Following the publication of my article about Michael Karcoc, the 94 year old NE Minneapolis resident alleged in Nazi war crimes, two radio stations contacted me for further discussion. My points about restitution over revenge turned a few heads.
In both instances, the hosts questioned my view that we shouldn’t put this man in jail if guilty. On Thursday I joined Mike McFeely on Fargo’s KFGO where he asked: what about the families of victims and honoring the victims themselves? You can listen to the whole conversation below.
Then out of Minneapolis, WCCO radio’s John Williams had me on last Tuesday, the afternoon my piece came out. Though he admitted the “fruitlessness” of jailing an elderly man, he nonetheless thought the idea of not punishing someone for war crimes unreasonable. Below, too, is that interview.
I understand their stance and the problems using this episode as an opportunity to make a stand to say that justice should be about restoration rather than punishment. I think the argument is more compelling when made in cases where a person is punished for something completely accidental.
In 2008, Olga Franco drove into a school bus when she missed a stop sign and killed four students. She’s in prison today. In 2006, Koua Fong Lee was accused of pressing the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, rear-ending a vehicle at a stop light and killing three passengers of that car. This father of four sat in prison for three years. For both these cases, the role of prison was used for nothing more than revenge–to make the perpetrator pay. And unlike the supposed role of the former Nazi, these offenses were completely accidental, admitted even by the prosecution.
But even in this case of the supposed former Nazi there were those who surprised me by offering their own reason for letting the man in NE Minneapolis be.
A caller came on the air after I spoke with Mike McFeely on Fargo’s KFGO. He was an older man whose father was a WWII vet who passed away just last year. The caller recalled being with his dad in his final days and how his father had deep scars and secrets about what he saw and did in the war. He shared that his father was there for the release of concentration camp survivors and took part in famous battles. But he also said his father wouldn’t talk specifics about the difficult actions he took in the name of war, just that he’s had to carry the guilt of battle.
The caller said his dad would empathize with the 94 year man. If guilty, this man has had to live for 60 years with the demons he created for himself, that there are higher authorities to answer to, and so his dad would advocate to leave the man alone.
The topic of how to handle those who’ve committed crimes is fascinating for its relevance to our world, country, state, and city; indicative of who we are a people and species; and intriguing because any two people can see the matter so differently.
I hope these episodes help the conversation of justice move forward.