Prosecutors in Germany may be ready to file charges against a Minneapolis man accused of being a Nazi war criminal amid new evidence the 94-year-old may have ordered the massacre of an entire village.
Michael Karkoc admits he was in the Ukranian unit that did collaborate with the Nazi's, but direct evidence connecting him to alleged war crimes has been missing. Now, that may have changed.
The Associated Press is now reporting new testimony connects Karkoc directly to the massacre at the Polish village of Chlaniow. At the time, Karkoc was a commander of the Ukranian Self-Defense Legion and went by the name of "Wolf."
Pvt. Ivan Sharko served under Karkoc, and said although the initial order was given by a separate officer, Karkoc told his unit to attack the village.
"The command was given by one of the commanders to cordon off the village and prepare for battle," Sharko said, according to the Russian-language investigative file, which bears the stamp of Ukraine's Volyn regional prosecutors' office. "The commander of our company, Wolf, also gave the command to cordon off the village and check all the houses, and to find and punish the partisans."
Karkoc fought under the wartime nom de guerre "Wolf," and he wrote a 1995 Ukrainian-language war memoir under both his real name and the pseudonym "Wolf."
"This new evidence from the Soviet Union is very important," University of Ottawa professor Ivan Katchanovski, an expert on Karkoc's unit, told Fox 9 News. "It looks credible. It shows that Karkoc was involved."
Katchanovski admits the history is complicated. The Ukrainians had allied with the Nazis to fight the Russians -- the enemy of their enemy. Katchanovski says Ukrainians tend to have a collective amnesia when it comes to that period, even to this day.
"When I went to Ukraine, there was a high school I attended," he explained. "It was a place where this legion is based and executions took place -- no memory of this."
Although people no longer stop and stare at Karkoc's home in northeast Minneapolis, where the American flag flies in the front yard, few have seen Karkoc since this summer. That's when the Associated Press identified him as a Nazi war criminal -- a claim his family contests.
"My father was never a Nazi," Andrij Karkos said in June. "As for the rest of AP's story, its allegation, hearsay, implication, association or conjecture, but notably lacking in truth or evidence."
It is remotely possible that retired carpenter could be extradited to face the murder charges that may be filed soon -- but it is unlikely due to his advanced age. In the last 34 years, the Justice Department has filed deportation papers against 137 suspected Nazis, but only 66 left the country either voluntarily or through deportation or extradition.
Furthermore, cases like these tend to drag on for years, if not decades. At least 20 died while cases were pending, and another 20 were either too sick or too old to pursue the cases.