LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Jewish human rights organization in Los Angeles has called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate a 94-year-old Minnesota man accused of previously being a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit, which burned villages filled with women and children.
Michael Karkoc, who lives in a Ukrainian neighborhood in Minneapolis, was a lieutenant in the Nazi SS Galician Division, which was a driving force in the crackdown on the Warsaw Uprising during World War II, according to the Associated Press.
The AP investigation also accused Karkoc’s SS-led unit, on another occasion, of massacring innocent civilians in an attack on a village in Poland.
In 1949, Karkoc lied about his background to U.S. immigration officials in order to get into the country. He later became an American citizen.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told KCAL9’s Dave Bryan that the charges demand a full and complete investigation of Karkoc and, if justified, he should be brought to trial.
“We have asked the Justice Department to vigorously investigate this now. These are very serious charges,” he said.
Hier said the fact that Karkoc is 94 years old should not give him a free pass.
“Most of these people lived out their lives. They enjoyed their children and grandchildren. They attended all of their weddings and all of their joyous occasions. While their victims were cut off in the prime of their life, sometimes in their pre-teens, sometimes as infants. We have a moral obligation. I use my compassion on the victims, not on the perpetrators or alleged perpetrators,” he said.
Karkoc’s neighbors, however, said it’s hard to believe the man they’ve known for decades could have participated in such Nazi brutality.
“He seems like a nice guy. I’ll have to wait to see if it’s true,” said a man.
“He talked about the lawns, and what he does, he’s very handy. He’s a very active man at his age,” said another neighbor.
Polish prosecutors have announced that they will investigate Karkoc.