Nazi commander found residing in Minnesota

 Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division

Inserted in the opening paragraph of Slate magazine’s story about a Nazi collaborator who was discovered last week to have been living in the US for the past 60-plus years were these two sentences, which would be slightly amusing if not representative of a grave injustice:

“Michael Karkoc now lives in Minnesota and when he entered the United States in 1949 told authorities he had not performed military service during World War II. That wasn’t really accurate.”

No, indeed it wasn’t. Karkoc was a founding member and an officer of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later was an officer in the SS Galician Division.

There appears to be plenty of evidence that the company Karkoc commanded massacred civilians, including burning villages filled with women and children, and that he was at the scene of the atrocities, even if there’s no proof Karkoc himself didn’t actually participate.

The Associated Press broke the story about Karkoc on Friday and provided an exhaustive report on not just the fact he’s been living in the United States for decades, but included background between groups allied with the Nazis and how many individuals avoided being brought to justice under the guise of fighting communism.

It will be hard for Karkoc to plead mistaken identity; in 1995 he published a Ukrainian-language memoir that stated he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 to fight on the side of Germany – and wrote that he served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.

The memoir is available at the US Library of Congress, according to The Associated Press.

(Above: A 1944 photo shows head of the SS Heinrich Himmler, center, reviewing troops  of the Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division, of which Michael Karkoc was a  member.)

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13 thoughts on “Nazi commander found residing in Minnesota

  1. As Bob Woodward would say, “That’s a ‘holy &%#@’ story.” Or what I call “stories that just make you go “Wow!” “Unbelievable” just doesn’t quite cut it.

    • Exactly. And here’s the story which will never be written but I’d love to get the answer to: what we’re these guys who spent decades working in the US, Canada or some other country in mundane jobs, living in suburbs or apartment complexes, raising families and, presumably, paying taxes, thinking about what they had done so many years before? Did they even consider what they had done years before? Or was it blocked out or rationalized in order that they could go on with their lives? My guess is the last. How else does one live with oneself after taking part in such inhumanity?

  2. As a point aside the story of Russian\Ukrainian\Cossack\others serving alongside German formations is interesting. The Germans captured millions earlier in the war and most did not fare well in pow camps. Some volunteered as hiwis, non-combat service troops, to escape the pow camp. Others were recruited into low quality combat formations in the SS and the Wehrmacht. Some were anti-Stalin like Vlasov’s Army. Stalin considered any and all to be traitors and as the Red Army advanced many of the “collaborators” were shot, sent to Siberian gulags, put in suicidal penal battalions. Initially, the Ukraine was anti-Russian and anti-Stalin who had starved hundreds of thousands Ukrainians prior to the war. Rather shortsighted the Germans did not capitalize on these distinctions within the Soviet Empire. In any event, some like this character above had no problem being brutal to his own people. Thanks for,the post–always interesting!

    • I’ve seen pictures of Ukrainians welcoming Nazis as liberators in the early days of Operation Barbarossa. One imagines that it wouldn’t have been too difficult for the Germans to have used the Ukrainians as a viable force to fight the Soviets, particularly given what many had gone through with the mass starvation induced by the Soviets in the 1930s.

      I also know that pretty much anyone who simply lived in an area that was overrun by the Nazis was later sent to the gulags once the Soviets retook the territory, since, in Stalin’s mind, these people *must* have been collaborators. And we’re talking about thousands of miles of territory.

      If one ever wants a reason to be grateful for being born in the US, Canada or other nations that largely escaped the depredations of genuine full-scale war, one need only read about the “Great Patriot War.” Simply brutal.

      Thanks for your comment, Bruce.

  3. I wonder what he was like during his nearly 70 years since the end of the war? We had a German family living down the street from us in suburban Indianapolis, and the man was strange. Every night after work, and he was a research doctor, he would start honking his horn about a block and a half rom his house. His wife had to be ready and have the garage door open by they time he got into the driveway, and not a moment sooner. He never slowed down. The kids rarely played with us (and there was nothing else to do in the suburbs), and I wouldn’t have recognized either adult if they had been walking on the street, which was a half mile long, dead end at both ends. As a kid, I thought it was very strange, but as a mature adult, I wondered. I don’t even remember their names, other than the daughter was Theresa.

    • Wow, that is exceedingly odd. It does make you wonder, doesn’t it. There was an individual I worked with about 20 years ago who I wondered about. One day I came into work carrying a book written about an ethnic German’s time in the Soviet gulag. He asked me what I was reading and I showed him. He then said, “Oh, I spent time in Siberia.” I said, “Really? What for?” He immediately clammed up. He was born in Romania in the mid-1920s and was able to speak German, so I more or less figured that he’d served in the Romanian Army, which was a German ally, and likely was captured, possibly on the Eastern Front, during World War II. He absolutely would never talk about it, however. Who knows, though; my deduction may have been entirely wrong.

  4. I’m a little confused, CB. Today’s posting came through as “Daily Digest” June 17 about the Minn. Nazi. The same title came through yesterday, Sunday the 16th.

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