Mikhail Gorshkow

02.04.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Mikhail Gorshkow, an ethnic Russian born in 1923 in Estonia, was a former interpreter and interrogator for the Gestapo in Minsk.

Alleged to have been an interrogator for the Gestapo, he was accused of involvement in the murder of about 3,000 men, women and children in the Jewish ghetto of the city of Slutsk, in Belarus in 1943. Three thousand men, women and children were shot to death or burned alive when the Nazis set fire to the ghetto and prevented Jews from leaving. In addition to Gorshkow’s participation in the mass killings at Slutsk, he was suspected of having helped interrogate political prisoners and of having participated in so-called “anti-partisan” operations involving the torture, deportation, and murder of thousands of civilians.

Around 1,000 Estonian Jews were killed during the German occupation of Belarus, and more than 4,000 Jews and others were brought to the country and murdered.

In 1951, Gorshkow immigrated to the United States from Germany. He became a United States citizen in 1963. The United States revoked Gorshkow’s citizenship on 31 July 2002, because he had allegedly obtained it illegally by lying about his wartime past. He was later extradited to Estonia, where state officials opened an investigation into Gorshkow’s alleged participation in Nazi war crimes in Belarus.

legal procedure

In 1951, Gorshkow emigrated to the United States from Germany. He became a United States citizen in 1963. The United States revoked Gorshkow’s citizenship on 31 July 2002, because he had allegedly obtained it illegally by lying about his wartime past.

After the state of Florida stripped Gorshkow of his US citizenship for concealing his Nazi past, Gorshkow returned to Estonia. The United States could not prosecute him for alleged war crimes because they occurred outside American jurisdiction. The most severe punishment that could be enforced was extradition for lying about his alleged involvement in crimes during the Second World War.

On the basis of the evidence provided by the United States Department of Justice in 2003, the Attorney General of the Republic of Estonia opened an investigation into Gorshkow’s alleged participation in war crimes in the Slutsk ghetto of Belarus in 1943.

This investigation was closed, however, in October 2011 due to inconclusive evidence. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, the possibility that more than one person with the surname Gorshkow collaborated with the Nazis could not be eliminated beyond any reasonable doubt. Thus there may have been an exchange of persons due to a “mistaken identity”. Prosecutors have reported that there has been insufficient evidence to bring charges against anyone.

Gorshokow died in 2013.


Following the end of investigations, a report by the Wiesenthal Centre categorized Estonia, along with Austria, Canada, Lithuania and the Ukraine, as countries that have failed to probe and prosecute suspected Nazis “primarily due to the absence of political will to proceed and/or a lack of the requisite resources and/or expertise”. The Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, citing the case of alleged Nazi Mikhail Gorshkow, the only one in Estonia being investigated at the time, observed: “Unfortunately there are no documents and it’s very difficult to investigate.”


After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.