A Nazi In Minnesota: A Re-examination Of Justice

The allegation that a man in Northeast Minneapolis was a murdering Nazi has received national attention. It has also polarized the public’s response.

The case is “perfect” for doing so. Michael Karkoc is 94 and obviously no longer a threat. Thus, many are saying, “Leave him alone”. But those demanding that he stand trial feel secure in their principled stance. According to the records and testimony, he was a Nazi soldier who may have had a hand in the murdering of many civilians. To them, his age is as arbitrary a factor no different than if he was rich, poor, female, young, short, tall. There’s no magic age where you no longer have to face justice, so whether he’s 94, 72, 22, or 122, he needs to do so for what he allegedly did.

Perhaps those who maintain this principled stance on justice look to those who say, “Leave him alone” as lacking principle, as going soft, as losing their sense of justice because they lack conviction. But the question I have for those who wish to have him stand trial is: what is your definition of justice?

Karkoc’s exaggerated age provides a peripheral look at popular notions of justice…

Read the rest of the commentary published in this morning’s Star Tribune.




3 Responses

  1. edmund burke

    Justice is the administration of law; the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity. Is it fair or reasonable that this man, if guilty of that which he is accused, should be left alone, or should he be held accountable under law? You say leave him alone because at age 94, it makes no difference to go after him. Law and equity are normative processes. Normative properties depend only on consequences. Consequentialism about the moral rightness of acts holds that whether an act is morally right depends only on the consequences of that act or of something related to that act, such as the motive behind the act or a general rule requiring acts of the same kind. To leave this man alone simply due to his advanced age, or the time that has lapsed since his alleged crimes, nullifies the very concepts this country has made into normative processes. You seem to believe one morally ought to do an act if and only if that act maximizes desire satisfaction or preference fulfillment, regardless of whether the act causes sensations of pleasure, in this case, revenge. That’s preference utilitarianism and irrelevant to our system of justice. Our system is based on the utilitarianism of rights, under which nobody is ever justified in violating rights for the sake of happiness or any value other than rights, although it would still allow some rights violations in order to avoid or prevent other rights violations. Do you see the difference? You are off the track here. There is no such thing as freedom without responsibility. To preserve freedom, we must respect the rights we hold as inalienable and sacred, among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This man stands accused of depriving a significant number of human beings of all these rights. How is it fair or reasonable to excuse him due to his age without sacrificing what the law is established to preserve, the value of human lives?

  2. ann b.

    After five days of pondering this–the first five feeling only compassion–I have come around to seeing this situation as Edmund Burke reasons above. Beyond the alleged war crimes, if this is the same person, his confidence in not only emigrating under false pretenses but then to write about it fifty years later, betrays someone who not only lacks remorse, but exhibits pride in past deeds.

    Even if restorative justice is the goal, it seems to me that such a person needs to be given feedback (to put it mildly) that what he did is not to be glorified. War is hell. None of it should be glorified.

What say you?