the national interest

Escaped Nazi War Criminal Found in Minnesota Did Terrible Job of Hiding War Crimes

No memoirs! Maybe write a fanciful play instead or something.

The Associated Press has discovered a Nazi living in Minnesota. Michael Karkoc, 94, lied to American officials about his World War II activities in order to emigrate and actually commanded a notorious SS unit that (as notorious SS units are wont to do) committed numerous war crimes.

How was Karkoc found after so long? He has violated a couple of the most basic tenets of Concealing Your War Crimes. Rule No. 1: Do not write a memoir about your war crimes:

In a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 in collaboration with the Nazis’ feared SS intelligence agency, the SD, to fight on the side of Germany – and served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.

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

The memoir does not detail the crimes themselves, but it does extensively record his service in units whose members are banned from emigrating to the U.S. and about which Karkoc lied in order to enter the country.

And really, what is the cost-benefit calculus of publishing a memoir like that? You’re not going to become the Elizabeth Gilbert of sadistic Ukranian Nazi stooges. The best-case scenario when you’re writing a memoir like that is that nobody reads it. (The corollary to Concealing Your War Crimes rule No. 1: If you must write a memoir about your war crimes, do not publish it.)

Concealing Your War Crimes rule No. 2: Come up with a good cover story. You’ve got the wrong guy! You were a double agent! Something better than this:

Karkoc now lives in a modest house in northeast Minneapolis in an area with a significant Ukrainian population. Even at his advanced age, he came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.

I don’t think I can explain,” he said.

You’ve had 70 years to plan for this scenario and the best line you’ve come up with is “I don’t think I can explain”?

Escaped Nazi Found in Minnesota Bungled Cover-up