American publication as a "longtime UNA activist."

Herschaft reported from New York and Scislowska from Warsaw; Doug Glass, Patrick Condon and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Maria Danilova in Kiev, Ukraine; Efrem Lukatsky in Pidhaitsi, and Svetlana Fedas in Lviv, Ukraine, contributed to this story.

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palani wrote:
Sounds like a good job candidate fro Obama's White House staff. No liberal pretense, just the harsh reality of totalitarian rule.
on June 14,2013 | 05:15AM
Dawg wrote:
Get a life! How can you mix apples and oranges? I get it you are a bananna!
on June 14,2013 | 08:02AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Size matters.
on June 14,2013 | 11:10AM
IAmSane wrote:
For you to be able to say something like that and not face any consequences whatsoever should tell you that you are, in fact, not living in a totalitarian rule. The end.
on June 14,2013 | 08:51AM
mikethenovice wrote:
They lived here way before Obama was in Office.
on June 14,2013 | 11:09AM
Larry01 wrote:
Rubbish. There is no comparison, and you should be ashamed for making such connections.
on June 14,2013 | 01:47PM
Pocho wrote:
The guy is 94 already, he's gonna kick the bucket soon. Let it go it's all in the past, he's lived a clean life for scores of time. LOSE MONEY going after this guy
on June 14,2013 | 05:24AM
alphanumerikk wrote:
You are truly clueless.
on June 14,2013 | 05:50AM
Pocho wrote:
You're willing to spend millions on a trial just to have this 94 year old expire after his lenghtly trial. Money is GREATER than my ego! There's hundreds of homeless people here who could use those millions for his trial MIllions ain't chum chain! Maybe for you it is trying to save your egotistical ways. Use the money on the poor
on June 14,2013 | 08:41AM
IAmSane wrote:
Just send him to Germany, Poland, Ukraine, or where ever and have them deal with him. It won't cost you even a penny of your God-precious money. He shouldn't get away with the horrible things he did just because of his age.
on June 14,2013 | 08:57AM
Kate53 wrote:
Agree wholeheartedly with IAmSane.
on June 14,2013 | 10:25AM
cojef wrote:
Yes, why should we bother, let the German try him and incarcerate him. We certainly can use the money to open the White House because of the "sequester". We can't deprive our children of the treat. Our taxpayers have to pay for the trial and if found guilty, keep him in prison at our expense, and only our trial lawyers get rich at taxpayers expense. There are enough leeches on the entitlment programs.
on June 14,2013 | 10:30AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Try researching the SS in WWII. Nasty little critters who exterminated millions. Then, come back and tell us we should let him go. They ought to toss him in one of the ovens.
on June 14,2013 | 06:59AM
Pocho wrote:
Money is Money. Who's clueless? the guy got his foot in his grave already @ 94
on June 14,2013 | 08:36AM
tiki886 wrote:
Money is not the issue.
on June 14,2013 | 08:51AM
Pocho wrote:
your ego is an issue. Sacrifice the benefits of thousands just to satisfy your ego! This guy is just about the end of his life. You got no money management, that's why our Country is in a whole money mess practically being owned by China.
on June 14,2013 | 09:01AM
lee1957 wrote:
You decry Tiki's money management yet you want to give away millions to the homeless. Interesting perspective.
on June 14,2013 | 11:21AM
Pocho wrote:
you gotta stop stereotyping the homeless. All are not bums, drug addicts, etc...
on June 14,2013 | 01:04PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Killing people must have kept his mind clear so he can live into his nineties.
on June 14,2013 | 11:14AM
Pocho wrote:
why spend the money to kill a 94 year old ready to go 6' under. The guy is guilty in my eyes but hey we could use the millions of dollars in a good way.
on June 14,2013 | 11:21AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Wow, thats the most ignorant post I have EVER seen on here. So when the intelligence gene was being handed out, what happened to you?
on June 14,2013 | 07:05AM
allie wrote:
disagree..there is no limit for moral responsibility. Deport the monster!
on June 14,2013 | 07:26AM
Pocho wrote:
that's crazy, if your spending all that money to convict and find him guilty, he'd deservse the death penalty!
on June 14,2013 | 08:43AM
mrluke wrote:
Pleeeze, Pocho, money IS NOT an issue. We won't spend one cent on this. He will be deported and we can wash our hands of him.
on June 14,2013 | 09:46AM
Pocho wrote:
shoots, let them handle it.
on June 14,2013 | 11:22AM
Ronin006 wrote:
His crimes are alleged, yet you and others already have him convicted. He is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. We have something called the Constitution that says something like that.
on June 14,2013 | 03:39PM
Dawg wrote:
He should be gassed in the same style he gave it to others! Karma baby!
on June 14,2013 | 08:03AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Maybe you should visit the Holocaust Museum website before nonchalantly saying we should 'let it go'. Fool.
on June 14,2013 | 10:12AM
mikethenovice wrote:
I hope we all live past 94 so we can drain the Social Security for the next generation. Let them toss that smartphone and get back to work.
on June 14,2013 | 11:12AM
bumba wrote:
Deport this guy, don't let him die here. Time doesn't erase atrocity. He had ZERO compassion for the men, women and kids they murdered. We should should have no compassion for him.
