A Minneapolis carpenter whom the Associated Press exposed as a former Nazi commander — a charge his family fiercely denied — has died.
According to a Hennepin County, Minnesota, death certificate, Michael Karkoc died last month in a nursing home at age 100.
The Ukrainian-born Karkoc came to the United States after World War II in 1949 and led a modest life, working as a carpenter and worshipping at a Ukrainian Orthodox church.
A 2013 Associated Press investigation concluded that Karkoc commanded a Nazi-led Ukrainian military unit accused of committing atrocities against Polish civilians in 1944. Dozens of women and children were among the victims. The AP said Karkoc concealed his wartime activities from U.S. immigration officials.
The AP said it relied on interviews, Nazi documents, and U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence files. It also looked at Karkoc’s own memoirs where he said he was a founder of what he called the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion — a group that collaborated with the Nazi SS to stave off communist forces.
German prosecutors declined to extradite Karkoc, citing his age. But Polish prosecutors say a suspected Nazi war criminal’s age is no barrier to punishment. They announced in 2017 they would seek his arrest and extradition from the United States.
Karkoc’s son strongly denied his father was a war criminal, calling him a Ukrainian patriot who fought to free Ukraine of both Nazi and communist rule. Andrij Karkoc called the AP report “evil, fabricated, intolerable and malicious.”
But the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, said he regrets U.S. and Polish officials did not move fast enough to put Karkoc on trial.
“He didn’t deserve the privilege of living in a great democracy like the United States,” Zuroff said.