BERLIN (AP) — A retired Minnesota carpenter, shown in a June investigation to be a former commander in a Nazi SS-led unit, ordered his men to attack a Polish village that was razed to the ground, according to testimony newly uncovered by The Associated Press. The account of the massacre that killed dozens of women and children contradicts statements by the man's family that he was never at the scene of the 1944 bloodshed.
In June, an AP investigation found that Michael Karkoc entered the U.S. in 1949 by failing to disclose to American authorities his role as a commander in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which is accused of torching villages and killing civilians in Poland. The investigation found that Karkoc was in the area of the massacres, but did not uncover evidence linking him directly to atrocities.
However, a newly unearthed investigative file originally from the Ukrainian intelligence agency's archive reveals that a private under Karkoc's command testified in 1968 that Karkoc ordered the assault on Chlaniow in retaliation for the slaying of an SS major. The major, slain by resistance fighters, led the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, in which Karkoc was a company commander.
A German roster of the unit confirms that Pvt. Ivan Sharko, a Ukrainian, served under Karkoc's command at the time.
An initial order was given by a separate officer, Sharko testified, before Karkoc told his unit to attack the village.
"The command was given by one of the commanders to cordon off the village and prepare for battle," Sharko said, according to the Russian-language investigative file, which bears the stamp of Ukraine's Volyn regional prosecutors' office. "The commander of our company, Wolf, also gave the command to cordon off the village and check all the houses, and to find and punish the partisans." Karkoc fought under the wartime nom de guerre "Wolf," and he wrote a 1995 Ukrainian-language war memoir under both his real name and the pseudonym "Wolf."