U.S. immigration officials are looking at the case of a suspected Nazi-led militia commander living in Minnesota, KMSP Fox 9 reports.
Michael Karkoc, 94, who lives in a quiet northeast Minneapolis neighborhood, was a top commander of a Nazi-led military unit accused of burning villages with women and children, according to the Associated Press.
He came to the United States shortly after World War II, but immigration papers reportedly show he may have lied, telling American authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during the war. He apparently concealed his work as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"While we do not confirm or deny the existence of specific investigations, I can say as a general matter that the Department of Justice continues to pursue all credible allegations of participation in World War II Nazi crimes by US citizens and residents," Justice Department spokesman Michael Passman told the Associated Press.
Records do not show any direct link between Karkoc and war crimes, but statements from men who served alongside Karkoc confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians. They also suggest Karkoc was present during these atrocities.
Karkoc would not discuss his wartime past when reached by the AP at his home, and repeated efforts to set up an interview, using his son as an intermediary, were unsuccessful.
Polish prosecutors, meanwhile, said Friday that they will investigate the case.
Poland's National Remembrance Institute said that its prosecutors will look into Karkoc's wartime role and provide "every possible assistance" to the U.S. justice system.
Meanwhile, KMSP reports Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnestoa and Dakotas, issued a statement, saying, “"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) is both shocked and appalled that according to an extensive Associated Press investigative report, an alleged founding member and 'top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning villages filled with women and children lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II.'
"As the principal Minnesota Jewish agency responsible for educating about the millions of all faiths who perished and honoring the survivors of Nazi persecution by focusing on local survivor testimony, words fail to express how outraged we are to learn this morning that an alleged former Nazi SS commander could be hiding in plain sight in a community, which is also the home of so many Holocaust survivors and their liberators in the United States armed forces.
"Because there is neither a statute of limitations on lying to immigration officials about being a Nazi war criminal or for murder, the JCRC is calling upon our colleagues in the United States Department of Justice to investigate the claims made in the Associated Press report, and if proven true, to open a civil deportation hearing so that Mr. Karkoc can finally face some measure of justice for his crimes against humanity."
Karkoc once wrote a memoir, in Ukranian,, about his war-time experience -- apparently leaving out the atrocities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.