on June 14,2013 | 05:51AM
allie wrote:
on June 14,2013 | 07:26AM
yhls wrote:
Just because your byline is Pocho, doesn't mean you have to live up to the stereotype.
on June 14,2013 | 06:10AM
HD36 wrote:
Their defense during the Nuremburg trials is that they were just following orders. They get convicted anyway because they should have known what they were doing was morally wrong.
on June 14,2013 | 07:56AM
ryan02 wrote:
If he had dropped a bomb on the village instead of burning it, it wouldn't have been a war crime. Like Dresden or Hiroshima. I certainly don't support nazis, but I do think its wrong to hold other races to a different standard than our own. What happened after My Lai? Only one man was convicted after the rape and murder of 26 civilians, and he only "served" 3 hours under house arrest. Why the double standard? Is there even such a thing as "war crimes," or does anything go when you're fighting to the death under tremendous stress and you are trying to do whatever it takes to weaken the resolve of the enemy. I would say there are of course limits, but our own actions in war that are completely justified (Nagasaki) tells me otherwise.
on June 14,2013 | 08:09AM
mrluke wrote:
Once again someone misses the point. He lied to enter and stay in the U.S. If another country wants to prosecute him, so be it. There's nothing much we could ever do to him, except deport him for false entry, but that will never happen.
on June 14,2013 | 09:50AM
pridon wrote:
You would have lied , too, under the circumstances. All the witnesses are dead, so you spend millions. I'm sure this man has suffered much over 70 years - but unlike many illegal immigrants he seems to have been a good citizen over the years.
on June 14,2013 | 10:50AM
primo1 wrote:
Exactly how has this man suffered?
on June 14,2013 | 03:48PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Unless he has absolutely no conscience, he's probably had a lot of guilt and regret. And as his life draws to a close, he must be thinking about facing the ultimate judge.
on June 14,2013 | 05:12PM
juscasting wrote:
It's obvious that many of comments here show the lack of knowledge regarding history! I was stationed in Germany for 3 years in the late 80's and visited Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich and been to the Holocost museum in DC. If you know your history you would know that some crimes are unforgivable or cannot go unpunishable no matter how much time has passed.
on June 14,2013 | 09:57AM
cojef wrote:
I felt the same for years and then, started to look at it another way, he has to face his maker as we all do, and if we believe in the hereafter, he will suffer the consequences then. Forgiveness is very hard to come by, but in the Christian faith there is room for forgiveness. Used to be Christian, but have not practiced it for almost 50 years. It is very difficult for me to voice this opinion, but have softened my beliefs greatly.
on June 14,2013 | 10:41AM
ryan02 wrote:
The article says his "war crime" was his unit burning a village filled with women and children. My point was that if he had simply bombed the village instead of burning it (like what was done to Dresden) then it wouldn't be a war crime. Why the double standard? As for the concentration camps, those are unforgivable, but the article doesn't say this particular guy was in any way responsible for the camps.
on June 14,2013 | 11:19AM
hanalei395 wrote:
As a U.S. military commander said in Vietnam ..."We had to destroy that village in order to save it".
on June 14,2013 | 12:09PM
Hawaii001 wrote:
This guy is inadmissible due to section 212 of the Immigration & Nationality Act.... If he's in the U.S., I think that's grounds for removal -- 94 years old or not. 212(a)(3)(E)(i) & 212(a)(3)(E)(ii) Inadmissibility due to Nazi Party & Genocide Foreign nationals may be inadmissible if he or she participated in Nazi persecutions or genocide.
on June 14,2013 | 10:29AM
Hugo wrote:
This is NOT a news item and NOT a big deal. President Reagan honored the Waffen SS (the Jew Killers) by visiting the Waffen SS Cemetery in Bittburg, Germany in 1985. If "the great communicator" honored the perpetrators of genocide, why make a big deal of the killers that Reagan honored? I was at the protest at the Golden Gate National Cemetery during the Reagan Germany visit. I told the reporter from the Jewish Record paper "If I was going to visit Masada, I would not honor the Romans". I am not Jewish. As a veteran, I always expected not to be murdered if captured. The Waffen SS executed about 80 GIs at Malmady, France because the Germans were too busy to handle prisoners. And Reagan went to their cemetery to lay a wreath. Swell.
on June 14,2013 | 10:31AM
GorillaSmith wrote:
I understand Obammy is already negotiating with him to take over the IRS.
on June 14,2013 | 11:05AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Same like Bin Laden's brother lives in Washington D,C,
on June 14,2013 | 11:09AM
If it was your family, your child, who was murdered by this animal I think you would all take it a bit more seriously. He does not deserve a peaceful death.
on June 14,2013 | 11:41AM
ryan02 wrote:
That's why he should have bombed the village instead of burning it. Because bombing is not murder.
on June 14,2013 | 11:51AM
hanalei395 wrote:
The Baby Killers of a village ....the My Lai Massacre ....all got away with murder.
on June 14,2013 | 12:23PM
BRock wrote:
So the guy was about 26 years old when the war ended. I cannot imagine that he was a top commander at that young age. I doubt if there is any real evidence that he was responsible for war crimes. In any event how can any of his alleged acts compare with the Us dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities inhabited by hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians?
on June 14,2013 | 02:33PM
primo1 wrote:
If they're not going to deport him, just give him the "Inglourious Basterds" treatment and be done with it.
on June 14,2013 | 03:45PM
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