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					Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                   JF May 2003
                                                                                                       1

Joerg G. Fiebelkorn

Karl Plagge - Letters of a Conflict
A report based on the documents from HKP 562, published by the Vilna Jewish Museum, on the de-
nazification trial of Karl Plagge and survivors memoirs.




Foreword

Having experienced the end of WW II and the years after as a child, with growing curiosity
to history in my school-days, I became deeply interested in military history when I joined the
Federal Armed Forces of Germany in 1962. All the senior officers then had served in Hitler's
Wehrmacht and there was always the question what they had suffered, done or seen at that
time. Some of them had served with the "Waffen SS" - the front-line formations of the SS.
Catchwords like "Oradour" and "Partisan War" could not be avoided. After 25 years of service
at numerous (General Staff-) appointments I retired and started a private business.


It was coincidence, which brought me into contact with the history of Karl Plagge1, Major in
the Wehrmacht and commandant of a vehicle repair unit - HKP 562 - in Vilna from 1941 to
1944. I cannot remember any time I have looked through lists of names and dates with such
fascination as it happened to me when I got the "New documents" about the Heeres Kraft-
fahr Park 562, 1943 - 1944 from Irina Guzenberg in Vilna into my hands. Although there are
only three letters from February 1944, a work report of March 1944 and otherwise nothing
but lists (mainly roll-calls and name lists 1943 - 44), the compendium reveals a lot about the
circumstances at HKP. Until then there were the memoirs of the few survivors, letters, which
Karl Plagge - the commandant of HKP 562 - had written after the war and there were the
declarations of the witnesses at Karl Plagge's denazification trial, but no original document of
the HKP.
Out of the letters and lists arose several questions and looking through the hundreds of e-
mails that have been exchanged within the Plagge group2 and led by the questions, things
became clearer to me. The arguments for the description of what had happened around the
three letters became all the way better.




1
 Michael D. Good: "The Search for Major Plagge", available at www.hometown.aol.com//michaeldg/
2
 "The Plagge Group" was initiated by Michael D. Good, the son of the survivors of HKP 562 William
and Pearl Good. Via internet in the group survivors and people interested in the fate of Karl Plagge
came together. All group members contributed in one or the other way to the research on HKP 562
and Major Plagge.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                               JF May 2003
                                                                                                 2

It is my aim to describe the other level of the story, which was not visible to the survivors.
It is said at many occasions that there were the questions of Plagge's role and motivation in
running HKP 562 different to other slave labour camps, which of course could only be sug-
gested or derived from secondary sources. Of the survivors we have the extensive memoirs
of Samuel Esterovicz and his daughter Pearl and many personal tales, which reflect of course
a very personal view of what had happened in the camp at Subocz street. The file of
Plagge's denazification trial in 1947 reflects the view on the HKP 562 by witnesses in a situa-
tion, where one righteously could have doubts about the "complete" truth in the declara-
tions. I also had my reservation about the motifs of the witnesses at the trial. But now the
new documents give a direct (although limited) insight into what was going on in Vilna be-
tween Wehrmacht and SS and what were the reasons for Plagge's organization of HKP. After
examination of the new documents I am convinced that in fact from 1943 onwards, with
setting up the Subocz street camp, Major Plagge had to fight for the life of as many haunted
as possible - men, women and children - and all he fought for, was to protect "his" labour-
ers. His arms were administrational tricks (as other than happened in many other cases, he
could not bribe the overall corrupt SS - aside of possibly some furniture and furs). The shield
he used was the meticulously set up organization.


Anyone who played against the SS was in personal danger on the long run - even generals
of the Wehrmacht were not safe before the revenge of the SS and Nazis (Major General Lin-
demann, wanted for participation in the plot on Hitler on 20th July 1944, was shot by the SS
in the Berlin flat of my mothers godfather). Therefore I have compiled the documents of the
Vilna museum with materials collected by the Plagge group to draw an image, which might
enlighten Karl Plagge's actions and his motivation.
Quite often my arguments are supported by citing of the enormous e-mail correspondence in
the "Plagge Group". All mails - far more that 1,000 - are to be found at the archive of Dr.
Marianne Viefhaus - TU Darmstadt.
26/05/03


Background

The history of the Jews of Vilna and their fate under the Nazi rule is documented by the Jew-
ish Museum in Vilna and published aside many others by Irina Guzenberg.

