Michael Karkoc, an Ukrainian and former Waffen-SS officer, suspected of war crimes against Poles during World War II, has died. For decades he lived in the USA, hiding his criminal past. Polish investigators unsuccessfully tried to extradite him – blocked by the American side with the quiet permission of Warsaw.
Information on the death of Michael Karkoc was announced on January 21 this year. However, he actually died a month ago. The Associated Press refers to the details of the Minneapolis cemetery, where he was „quietly buried” on December 19 last year, next to his deceased wife who died the year before. It shows that he died on December 14, 2019, at the age of 100. Karkoc has lived in Minneapolis for the last few decades, working as a carpenter and actively immersing himself in the environment of the local Ukrainian community. He had recently been in a nursing home due to his health condition.
Kresy.pl has repeatedly written about the case of Michael K. aka Mychajło Karkoc, a US citizen of Ukrainian descent, a former Waffen-SS officer suspected of committing crimes against humanity and war crime during World War II, according to all available evidence being responsible for the death of 44 Poles. Kresy.pl have pursued this matter for several years. Let us remind you that Poland demanded his deportation and trial. In 2017, Poland requested his extradition. However, this was denied, and the Institute of National Remembrance was waiting for the results of medical examination of Michael K. for almost two years.
The Karkoc family claimed that he was never a Nazi or a Nazi collaborator and that he never committed and was not responsible for any war crimes of World War II. His son Andriy, who lives in the USA, asked by AP to confirm the information about his father’s death, hung up. The Kozlak-Radulovich Funeral Chapel, which organised the funeral, also refused to comment. Karkoc was buried without publicity. Neither the family nor the funeral home published an official obituary.
In August last year we wrote that based on the information received, there are reason to believe that the Karkoc case is deliberately being swept under the carpet by the American administration, which was being done with the silent approval of the Polish side. His extradition was blocked by the American side, and the Polish authorities showed virtually no interest in it. According to unofficial information obtained by the Kresy.pl, the Americans postponed progressing formal processes, and the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland avoided answering whether K.’s case would be raised during Donald Trump’s visit. Ultimately, he wasn’t touched.
What’s more, the Polish side, despite earlier official declarations, or even incentives to act, including through important officials and diplomats, has clearly lost enthusiasm since sending the extradition request. They have not treat the whole matter as important, let alone prioritised it. The American side appears to have been obstructive, using advanced formalism and excessive meticulousness. The Americans seemed to have dragged their feet on the matter, avoiding clear declarations: whether the Ukrainian’s state of health allows his extradition or not. Some people who know the subject have admitted that the attitude of the American side is unbelievably amazing. The more so that the evidence gathered about Karkoc was strong enough to prove his guilt in court.
In this context, it should be recalled that in 2018 Jakiw Palij, a 95-year-old Ukrainian and a guard in a former German labour camp, was deported from the USA to Germany at the request of President Donald Trump. Despite clearly ill health, he was taken from his home in Queens, transported to a plane and then to Europe. In January 2019, Palij died. In the case of Karkoc – nothing!
In July 2018, in an interview with the Kresy.pl portal, a representative of the Main Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation admitted that the Institute of National Remembrance had still not received information whether the Michael K.’s investigation had even begun. A few months earlier, representatives of the Institute expressed the hope that the K.’s investigation would start as soon as possible. According to information obtained by the portal Kresy.pl, several experts had long been appointed in the USA in agreement with the Americans, but only one of them had conducted any research on the subject.
In an interview with AP, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a „Nazi hunter” from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he had no doubt about the legitimacy of Karkoc’s extradition. He called it unfortunate that Poland and the U.S. didn’t move more aggressively to do so. „They seem to have handled this case with a lack of urgency ” he said, as cited by AP. In his opinion, the Karkoc case was „typical” of a person who “joined forces with Nazi Germany and was involved in crimes against innocent civilians”.
A spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice declined to comment on the matter, AP reports.
Karkoc was a co-founder and commander of the second company of the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, a collaborative unit of the Third Reich composed of Ukrainian volunteers. He used the nickname Wolf or Wołk. On July 23, 1944, his unit pacified the village of Chłaniów in the Lublin region in retaliation for the killing of a German liaison officer by Polish partisans. As a result, 44 residents of Chłaniów and neighboring Władysławin, including children, died. The documentation gathered at the Institute of National Remembrance about this atrocity is sufficient to create an indictment. Later, Karkoc’s unit participated, among others in the pacification of Czerniaków during the Warsaw Uprising. In 1945, the Legion, also known under the official German name of the 31st Schutzmannschafts-Bataillon der SD, was incorporated into the Ukrainian SS Galizien Division. Eventually, its members were taken into American captivity and then imprisoned in Rimini, Italy, under the control of the British. The Polish IPN has Karkoc’s personal files and his name on the Legion’s payroll. We know thanks to the fact that he received his last pay on January 8, 1945 in Krakow.
