A family is prepared to defend their kin after an Associated Press report identified a Minneapolis man as the commander of a Nazi-led military unit from World War II.
The AP investigation alleges that 94-year-old Michael Karkoc, who has lived in Minneapolis for six decades, served as a top commander of the Nazi SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion during World War II.
Karkoc's son made a statement Friday night strongly denying the AP's report.
"Their slander cannot hope to besmirch my father's character. It only serves to damage and discredit the AP's credibility," Andrij Karkos said. "Our family will give the Associated Press an opportunity to retract and withdraw their sensationalistic and scandalous allegations."
Yet, it remains to be seen whether authorities will revoke Michael Karkoc's U.S. citizenship and allow him to be extradited to Europe to face war crime charges.
When he came to the U.S. in 1949, Karkoc told U.S. authorities he performed no military service in World War II. If he's found guilty of lying on his immigration papers, he could be deported; however, the process could take years. Given his age, the process may not finish during the course of his life.
The unit Karkoc allegedly helped lead is accused of burning villages, massacring civilians and taking part in the response to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis suppressed a Polish rebellion aimed at liberating Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The exact amount of casualties is unknown, but Polish civilian deaths from the uprising are estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000.
"The city must completely disappear from the surface of the Earth and serve only as a transport station for the [armed forces of Germany]. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation." – SS chief Heinrich Himmler during an SS officers conference on the planned destruction of Warsaw
Polish prosecutors announced Friday they will investigate Karkoc and provide "every possible assistance" to the Department of Justice.
German authorities also say they're interested in potentially prosecuting him, but family members insist there is nothing to convict him on.
"My father was never a Nazi. As for the rest of AP's story, its allegation, hearsay, implication, association or conjecture, but notably lacking in truth or evidence. Until we have had the opportunity to obtain documents via the Freedom of Information Act and had a chance to review witnesses and sources, the Karkoc family will have no further comments," Karkos said.