Son of Minnesota man, 98, accused of Nazi war crimes, calls for release of evidence

(JTA) – The son of a Minnesota man, 98, accused by a police court of Nazi war crimes, has called for the evidence against his father to be released.

Andriy Karkoc, son of the Minnesota man first identified by the Associated Press as Michael Karkoc, called on Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, the two Democratic senators from Minnesota, to intervene in his father’s case “on legal and humanitarian grounds” and to investigate the source of the evidence against him, the AP reported Saturday. Andriy Karkoc reportedly says the evidence was fabricated by Russian intelligence.

The arrest warrant issued Wednesday by the regional court in Lublin is the first step toward requesting the extradition of Michael Karkoc, The Associated Press reported.

“My father was, is, and remains an innocent man,” his son said Saturday.

Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance–Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation said in a statement on its website that Michael Karkoc was one of the commanders of the SS Galicia Division, also known as the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, a unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians during World War II. He is accused of playing a role in the murders of civilians in the villages of Chłaniow and Kolonia Władysławin in July 1944.

He did not mention his Nazi past when he entered the United States in 1949, which would have prevented him from entering the country, the AP reported.

Andriy Karkoc said his father served “honorably” with the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, and that he cannot be judged by the actions of other people in the unit.

Michael Karkoc now lives in a nursing home in Minneapolis, according to The New York Times. Its report cited family members as saying that he is innocent of the charges, and that he has dementia and is not fit to stand trial.

In a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Michael Karkoc said he helped found the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion in 1943 in collaboration with Nazi officers to fight on behalf of Germany and against the Soviet Union, The New York Times reported.

He must appear in court in Poland since the country does not recognize trial in absentia, according to the AP.

The Associated Press said that it stands by its reporting of Michael Karkoc.

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Minnesota man accused of Nazi war crimes

A Polish prosecutor announced Monday the filing of a warrant to extradite a Minnesota man accused of committing war crimes for the Nazis during WWII.

Ninety-eight-year-old Michael Karkoc is accused of ordering the burning of a village full of women and children while serving as a Nazi Schutzstaffel — commonly referred to as the SS — commander during the war.

Prosecutor Robert Janicki said on Monday that there is evidence Karkoc was responsible for the death of 44 Poles in that and possibly other attacks during WWII, the Chicago Tribune reported.   

Though it is unclear when this particular village was ravaged, it was the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 that started WWII. Karkoc would have been 20 years old around that time.

He and his family maintain that Karkoc has done nothing wrong, and is unable to defend himself, the Associated Press reported.

In 2015, the German government reportedly halted its own investigation into the matter after determining Karkoc was unfit for trial.

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Associated Press that an independent assessment of Karkoc should be conducted to determine whether he is well enough to stand trial.

“It’s high time that the Poles became more active seeking people who committed crimes in WWII on Polish soil,” Zuroff told the AP, adding Karkoc’s extradition and others would send “a very powerful message.”

According to a 2015 Wiesenthal Center report written by Zuroff, in the past 14 years there have been at least 102 convictions of Nazi war criminals, some 98 new indictments filed and more than 3,500 new investigations launched.

In 2013, the Jewish human rights organization called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into Karkoc, “who is suspected of being a Ukrainian SS commandant who concealed his wartime record in order to enter the U.S. after WWII.”

Poland recently published a database containing the names of some 200 concentration camp guards online, according to German news organization Deutsche Welle reported.

Some six million jews were killed during the Nazi party’s reign over Germany, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum