The International School for Holocaust Studies
The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews
Reviewed by Dr. Gideon Greif
Fordham University Press, 2005
This is the story of a Major in the German army who managed a workshop repairing military vehicles located in Vilna (today: Vilnius, Lithuania). Hundreds of Jews from the ghetto were employed in this workshop, thus saving them from deportation. Alongside skilled vehicle repairmen were many who were not, yet they were still allowed to reside in special barracks outside the ghetto, together with their families. Plagge managed to prevent their deportation almost to the end of the German occupation of Vilna. Upon parting from his workshop workers, he warned them to expect hardship under the SS rule. In effect, Plagge hinted that they would be better off escaping and many Jews attempted to escape. Some of them managed to reach the forests safely, whereas others were shot and killed.
After the war, Plagge was de-Nazified, being a member of the Nazi Party. Many of the Jews who testified in his favor later cleared him of this charge. Plagge died in the 1970s.
Plagge's story remained virtually unknown and has only come to light through the work of Dr. Good, a Jewish American doctor. Since Good's mother had been among those saved through Plagge's workshop, he decided to research Plagge's story, and over time discovered more survivors in Israel and France. Plagge was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2005.
Of particular interest in this book is the author's personal journey in discovering his mother's story, which led him to eventually conduct research about Plagge.