The hunt for Nazi war criminals may have succeeded in tracking down another perpetrator but he may never stand trial for his alleged crimes due to his advanced age and frail mental state. As such, three medical experts will convene at the behest of the American government to determine the suitability for extradition and trial of a 99-year old Minnesota man on charges regarding his potential involvement in Nazi war crimes in Poland during the Second World War.
In 2013, the Associated Press identified Ukrainian-born Michael Karkoc as a former commander of an SS-led Nazi unit responsible for the wartime destruction of Polish villages and the murder of civilians. Poland requested the United States hand Karkoc over last July.
“My father was, is and remains innocent,” said his son Andriy Karkoc. We look forward to his complete exoneration.”
The American Press drew attention to Karkoc by establishing identity through the use of wartime documents and testimony of other members of the unit, as well as Karkoc’s own Ukrainian-language memoir. Furthermore, the AP concluded that seven years after the end of the war, Karkoc lied to American immigration officials in order to gain entry into the country by indicating that he had not been engaged in any military service during the war. The National Remembrance Institute verified that Michael Karoc commanded a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, and was responsible in July 1944 for the murder of 44 people, including women and children, in the Polish village of Chlaniow.
This drew the attention of both Poland’s National Remembrance Institute and German prosecutors, who opened a case and concluded there was enough evidence to support murder charges. Andriy Karkoc said his family responded to requests from the German government for both physical and mental health reports in 2015, causing the German’s to suspend their investigation. He also stated that the records were sent to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. The family has yet to hear from the Polish embassy, the State Department or the Department of Justice.
“If the Polish government is stupid enough or shameless enough to continue this charade, at least at such time we will be presented, hopefully, with whatever it is they claim they have in the form of evidence,” Andriy Karkoc said.
Andriy Karkoc stated that the charges are ludicrous and that his father fought the Nazis as a freedom fighter enduring untold physical, emotional and spiritual horror, and not for them. He stated that the accusations are part of a Russian-led campaign of defamation on Ukrainian nationalists, and made assertions that the AP’s evidence may lack legal credibility.
The evidence from Karkoc’s war record comes primarily from his own Ukrainian language self-published memoir, From Voronezh to the Legion of Self Defense. It was published in 2002 and copies were donated to the Library of Congress, the University of Minnesota, and Ukraine. The memoir includes his full name and his nickname, ‘Wolf.’ The memoir tells that Karkoc was born on the sixth of March, 1919 in Horodok, which was part of Poland until August 1939 when it was claimed by the Soviet Union as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Karkoc refused to join the local police and was forced to leave to escape a Soviet arrest warrant, settling down in Hrubieszów, in German-occupied Poland.
His memoir continues by saying he was conscripted into the German army to fight against the Soviet invasion in 1941 and deserted a year later after witnessing mistreatment of Red Army prisoners of war. While on the run, he joined the Ukrainian nationalist movement, and more specifically, the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, a militia devoted to guerrilla tactics. It’s here where the questions regarding Karkoc’s innocence or guilt start – as the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion was rumored to be the group used by the SS to do their dirty work.