On April 11, 2005, in Jerusalem, Karl Plagge will be named a "Righteous Among the Nations" hero by the State of Israel. He joins Oskar Schindler and some three hundred eighty other similarly honored Germans who protected and saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Karl Plagge's story is of a unique kind of courage--that of a German army officer who subverted the system of death to save the lives of some 250 Jews in Vilna, Lithuania. One of those he saved was Michael Good's mother.
Haunted by his mother's stories of the mysterious officer who commanded her slave labor camp, Michael Good resolved to find out all he could about the enigmatic "Major Plagge." For five years, he wrote hundreds of letters and scoured the Internet to recover, in one hard-earned bit of evidence after another, information about the man whose moral choices saved hundreds of lives. This unforgettable book is the first portrait of a modest man who simply refused to play by the rules.
Interviewing camp survivors, opening German files untouched for more than fifty years, and translating newly discovered letters, Good weaves an amazing tale. An engineer from Darmstadt, Plagge joined, and then left, the Nazi Party. In Vilna, in whose teeming ghetto tens of thousands of Jews faced extermination, he found himself in charge of a camp where military vehicles were repaired. Time after time, he saved Jews from prison, SS death squads, and the ghetto by issuing them work permits as "indispensable" laborers essential to the war effort.
Karl Plagge never considered himself a hero, describing himself as a fellow traveler for not doing more to fight the regime. He said that he saved Jews--and others-- because "I thought it was my duty." This book also reminds us of the many ways human beings can resist evil. "There are always some people," Pearl Good said of the man who saved her life when he didn't have to, "who decide that the horror is not to be."
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Fordham University Press
September 30, 2006
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