WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A former top Nazi commander has been living in the United States for decades.
And now an international investigation is getting under way. The 94-year-old allegedly lied to get into America, and then fooled all of his neighbors in Minnesota, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported Friday.
In a photograph he looks like the very image of a European immigrant living the American dream. There is no hint that the man living in the modest home in Minneapolis may have been commander of a murderous Nazi SS unit during World War II.
Michael Karkoc may have been undone, in part, by own sense of comfort and safety here in the U.S.
“He thinks this is going to go away. He published a memoir! Why would he publish a memoir? It’s in the Library of Congress and it was just found by accident because someone was looking for him and did a Google search and found him in Minnesota. He has to explain this,” said Millie Jasper of the Holocaust Information Center in White Plains.
The 94-year-old Ukrainian immigrant claimed to have avoided the military when he applied for residency in 1949 but admitted to running the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion in his memoir — a unit tied to war crimes, including suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
His neighbors on Friday tried hard to make sense of it.
“Average G.I. Joe old timer, you know what I mean? As far as I know, just a nice guy, retired from a business of some sort. And, don’t bother anybody,” neighbor Gordon Gnasdoskey said.
“He seems like a nice guy, and I don’t know; I’ll have to wait and see if it’s true,” added David Thornely.
Here in New York, people marveled at the amount of time that’s passed.
“I was surprised. I mean you know many of them are dying off, but I’m glad that people had the strength and fortitude to keep searching and looking,” Margo Lampert of New Rochelle.
The people at the Simon Wiesenthal Center said it’s a task that seeks to keep the truth from being buried.
“It’s about the future; it’s about people understanding that genocide is unacceptable. And just because you’ve been hiding some place for 60 years doesn’t make it okay,” Rabbi Stephen Burg said.
As CBS 2′s Dave Carlin reported, relationship expert and author Lisa Brateman said while it is not known what his wife and sons knew she said she believes Karkoc may have successfully fooled his family by fooling himself, living in a state of denial.
“First of all, he betrayed mankind and he betrayed everyone he’s met after that,” Brateman said. “That was the past to him and like so many other work criminals — I was just doing my job.”
Just as there are Nazis still alive, so are many of their victims. Stefan Weinberg lost his whole family — buried his own mother — at a death camp in Germany and wants nothing from the man in Minnesota but an accounting and a small measure of justice — certainly not revenge.
“If he can still walk I would put him in a prison and let him live his life in jail and let him say what he did,” Weinberg said.” But I would ask you one question. Would you hang a 95-year-old man? I couldn’t,” Weinberg said.
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