After the war, Karkoc, like many German soldiers in captivity by the Western Allies, sought the right to go to the USA. The US government did not give such consent to soldiers of SS units. However, Karkoc lied to the Americans, claiming that he had not served in the army throughout the war. According to available information, Karkoc received an American visa and left for the USA in 1949. He settled in the Minneapolis neighbourhood of Ukraine, where he worked as a carpenter and was active in local Ukrainian organisations. He also received American citizenship under the name of Michael Karkoc.
In 1995, Karkoc published his war memoirs in which he confessed for the first time that he was an SS soldier. He did not mention, however, the massacres of his unit. On the other hand, Karkoc admited in the book, for example, that he was with his unit in July 1944, i.e. at the time when they murdered the inhabitants of Chłaniów. In 2015, the Central Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation of the Institute of National Remembrance requested the US Department of Justice to secure and provide Poland with comparative signature enabling Karkoc to be identified. However, they sent samples that were not suitable for graphological analysis, so it was decided to use another method of identification – anthroposcopic photographic analysis, which involved comparative photographic analysis by experts of Mykhaila’s photos from during the war with those of Michael taken after the war.
In November 2016, Kresy.pl made contact with and sought the co-operation of the British Holocaust researcher, retired pharmacologist Dr. Stephen Ankier. He was the first person to document in detail and then to located Michael Karkoc as well as crucially to find his wartime memoirs, after which he shared his thorough findings with the media, initially with AP who then elaborated on Karkoc’s wartime history and entry into the USA. Thanks to a close collaboration with Kresy.pl materials were assembled and forwarded to the Institute of National Remembrance for use in a new method of identification based on the analysis of photographs by experts. Using this technique it was possible to confirm the identity of the alleged Ukrainian criminal who has been living peacefully in the USA for several decades.
Positive identification of Karkoc was also made possible by the testimony of one of his subordinates, Ivan Szarko from 1967-1968, as preserved in the archives of Ukrainian services. He testified that „Wołk” gave the order to attack Chlaniow, and Karkoc openly used this pseudonym during war and in his memoirs. Szarko also reported on the attack, including the surrounding of Polish homes by members of the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, setting them on fire and shooting everyone who was found. According to prosecutor Stephen Paskey, who investigated Nazi cases at the US Department of Justice’s Special Investigation Bureau, the testimony was very credible. In addition, prosecutors Dariusz Antoniak from IPN Lublin and Robert Janicki from the IPN Chief Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation had no doubts about Karkoc’s guilt and pointed out that much strong evidence had been collected which, in their opinion practically guaranteed a conviction.
Dr. Ankier has commented the issue for Kresy.pl.
– We both tried very hard but there seems to have been resistance to him being brought to justice ever since news of his original discovery by me was published by AP in 2013 (my name is now completely written out of that crucial part of story by AP which I think is very wrong… ‘credit where credit is due’ is only fair) and after a request for his extradition was made by the Poles once IPN had confirmed his identity using facial recognition technology (both our names are written out of this part of the story by AP which is also wrong and unfair) – says Dr. Ankier.
– It seems that Temida, also known as Themis (the ancient Greek ‘Lady of Justice’), was beaten to the finishing line by the ‘Grim Reaper’. Justice was denied to millions of innocent victims and that is not uncommon when it comes to World War II war criminals – he says.
– All the evidence shows that Karkoc was a Nazi collaborator who probably believed that he was a laudable Ukrainian patriot fighting against the injustices of Stalin’s Soviet Union and for a free and independent Ukraine but, in the end, he became a merciless common killer of innocent and unarmed civilians. War is a terrible thing and it allows unimaginably wicked criminality to occur – underlines Dr. Ankier. – With the death of Michael Karkoc, so many unanswered questions are left hanging in the air! For example, even 7 years after Karkoc was exposed as an alleged war criminal, why have the Americans not been much more proactive in the pursuit of justice and why have the Polish authorities not been much more strident in demanding urgent action in bringing Karkoc before the courts? Technically, Michael Karkoc has died an ‘innocent’ man with the full facts of the case regrettably not having been tested before a court of law. Did World War II murderers ever give their victims any chance of receiving such justice!
For Polish version, click Here.
[EDIT: Quotes by dr Ankier have been amended in some parts after consultations with him].
AP / Kresy.pl