My father, Michael Karkoc, is not a war criminal

  • Article by: ANDRIJ KARKOC
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 6:11 PM

Here’s what people should know about Michael Karkoc.

Michael Karkoc
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Michael Karkoc

Photo: ., Courtesy St. Paul Pioneer Press

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The Associated Press has wrongly vilified my father, Michael Karkoc, along with Ukrainians and Ukraine’s struggle for self-determination during World War II. It has distorted history to publish sensational, false and inflammatory accusations against a defenseless 94-year-old. Seventy years after the events in question, and almost 65 years after his arrival in America, the AP has appointed itself my father’s prosecutor, judge and jury. Its “verdict” is a lurid accusation of “alleged war-crimes” against an innocent man.

Lemming-like, the Star Tribune has published and repeated AP’s distortions and innuendoes and has transformed my father on its front page into a “former SS officer.”

Ukraine was the bloodiest of all killing fields in the first half of the 20th century. Beginning with World War I, through the Russian Revolution, the Ukrainian War of Independence, the Soviet Communist Terror and ending with the bloodbath of World War II, no other nation has suffered more war and destruction. The death toll during that 30-year period is estimated at between 6 million and 8 million, and that doesn’t include the victims of the Ukrainian Holodomor in 1932-33 — Stalin’s artificial-famine genocide that claimed another 5 million to 7 million innocent lives in Ukraine alone.

In 1921, after 300 years of serfdom under Russian czars and Polish kings, Ukraine was again divided between Polish and Russian imperialists. Michael Karkoc was born in 1919 in a small village in the province of Volyn’. Along with the neighboring province of Galicia, they form Ukraine’s western border. Both came under Polish control.

Nationally conscious Ukrainians were treated as second class citizens there, persecuted for their language, culture and Orthodox religion. My father was 14 when Stalin unleashed his murder by starvation on Ukraine’s peasants. Less than six years later, when Stalin invaded Poland under a “secret” agreement with Hitler, Volyn’ and Galicia were occupied by the Soviet army.

Stalin’s secret police immediately sprang into action with mass arrests, executions and deportations of Ukrainian nationalists, religious leaders and intellectuals, exterminating hundreds of thousands in less than two years. Within months of this “Soviet liberation,” having learned the secret police had issued a warrant for his arrest, Michael Karkoc fled into German-­occupied Poland. Living there among other Ukrainian refugees, he was forcibly conscripted into the German army late in 1940.

In June 1941, the Germans invaded Ukraine. Of the original 4,000 soldiers with whom my father crossed the border into Ukraine, only seven men remained by the end of 1941. My father was one of those seven. During a trip to the city of Kharkiv, a chance meeting changed the course of his life. A Ukrainian family took him to the outskirts of the city where he witnessed the “unimaginable hell on earth” of a German camp for Soviet POWs. Soon after, he deserted from the German army and joined the Ukrainian nationalist underground.

When an informant told the Germans my father had joined the partisans, the Nazis, in reprisal, executed 12 innocent villagers in my father’s native town of Horodok and burned my grandfather’s homestead to the ground.

In 2002, a monument was built in Horodok, with a donation from my father, to honor those 12 victims of Nazi terror.

• • •

Seventy years after those horrific events, the Associated Press “discovered” that Michael Karkoc is still alive and decided to publish its scandalous accusations.

AP obtained a declassified U.S. government document from the National Archives, describing a “secret” policy blacklisting members of the Waffen SS Galicia Division and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists from immigrating to the United States.

Well, it’s not a secret any more. That policy was based on a list of “inimicals” provided to the International Refugee Organization — by the Soviet government! Under yet another “secret” policy agreed to at Yalta, the U.S. and British governments in 1946-47 forcibly repatriated almost 2 million former slave laborers, prisoners of war, partisans and other former Soviet citizens back to the Soviet Union and to their ultimate deaths in Stalin’s concentration camps.

In 1986, based on claims from the Wiesenthal Center that “217 SS Galicia Division war-criminals” were living in Canada, the Canadian Parliament created a Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals. In 1987, the Deschenes Commission completely exonerated the Waffen SS Galicia Division of participation in any war-crimes whatsoever.

In 2005, undeterred by these facts, Dr. ­Stephen Ankier claimed that “200 SS Galicia Division war-criminals” were living in Britain. Eight years later, in 2013, still “searching,” he miraculously found a brand-new (and still living!) SS Galicia Division “war-criminal” in Minnesota.

Ankier, a “retired clinical pharmacologist who took up Nazi war crimes research” — previously known for making unfounded accusations only against Ukrainians in England — is cited as single-handedly inspiring AP’s story. Based on a tip from this Wiesenthal wannabe, the Associated Press launched a frantic worldwide search for proof and, in a stunning development, found the alleged war criminal “hiding” in plain sight.

“It was not clear why Karkoc felt safe publishing his memoir,” AP wrote, “which is available at the U.S. Library of Congress and the British Library and which AP located online in an electronic Ukrainian library.”

It isn’t clear? How about this? He did nothing wrong. He never lied. He’s not afraid of the truth.

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  • ø An undated photo of a young Michael Karkoc.

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Michael Karkoc