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The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews, Expanded Edition

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He grew up in West Covina, California, outside of Los Angeles and attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where he majored in Political Science. On multiple occasions, HKP 562 loaned trucks and drivers to the SS to transport Jews to Ponary for execution.

Although unable to stop the SS from liquidating the remaining prisoners in July 1944, Plagge managed to warn the prisoners of the imminent arrival of SS killing squads, allowing about 200 to successfully hide from the SS and survive until the Red Army's capture of Vilnius. In the aftermath of the April 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising and an increase in Soviet partisan activity, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, decided to liquidate all Nazi ghettos, regardless of the slave labor they provided to the Wehrmacht's war effort. In a letter shortly before his death in 1958, Plagge told a friend: "I never felt that this needed special courage. Former prisoners of HKP 562 in a displaced person camp in Ludwigsburg told Maria Eichamueller [ who? During the Second World War, he used his position as a staff officer in the German Army to employ and protect Jews in the Vilna Ghetto.Originally a Lutheran, Plagge lost his belief in God because of the atrocities that he witnessed during the Holocaust. He did this by giving working certificates to Jewish men certifying them as essential and skilled workers regardless of their backgrounds.

On 27 March 1944, while Plagge was away on home leave in Germany, the SS carried out a Kinderaktion ("Children Operation"): they entered the camp, rounded up about 250 children and elderly Jews, and took them to Ponary for execution. However, the soldiers under his command and other Wehrmacht officials, including Hans Christian Hingst, the civilian administrator of German-occupied Vilnius, were aware of Plagge's rescue activities and did not denounce him. The SS arrived on July 3, 1944 and took 500 prisoners to the forest of Peneriai where they were killed. When his workers were captured during sweeps, Plagge attempted to free them from Lukiškės Prison before they could be executed at Ponary.During World War II, he used his position as a staff officer in the German Army to employ and protect Jews in the Vilna Ghetto.

He decided it was his duty to try and work against the genocidal regime he unknowingly helped put in to power. Good decides that the saintly Major Plagge must be commemorated, but is hindered by the fact, that none of the people who honor the Major's memory, even know his first name! On July 1st, 1944 Major Plagge entered the camp and as the prisoners gathered around him, he made an informal speech. With an SS officer at his side, he told the inmates that they "will be escorted during this evacuation by the SS, which, as you know, is an organisation devoted to the protection of refugees.The rest of Vilna's Jews were either executed immediately at Ponary or sent to concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe. However, Plagge's collaboration was "arguably a rational choice", because he was able to save more Jews than any other Wehrmacht rescuer in Vilnius. Instead of leaving the party, he attempted to effect change from within, accepting a position as a scientific lecturer and leader of a Nazi educational institute in Darmstadt. Michael Good is a family physician from Durham, CT and the son of two Jewish immigrants from Vilna, Poland.

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