US Man Exposed as Nazi Commander Dies at Age 100

Credit: CBS
Credit: CBS

Michael Karkoc passed away on December 14th at the age of 100. The retired carpenter was publicly outed by the Associated Press as a former commander of the Nazi SS-led group, Ukrainian Self Defense Legion (UDL).

The UDL attacked a Polish village in 1944, killing dozens of women and children. The attack was a retaliation for the killing of a major in the SS. He then lied to American authorities in order to get into the US after the end of World War II.

Michael Karkoc – part of his application for German citizenship filed with the Nazi SS-run immigration office on February 14, 1940.
Michael Karkoc – part of his application for German citizenship filed with the Nazi SS-run immigration office on February 14, 1940.

Karkoc was discovered after Dr. Stephen Ankier, who is an independent holocaust researcher, made the significant discovery of Karkoc’s name and date of birth.

The AP worked along side Dr Ankier and researched Nazi military payroll information, company rosters, US Army intelligence files, Ukrainian intelligence files and Karkoc’s own self-published memoir.

Dr Ankier added:

“I am the ‘retiree’ who discovered not only the name Michael Karkoc but also his date of birth that follows him throughout the available evidence. I also located Karkoc’s specific personal address in the States, discovered that he was a co-founder and company commander (his 2nd company was involved in atrocities) of the Ukrainian Self Defence Legion (31st Sicherheitspolizei [SIPO] Auxiliary Battalion) and crucially uncovered his wartime memoires entitled ‘From Voronezh to the Legion of Self-Defence’ (which significantly revealed his nom de guerre ‘VOVK’ or ‘Wolf’) that was very important in unlocking many issues about his alleged wartime criminality in, for example Chłaniów (Poland).

All that information was sent to AP in March 2013 by way of a detailed Briefing Document (original basis of their first article published in June 2013 where I am mentioned briefly) which then facilitated their further investigations with which I remained as it proceeded. Apart from these early discoveries, some of my other further personal contributions in this case led to Karkoc’s indictment by the Polish authorities.”

Karkoc’s family denied that he had any involvement with the attack on the village. The research, however, found testimony from a former soldier in Karkoc’s unit which states that Karkoc himself gave the order to attack.

After the work of Dr Ankier, and the AP had published their findings, both Germany and Poland opened investigations into Karkoc’s involvement in the attack.

The Germans never finished their investigation. In 2015, they found that the then-96-year-old Karkoc was not fit for trial although that does not appear to have been confirmed independently.

Polish authorities insisted that they would pursue their case against Karkoc. They stated that his age would not deter them from pursuing his arrest and extradition.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the famous Nazi hunter with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that he was certain that Karkoc should have been extradited. He said that it was unfortunate that Poland and the US had not pushed harder for that to happen.

Karkoc lived in Minnesota from shortly after the war until his death. Zuroff feels that Karkoc did not deserve the privilege of living free in the US.

Private Ivan Sharko served in the UDL under Karkoc. Sharko said that the original order to attack the village had come from higher up but that Karkoc actually was the one who told his unit to attack the village.

According to Sharko, the UDL members surrounded homes and set them on fire. They then shot anyone found in the homes or in the streets.

In 2013, Thomas Will was the deputy head of Germany’s special prosecutors’ office which investigates Nazi crimes. He determined that the evidence confirmed that Karkoc was a commander of the UDL.

Karkoc was born in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk in 1919, according to documents provided to US officials. There are other Nazi documents that put Karkoc’s birthyear as 1919, but state that he was born in another town in the same region.

When Karkoc entered the US in 1949, he did not mention his military service. However, in a memoir he wrote, he states that he helped found the UDL in 1943 in collaboration with the SS. He also states that he served as a commander of the unit until the end of the war.

Karkoc became a US citizen in 1959. He lived in an Eastern European neighborhood in Minneapolis. He attended St. Michael’s and St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He worked as a carpenter and was the secretary for the local branch of the fraternal Ukrainian National Association.

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According to a friend, Karkoc did not consider himself to have been a Nazi. Instead, she said that he considered himself a Ukrainian patriot who looked forward to his country being free of occupation by the Nazis or the Communists. He simply wanted his country to be free.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE