It would appear that for the past 50 years, a former Nazi commander has been living in Northeast Minneapolis. The man, Michael Karkoc, is “blamed for burning villages filled with women and children”, and “lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States.” It is possible he will be tried, and if he is, only after deportation proceedings, which could take a “year to two years, probably.”
This knowledge has created an interesting debate: What should we do with Mr. Karkoc? He is now 94 years old. Should he be deported and tried for his alleged decades old monstrous crimes? Or, should he be left alone, a harmless old man now, 70 years removed from any atrocities that he may have committed?
Today’s Star Tribune features a letter arguing for leaving Karkoc alone. I wasn’t persuaded by the argument, though I wouldn’t presume to know the proper course of action in a case like this. While I was reading the piece, though, I had a curious realization: we are reaching the point in our history where this debate might never happen again.
Since the end of the Second World War, the search for perpetrators of Nazi crimes has been on. Former Nazis have been found living throughout the world, and with every identification comes a period of public involvement that brings us directly into contact with our history. Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the Great Wars of the 20th century, these things seem like ancient history. But they are not. This man, alive now and here in our community, is alleged to have been directly, personally involved in Nazi war crimes.
Whatever we do with Michael Karkoc, in Minnesota, in the US, in Europe, in deportation proceedings or not, we should take a minute to recognize the fact that we are now dealing directly with our history, reconciling today the horrible events that resulted in millions and millions of deaths 7 decades past and a continent away.
We have not escaped the history of our ancestors. Nor should we attempt to do so.