MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The news that the former commander of a Nazi SS-led military unit has been living in Minneapolis for decades is an especially startling revelation for people who lived through Nazi persecution.
Many such people still live in Minnesota, where 94-year-old Michael Karkoc has lived a quiet life in the decades since he served in the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion. An AP investigation found that Karkoc lied about his military background when immigrating to the United States.
Sam Rafowitz, 88, of Minnetonka, was 15 when he was taken from his native Warsaw and spent four years in concentration camps. Rafowitz said he believes Karkoc should be put on trial for lying alone. Rafowitz says he hasn’t forgotten the misery of his imprisonment despite it being some 70 years ago.
Ninety-two-year-old Margot DeWilde survived Auschwitz.
“It is as big a question what to do with him as what he did,” DeWilde said.
The prisoner ID tattoo she got on her left forearm when she arrived at the concentration camp 70 years ago – which reads “47574” – has not faded, and neither has her memories about her time there.
She believes Karkoc re-lives every day what he did all those years ago.
“I think nature doesn’t leave you in peace,” she said. “I can’t believe that somebody who does really bad things can act…with a clean conscious.”
Many are calling for Karkoc to be denaturalized by the Justice department and deported to face charges. But DeWilde says that she can’t hold hate in her heart.
“I’m angry but I don’t hate because that’s why I’m still alive. Hate falls back on the person who hates – not on the ones you hate,” she said.
DeWilde says there are other ways to deal with a man who may have contributed to one of the worst genocides in history.
“I would like to put him some place where he’d see the same situations as we are and just let him rot in his own conscious,” she said.
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