Alleged Minnesota Nazi: Could 94-year-old US citizen be deported?

A notorious Nazi unit was commanded by Minnesota resident Michael Karkoc, according to the Associated Press. The US has tried to deport ex-Nazis in the past, with mixed success.

Richard Sennott/The Star Tribune/AP
People walk past the home in Minneapolis where Michael Karkoc lives on Friday. The Associated Press reports that Karkoc was a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit.

An Associated Press report naming Michael Karkoc, a 94-year-old Ukranian immigrant in Minneapolis, as a former Nazi unit commander has set a series of events in motion.

Prosecutors in Poland, where Mr. Karkoc reportedly served during World War II, announced Friday that they would investigate Karkoc and give "every possible assistance" to the US Department of Justice, according to AP. The report added that German authorities were also looking into the allegations with an eye toward prosecution.

Though Karkoc served in two units that were on a US blacklist – the Ukranian Self-Defense Legion, which has been accused of burning villages full of women and children, and the Galician Division of the SS – he emigrated to the United States in 1949 by lying about his military service, AP reports. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1959.

Typically, immigration fraud has been a primary means for the US to strip ex-Nazis of their residency status and order them deported. Karkoc's alleged connection to two blacklisted units makes the case against him even stronger, say experts. 

"In America this is a relatively easy case: If he was the commander of a unit that carried out atrocities, that's a no brainer," said Efraim Zuroff at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, which puts out an annual top 10 list of "most wanted" living Nazis, in the AP report. "Even in Germany ... if the guy was the commander of the unit, then even if they can't show he personally pulled the trigger, he bears responsibility."

Yet in America, deportation of former Nazis has proven difficult, in part because legal proceedings can last years and in part because, in some instances, no countries want to take the accused.

Take the case of Anton Geiser, a former Nazi concentration camp guard who became a steel worker north of Pittsburgh and lived in Pennsylvania for 50 years. In 2010, an immigration judge ordered the then-86-year-old man deported. But he appealed the ruling, saying he served at the Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen camps against his will at age 17. The case went to the highest immigration appeals court in the US.

"The label Nazi itself sort of goes to belief," his lawyer told the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Va., in 2012, according to a report by WJLA-TV. "If they were a true believer, we don't want them here. If they were a forced participant, are they really a Nazi?"

Mr. Geiser died before the court ruled.

Karkoc's case would appear to be more cut-and-dried. AP reports that he wrote a Ukranian-language memoir in 1995 in which he claimed to be a founding member of the Ukranian Self-Defense Legion. Like the SS's Galician Division, the legion was seen by many Ukranians as a nationalist group aimed at stemming Soviet influence in Ukraine.

Yet others with strong ties to wartime atrocities have seen their cases take years, as well. John (Ivan) Kalymon served voluntarily in the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police during World War II ans was found to have rounded up and shot Jews in German-occupied Lviv, Ukraine. Mr. Kalymon, who lived in Detroit, had his citizenship revoked in 2007 and was ordered deported in 2011. Earlier this year, at age 90, he lost an appeal of that decision.

No country has said it is willing to take him, though Germany is reportedly considering it.

Even abroad, the legal process for ex-Nazis can be tangled.

John Demjanjuk, who became an autoworker in Cleveland after World War II, was deported to Israel in 1981. In 1988, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to be hanged – thought to be a vicious concentration camp guard, known as Ivan "The Terrible," who murdered thousands of Jews.  The decision was overturned five years later when new evidence suggested a case of mistaken identity, and he returned to America.

But in 2009, he was deported again, this time to Germany, when new evidence connected him to being a guard at a different concentration camp. He was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison. He died in 2012 at age 91 before the appeals process finished.

Karkoc's family has denied the truth of the AP report, with his youngest son calling it "sensationalistic and scandalous."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Alleged Minnesota Nazi: Could 94-year-old US citizen be deported?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today