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Should a 98-year-old Be Sentenced for Previous War Crimes?

By Olivia Pink ’17

Staff Writer


A 98-year-old man from Minnesota has been identified as a former Nazi Commander. Poland, where the war crimes were allegedly committed, has issued a warrant to extradite the man back for trial. Michael Karkoc is accused of being responsible for the liquidation of the Polish village Chlaniow which resulted in the death of dozens of civilians.

If convicted of such war crimes Karkoc could face a life sentence, however, he has been recently deemed “unfit” for trial due to his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Karkoc has lived in the United States since two years after the end of World War II, raised family of four and worked as a construction worker in Minnesota.

The question in this case comes down to if one should play by the rules and deport Karkoc back to Poland or play by one’s emotions and drop the charges knowing that Karkoc is of no threat as a 98-year-old.

While it is a difficult decision, the United States has been built upon an understanding that justice will be served. Within the United States there is also no statute of limitations which means that there is no expiration date for murder. Essentially, there is no time that could elapse that would make the gruesome murder of a Polish village OK and forgivable.

It is safe to say that some people may argue that because he is a U.S citizen, it is the job of the United States to protect Karkoc seeing that he is not physically and mentally able to be put on trial. However, Karkoc had come to the United States under false pretenses. At the time of his stay in the Galician SS, members were prohibited from obtaining a visa that would allow them to settle down in the United States. Allegedly, in 1949, Karkoc entered into the United States by failing to disclose his role as a commander to U.S officials, and instead, listed his profession as a “carpenter.”

Prosecutors have also revealed Karkoc’s personal memoirs written in his native language. Within the pages, Karkoc claims that he joined the German army after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and eventually earned an Iron Cross for bravery.

While Karkoc’s family repeatedly has denied their father’s involvement with the alleged war crimes, claiming that such accusations are “baseless slanders.” However, there have been eyewitnesses from the villages linking Karkoc and his unit to the heinous massacre.

Ultimately, the extradition of Karkoc would not be costing the United States anything and with such hardcore evidence being placed against Karkoc, it does not seem fair to the dozens of victims of his war crimes to let this man be dismissed for trial.

Justice is justice and convicting Karkoc would send a powerful message that these types of crimes will not be taken lightly.