In autumn 1943 the majority of the Vilna Jews had been killed, when the two Ghettos were
"dissolved" and only those Jews survived who could gain employment for the Wehrmacht.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                      JF May 2003
                                                                                                        3

September 1943

        "At disbandment of the Jewish Ghettos in Vilna V.P./East/562 achieved by immediate protest
        at the superior SD-Command in Riga / Superior Leader Piffrader/ that ca. 500 Jewish special-
        ist labourers shall be preserved for V.P.E. 562 for vehicle repair tasks. The pre-condition was
        set up that these were to be employed in a closed concentration camp.
        As the motivation and effectiveness of the Jewish labourers is essentially dependent of the
        fact that not only the men but also their wives and children can remain in Vilna, by expressed
        accordance by the SD the associated women and children were held back as well and trans-
        ferred to the work camp Subocz street. At this time are 1243 Jewish persons are in the work
        camp. Out of these are 499 men, 554 women and 190 children."

These are the words of Major Plagge in his letter to the Army Lodging Service Vilna, written
February 17th, 1944. There is no reason to question the truth of his words, as they were writ-
ten in a critical moment and had to stand proof to any investigation by the SS.
It was his personal initiative to have succeeded in setting up an "own" work-camp for the
Jews, employed at the vehicle park, not only for them but also all-in for their "families",
counted at wife and two children. This led to many pro-forma families, if someone had none
and also to the creation of new jobs at HKP, if there were additional family members to res-
cue.
        "The park employed for example Jews as haircutters, shoemakers, tailors, and cooks. Jewish
        women and girls worked as cleaning workers and garden workers. Additionally, there was a
        Jewish doctor for the observation of the civil workers' health. Naturally the park wasn't allowed
        to employ such people and Mr.. Plagge could have gotten in serious trouble by doing so......
        These people were camouflaged to the outside as professional workers of the motor vehicle
                     3
        Repair Park " .

It must have been absolutely clear to anyone in the military community in Vilna, what hap-
pened to all those Jews, who had no job at one of the work-shops, the Spanish hospital or
the headquarters in Vilna. The killing in Ponary had carried on since summer '41 and as even
the Jews in the Ghettos knew about, it would be more than implausible, if the knowledge
about the mass killing in the forests would not have spread to the Wehrmacht4.
In his 1947 testimony - "Vilne under Nazi Oppression", Page 23, Moses Feigenberg wrote:
        "The HKP camp was established on September 17th, 1943 and had employed up to 1500
        workers (families included). At the beginning of September 1943, the chief of HKP, Major
        Plagge, found out that the Ghetto of Wilno would be soon liquidated. He was a cultured and
        benevolent man who wanted to rescue his Jewish workers. Thus he then organized a work-
        camp for his workers, named Jewish Work- Camp HKP. He established the camp in the two
        big Jewish buildings on Subocz 37."

Searching the literature about similar work camps, this seems to be the unique one, where
"the motivation and effectiveness of the Jewish labourers" was based on the integration of


3
  cited from: Lawyer Alfred Stumpf, declaration in lieu of an oath, Plagge denazification file. Here are a
number of other cases, wherein Plagge supposedly accepted people into the camp beyond the techni-
cal specialists, namely Dr. Wolfson and his father.
4
  "The Jews would die in the concentration camps, that was what we knew when we wouldn't protect
them anymore." Lawyer Alfred Stumpff, declaration in lieu of an oath, Plagge denazification file.
Stumpff served with HKP only from June to October 1942!
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                       JF May 2003
                                                                                                          4

family members. Anywhere else the tools for "motivation" to work under German rule and
supervision were snappish dogs, whips, guns and terror. The survivors have asked the ques-
tion repeatedly, how this was possible, but had no answer:
        "The rules for bringing in Jews into this labour camp were obviously different, and it is here
        that another great point should be chalked off for Plagge's pro Jewish activity. A lot of older
                                                               5
        people and children were allowed to be taken along."


That is how the HKP camp in Subocz street became the last major refuge6 of what was left of
the Vilna Gaon after the extinction of the ghetto.

