Minnesota Nazi: How did Nazi hunters miss Michael Karkoc? (+video)
Minnesota Nazi: US, German, and Polish authorities are now taking a look at 94-year-old Michael Karkoc’s reputed past as a Nazi commander. ‘Nazi hunters’ have had major successes and notable failures in finding and deporting Nazis.
Before he successfully immigrated to the United States in 1949 to settle down as a union carpenter in Minneapolis, Ukrainian-born Michael Karkoc allegedly commanded a brutal Nazi commando unit that burned Polish villages and massacred civilians at the height of Germany’s World War II offensive.Skip to next paragraph
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If the allegations are true – and authorities in the US, Poland, and Germany are now looking into the Associated Press report – Mr. Karkoc, who is in his mid-90s, could have his US citizenship revoked and be deported. If the evidence of his involvement in wartime atrocities is strong enough, he could also face war-crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.
Karkoc has not issued any public statements, and has not answered his door to reporters, according to news reports from Minneapolis.
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To be sure, the revelations have shocked Karkoc’s neighbors, as well as the families of World War II victims living in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Karkoc's unit was in full operation during the 1944 Warsaw uprising, in which Nazis brutally crushed Polish rebels trying to shake free from German occupation.
The ability of an alleged Nazi commander to blend into US society highlights the challenges of addressing the legal and moral imperatives of the Holocaust by focusing on persecutors who tried to escape into anonymity.
The question of how Karkoc was able to settle comfortably in the US – at one point appearing on the cover of a union magazine – also touches on the complex legacy of the US government “Nazi hunters” who zeroed in on hundreds of Nazi collaborators – from death camp guards-turned-New York housewives to the inventor of the Saturn V rocket – and whose work was hampered by political and moral questions, as well as by the difficulty of sifting through partial postwar documents, many of them hidden behind the Iron Curtain.
Before being merged with another Justice Department unit in 2006, the so-called Office of Special Investigations, which opened in 1979 after a series of sensational media stories about Nazis living in the US, located 300 Nazis either in the US or trying to enter the country.