lunes, 26 de mayo de 2014

Germany opens the way to prosecute American, 95, accused of being Ukrainian SS concentration camp guard

  • Alleged Michael Karkoc was in the SS-led Ukranian Self Defence League
  • He told American authorities in 1949 he had performed no military service 
  • Court of Justice said his 'service' made him 'holder of a German office'
  • It is alleged he lied about his wartime service to get into the U.S.

Germany's highest criminal court has the right to prosecute a 95-year-old man accused of being a notorious Nazi commander who 'burnt villages filled with women and children.' 

It is alleged that Michael Karkoc was an officer in the SS-led Ukranian Self Defence League and later the SS Galician Division.

According to records, he told American authorities in 1949 he had performed no military service during the Second World War and has been living in a quiet Minnesota town. However, an investigation last year revealed the retired carpenter is alleged to have been a 
former commander in a Nazi SS-led unit. 

Today the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the 95-year-old's alleged service made him the 'holder of a German office.' This gives Germany the legal right to prosecute him even though he is not German, his alleged crimes were against non-Germans and they were not committed on German soil. 

Someone in that role 'served the purposes of the Nazi state's world view,' the court said. Karkoc's son, Andriy Karkos, did not respond to an email by the Associated Press seeking comment and hung up on a reporter who reached him via his mobile phone. A home number for Michael Karkoc was no longer working today.

The court's decision represents 'a big step forward' in the case against Karkoc, said Thomas Will, deputy director of the special federal prosecutors' office that investigates Nazi crimes. He initially handled the case in Germany. Will referred the case to the court late last year after concluding in his own investigation that enough evidence existed to pursue murder charges against Karkoc, who has denied the allegations against him.

Will's office has no powers to file charges itself and the federal court in its ruling referred the case to Munich prosecutors. They will examine the evidence again to determine whether to charge Karkoc and seek his extradition from the United States. The German investigation began after the Associated Press published a story last year establishing that Karkoc commanded a unit accused of burning villages filled with women and children, then lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States a few years after the Second World War.

This photo of Michael Karkoc was part of his application for German citizenship filed with the Nazi SS-run immigration office on Feb. 14, 1940
This photo of Michael Karkoc was part of his application for German citizenship filed with the Nazi SS-run immigration office on Feb. 14, 1940
A second story uncovered evidence that Karkoc himself ordered his men in 1944 to attack a Polish village in which dozens of civilians were killed, contradicting statements from his family that he was never at the scene. 

Polish prosecutors also now are investigating. 
The U.S. Department of Justice has declined to confirm whether it also is investigating Karkoc, citing its policy of not confirming or denying individual investigations. Karkoc applied for German citizenship on February 14, 1940, according to Nazi documents signed by Karkoc and located by the AP in February in the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland, but he was rejected because of his lack of German language skills. 

The SS-administered immigration office instead said it would provide Karkoc - who was 20 at the time and whose date of birth and hometown match those on the documents - passport-like papers identifying him as an ethnic German. Last year Mr Karkoc said he 'can't explain' his wartime service despite denying the allegations. 

Following the war, Karkoc ended up in a camp for displaced people in Neu Ulm, Germany, according to documents obtained from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The documents indicate that his wife died in 1948, a year before he and their two young boys - born in 1945 and 1946 - emigrated to the U.S. After he arrived in Minneapolis, he remarried and had four more children, the last born in 1966. A longtime member of the Ukrainian National Association, Karkoc has been closely involved in community affairs over the past decades and was identified in a 2002 article in a Ukrainian-American publication as a 'longtime UNA activist.'

The Galician Division and a Ukrainian nationalist organization Karkoc served in were both on a secret American government blacklist of organizations whose members were forbidden from entering the United States at the time. Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader.

Nazi SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.The U.S. Department of Justice has used lies about wartime service made in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. In Germany, Nazis with 'command responsibility' can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.

Former German army officer Josef Scheungraber - a lieutenant like Karkoc - was convicted in Germany in 2009 on charges of murder based on circumstantial evidence that put him on the scene of a Nazi wartime massacre in Italy as the ranking officer.

This is the oath of allegiance on Michael Karkoc's petition for naturalization, signed May 6, 1959
This is the oath of allegiance on Michael Karkoc's petition for naturalization, signed May 6, 1959

Karkoc now lives in a modest house in northeast Minneapolis in an area with a significant Ukrainian population. In a background check by U.S. officials on April 14, 1949, Karkoc said he had never performed any military service, telling investigators that he 'worked for father until 1944. Worked in labor camp from 1944 until 1945.' Karkoc, an ethnic Ukrainian, was born in the city of Lutsk in 1919, according to details he provided American officials.

At the time, the area was being fought over by Ukraine, Poland and others; it ended up part of Poland until World War II. Several wartime Nazi documents note the same birth date, but say he was born in Horodok, a town in the same region.


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