Poland will reportedly seek the arrest and extradition of a 98-year-old Minnesota man who prosecutors say was a commander in a Nazi SS-backed Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and allegedly ordered the murder of at least 44 Polish civilians during World War II.
The Star Tribune newspaper reports Polish prosecutors at the National Remembrance Institute have asked a court in Lublin, Poland to issue a formal arrest warrant for Michael Karkoc of Minneapolis.
Karkoc first came to the attention of European prosecutors in 2013 after an amateur Nazi hunter tipped off the Associated Press about the possible link between the elderly man living in the United States and the commander of the Nazi unit that burned villages and killed civilians in Poland during 1944. Reporters were chased off Karkoc’s property by purported family members back in 2013 when news of his alleged past affiliation first broke. His family has always strongly denied that their father had any connection to the Nazis.
Records obtained by the AP reportedly show that Karkoc may have lied to U.S. immigration officials when he entered the country after World War II, saying he never had any past military experience. However, the AP and Polish prosecutors claim Nazi-SS records show Karkoc commanded a unit suspected of war crimes during 1944. There is no direct evidence of Karkoc participating in the alleged war crimes, but he is reportedly linked to the actions through past statements of other members of the unit and other witnesses interviewed over the years.
Polish prosecutor Robert Janicki said on Monday that evidence reviewed during his investigation “100%” confirmed that the Michael Karkoc in Minnesota is the same Michael Karkoc who commanded the SS unit. Janicki said he will formally seek Karkoc’s extradition and trial in Poland if the court first approves the arrest warrant. Polish law does not allow trial in absentia, so Karkoc’s presence in the country would be required in order for him to face charges.
German authorities first investigated a case against Karkoc back in 2013 when his identity was revealed, but they declined to press forward with charges in 2015 because they found “comprehensive medical documentation” from Karkoc’s physicians that showed he was unfit to stand trial.
Janicki seemed to indicate on Monday that Polish prosecutors do not have the same reluctance about his advanced age.
“He is our suspect as of today,” Janicki said.
Karkoc could face a term of up to life in prison if convicted in the killings that took place in the Polish villages of Chlaniow and Wladyslawin in July 1944.
[image via screengrab]