Karl Plagge

karl plagge

Karl Plagge (Yad Vashem)

Karl Plagge was born on July 10, 1897, in Darmstadt. A partially disabled veteran of the First World War, Plagge studied engineering and joined the Nazi Party in 1931. He wanted to be part of helping Germany to re-build from the economic collapse following the war. After being dismissed from the position of lecturer, for being unwilling to teach racisim, and his opposition to the Nazi policy against the Jews, he stopped participating in Nazi Party activities in 1935, and four years later when the Second World War broke out, he left the Nazi Party.

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. At first, Plagge employed Jews who lived inside the ghetto, but when it was due to be liquidated in September 1943, he set up the HKP 562, forced labour camp, where he saved many male Jews, by issuing them official work permits, on the false premise, that their holders skills were vital for the German war effort, and also their wives and children, by claiming they would work better, if their families were alive.

hkp vilnius prima

HKP 562 - Wartime Photo of Main Workshop and Headquarters

The HKP (Heeres Kraftfahr Park) was a Wehrmacht military unit that was responsible for the repair of Wehrmacht vehicles. The main HKP 562, works, with its large vehicle repair workshops and its spare part department, as well as the HKP headquarters were located in the eastern outskirts of Vilnius. The HKP 562 also supervised 16 other vehicle workshops which were located in Vilnius and its surrounding area.

The HKP headquarters were located on Olandu Street, opposite the entrance to the main HKP workshops. The HKP Panzerwerke workshops were located on Valkovsky Street. A third large workshop was at the former bus depot on Legionowa Street. The Jewish forced labourers were housed in two pre-war blocks built in 1904, on Subocz Street, which was about 1.3 km from the main HKP workshops.

In September 1943, Karl Plagge managed to evacuate over 1,000 of his HKP workers and their families from the ghetto to hastily installed workshops at the two housing blocks on Subocz Street.

Although unable to stop the SS from liquidating the remaining prisoners in July 1944, Plagge managed to warn the prisoners in advance, allowing about 200 to hide from the SS and survive until the Red Army's capture of Vilnius. Of a pre-war Jewish population in Vilnius, only 2,000 survived, of which the largest single group, were saved by Plagge.


HKP 562 - Workshops

Karl Plagge was tried before an Allied de-nazification court in 1947, which accepted his plea to be classified as a 'fellow traveler' of the Nazi Party, whose rescue activities were undertaken for humanitarian reasons, rather than overt opposition to Nazism. Survivors he rescued testified on his behalf.

Plagge passed away on June 19, 1957, in Darmstadt. In 2005, following two unsuccessful petitions, the Holocaust Institution of Yad Vashem, recognized Karl Plagge, as a 'Righteous Among the Nations.'


Wikipedia online resource

www.deathcamps.org online resource

Photographs - Yad Vashem , Vilnius, Lt

Holocaust Historical Society July 29, 2022