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Mich. man accused of shooting Jews in WWII

An 88-year-old man in the U.S. who is now the subject of a criminal investigation in Poland into allegations he shot Jews during World War II insists he did nothing wrong.
Poland Nazi Officer
John Kalymon lost his U.S. citizenship in 2007 after a federal judge ruled his two years in the Ukrainian police during World War II resulted in the persecution of civilians.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

An 88-year-old man in the U.S. who is now the subject of a criminal investigation in Poland into allegations he shot Jews while working in a Nazi-controlled police unit during World War II insists he did nothing wrong.

Polish officials are investigating what happened nearly 70 years ago in what is now the Ukrainian city of Lviv. The U.S. Justice Department has also agreed to help by questioning John Kalymon about murder, death camps and other atrocities against Jews there in 1942.

"I don't feel guilty," the white-haired retired auto engineer told The Associated Press during a brief visit Monday to his suburban Detroit home.

His lawyer is resisting the investigation.

"He guarded a stack of coal from looters. He didn't expend any rounds of ammunition and didn't commit any atrocities," Elias Xenos said of his client's work for the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police when Kalymon was in his early 20s. "He's disappointed that one or more governments are still trying to pursue him based on flimsy evidence."

The U.S. government became aware of Kalymon after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. World War II-era archives that had been inaccessible revealed people who may have concealed their Axis allegiance when they entered the United States decades ago.

'Displaced person'
Kalymon entered the United States in 1949 after being classified as a "displaced person" following the war. He said he lied about his police work because he feared being sent to the Soviet Union. Kalymon became a U.S. citizen in 1955 and worked as an engineer at Chrysler.

In 2007, after a civil trial, a federal judge in Detroit stripped Kalymon of his U.S. citizenship, saying his two years in the Ukrainian police resulted in the persecution of civilians.

The government produced a handwritten document in which "Iv Kalymun" reported firing four shots, killing one Jew and injuring another.

Kalymon admits he spelled his last name both ways when he was a young man but says he did not go by "Kalymun" when he was a Ukrainian officer. He denied shooting Jews and claimed the record was a forgery.

He was born Jan Kalymun in Poland. Kalymon has acknowledged that 'Ivan' or 'Iv' was the equivalent of Jan or John in Slavic languages.

Lviv was part of Poland until 1939. In May, the Justice Department disclosed that Poland's Commission for Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation wanted U.S. prosecutors to interview Kalymon.

The commission's questions are numerous: Where was the Jewish ghetto located in 1942? Who was the commander? Did Kalymon witness murders? If so, how many and who were the killers? Can he remember the names of other officers?

In Poland, prosecutor Grzegorz Malisiewicz said the commission was investigating the role of Ukrainian police in the deaths of Jews.

"The crimes include murder of at least 39 Jews and attempted murder of another 17 Jews, detaining and bringing to a gathering point at least 3,458 Jews and convoying an unspecified number" to a labor camp, Malisiewicz said.

Physical problems
He declined to say whether Poland wants to file charges against Kalymon. A Justice Department spokeswoman, Laura Sweeney, said she was not aware of other pending court cases in which the government is helping Poland with a war crimes investigation.

Xenos, Kalymon's lawyer, said he would ask U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani to quash a subpoena for his client's testimony. If that fails, Kalymon has a right under Polish law to remain silent.

Kalymon told the AP he has physical problems and can't walk without assistance. "I'm forgetting a lot of things. I let my lawyer handle all this," he said, declining further comment.

His wife said Kalymon has told her that his best friends in Europe were Jews.

"They're accusing him of murder — it's not true," said Luba Kalymon, 83. "Is he worried? Who wouldn't be?"