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, which was razed, according to testimony newly uncovered by the Associated Press. The account of the massacre, which killed dozens of women and children, contradicts statements by the man’s family that he was never at the scene of the 1944 bloodshed.

The June investigation by AP prompted official investigations in Poland and Germany. On Monday, the prosecutor leading Germany’s probe revealed that he will recommend that state prosecutors pursue murder charges against 94-year-old Michael Karkoc.

Thomas Will, the deputy head of the special prosecutor’s office that investigates Nazi crimes, said he had made his decision even before seeing the new testimony that Karkoc ordered his unit to attack the Polish village of Chlaniow.

AP’s initial investigation found that Karkoc entered the United States in 1949 without disclosing 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.

A newly unearthed investigative file 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, killed 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.

Karkoc’s son and family spokesman, Andriy Karkos, has denied that his father was involved in the Chlaniow incident or any other possible war crime.

“There is no record that Karkoc had a hand in any war crimes,” Karkos wrote. “He did nothing wrong. He never lied. He’s not afraid of the truth.”

Germany has in recent years taken the position that people suspected of Nazi crimes must be prosecuted, no matter how old or infirm, as it did in the case of retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died last year at age 91 while appealing his conviction as a guard at the Sobibor death camp.

— Associated Press