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Minnesota Nazi: How did Nazi hunters miss Michael Karkoc? (+video)

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The question of how Karkoc was able to settle comfortably in the US – at one point appearing on the cover of a union magazine – also touches on the complex legacy of the US government “Nazi hunters” who zeroed in on hundreds of  Nazi collaborators – from death camp guards-turned-New York housewives to the inventor of the Saturn V rocket – and whose work was hampered by political and moral questions, as well as by the difficulty of sifting through partial postwar documents, many of them hidden behind the Iron Curtain.

Before being merged with another Justice Department unit in 2006, the so-called Office of Special Investigations, which opened in 1979 after a series of sensational media stories about Nazis living in the US, located 300 Nazis either in the US or trying to enter the country.

Yet a report issued by the Justice Department in 2010 hints at how Nazis may have remained under the radar. At one point, as many as 10,000 were believed to be living in the US, some under CIA cover, according to the government report “Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust.”

“There is enormous difficultly in marshaling the evidence for these prosecutions, many subjects died before investigation was complete, the cases take years to litigate to completion, and the office is small,” the report stated. “‘Nazi hunting’ so many years after the war is dramatic, tedious and difficult.”

The office also made its share of mistakes, including bungling its case against John Demjanjuk, a retired US autoworker who was falsely identified as "Ivan the Terrible," a notably cruel Treblinka guard whose duties included operating the motors that powered gas chambers.

Mr. Demjanjuk was later convicted in Germany in 2011 for contributing to the death of thousands of Jews during World War II.

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