BERLIN (AP) — A retired Minnesota carpenter, shown in a June investigation to be a former commander in a Nazi SS-led unit, ordered his men to attack a Polish village that was razed to the ground, according to testimony newly uncovered by The Associated Press. The account of the massacre that killed dozens of women and children contradicts statements by the man’s family that he was never at the scene of the 1944 bloodshed.
The June story prompted official investigations in both Poland and Germany. Yesterday, the prosecutor leading Germany’s probe revealed to the AP that he has decided to recommend that state prosecutors pursue murder charges against 94-year-old Michael Karkoc.
Thomas Will, the deputy head of the special prosecutors’ office that investigates Nazi crimes, said he had made his decision even before seeing the new testimony that Karkoc ordered his unit to attack the Polish village of Chlaniow. “We have determined the requirements for murder charges are there,” said Will.
AP’s initial investigation found that Karkoc entered the U.S. in 1949 by failing to disclose to American authorities his role as a commander in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which is accused of torching villages and killing civilians in Poland. The investigation found that Karkoc was in the area of the massacres, but did not uncover evidence linking him directly to atrocities.
However, a newly unearthed investigative file originally from the Ukrainian intelligence agency’s archive reveals that a private under Karkoc’s command testified in 1968 that Karkoc ordered the assault on Chlaniow in retaliation for the slaying of an SS major.
The major, slain by resistance fighters, led the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, in which Karkoc was a company commander.
A German roster of the unit confirms that Pvt. Ivan Sharko, a Ukrainian, served under Karkoc’s command at the time.