        "Into the ensuing dismal days filled with the fear for our lives there came a sudden ray of
        hope: tidings came to the ghetto that Major Plagge, the chief of H.K.P. 562, had succeeded,
                                                                           7
        after lots of requests ( he even had to go to Berlin to achieve this ) to contrive a work camp
        for the Jews working in his establishment. The authorities designated for this camp the build-
                                                                    8
        ings of the so-called "cheap housing" on Subocz street."

It must be taken into consideration that the allowance by the SS to take the families into the
work camp possibly was nothing but aimed on having a tool to blackmail the labourers by
threatening the women and children. Such intention would fit into the picture of the SS, being
ready for any thinkable vicious plan. But we will see later that brutalities executed against the
families of the prisoners had a contrarious effect. The assumption of such intentions can be
dismissed, as the allowance was given on the demand of Major Plagge, who was well known
to be fair to "his" labourers.
There were families in the Kailis work camp as well. But Kailis was set up to concentrate all
the furriers from Lithuania. It can be assumed that in these families the women normally co-
operated in fur-making and therefore were "of use" for the Wehrmacht. Jewish women had
not been employed in vehicle repair or other mechanical jobs, therefore Plagge's argument of
"motivation" was unique.




5
  cited from William Begell, e-mail to the Plagge group, dated 13 June 01
6
  The other refuges were the "Kailis" work camp, where the labourers were reduced step by step, the
Spanish Hospital with some 40 Jewish labourers and a small group, which was detached to work at
the SS headquarter.
7
  This was a widespread rumour among the prisoners, but no document has been found about such
travel. At least Major Plagge had been very active to convince his superior headquarter about the
need for several hundred civilians to run the HKP. He relates to his protest at the SD headquarters in
Riga in his letter to H.U.V. 190
8
  cited from Samuel Esterowicz, Memoirs. Translated from Russian and edited by Pearl Esterowicz
Good, available at www.hometown.aol.com//michaeldg/
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                    JF May 2003
                                                                                                       5

The Camp - February 1944

HKP and the Subocz Street camp was set up in a strict organisation. Everything was aimed
at productivity: repair of military vehicles, conversion of vehicles to generator gas, production
and repair of uniforms and the repair of other minor military equipment. Everybody was at-
tached to a dedicated job, all labour was set up in a professional work flow. Plagge looked
with great diligence on order and strict obedience. Actually he was running a production site
of some complexity and size: It consisted of the headquarter and the subordinate military
organisation of 250 men - mostly skilled specialists in all kind of vehicle repair. They were
non commissioned officers, men of the reserve army at an age, at and above their forties,
electricians, locksmiths, welders, blacksmiths, mechanics as well as shoemakers, carpenters
and tailors. They all ran their workshops and had attached a number of civilians - who were
designated as "specialists" and skilled labourers. The civilians were trained on the job for
their task, many of them had never done manual labour in their life before9.

        "we were allowed to bring to HKP, under one family "coverage," 3 people, my grandmother,
        my mother, and myself. I was the "professional" because I had worked in the ghetto machine
                                                        10
        shop for a couple of years before that time."
The broad variety of "specialists" included even such professions like roofers, turners, farm
workers and masons, hardly useful in vehicle repair11.

        "Initially, there was not a lot of work for the prisoners. Some of them were woodworkers and
                                                                                              12
        cabinetmakers, so Plagge set up a wood working shop and had them make furniture."
The number of civilians in the single workshops was shifted from one to the other according
to the workload and availability of spare parts and materials13. To keep HKP with all its differ-
ent labour busy was only one of the daily organisational challenges of Plagge's headquarter.

In total some 1,250 soldiers and civilians were working in HKP, some 250 children lived there
also. It was the initiative of Major Plagge, to invite two private companies to set up their tex-
tile work shops in the buildings in Subocz street. In doing so, the women were now employed
"for Wehrmacht purposes" in the uniform production, tailor shops and knitting rooms, some
were employed in the kitchen and others put to work cleaning the blocks. There was a rea-
sonable medical service and a chemical laboratory - the latter quite unusual and hardly
needed for vehicle repair, but another hint on Plagge's initiatives to find additional employ-



9
  "Her father was a fairly skilled worker, but Mira says that many of the HKP Jews were not skilled but
brought to the workshop by Plagge."
Memoirs of Mira Trocki, available at: hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/
10
   cited from an e-mail by (survivor) William Begell to the author, dated Tue, 12 Jun 2001
11
   see "documentation "The H.K.P. Jewish Labour Camp 143 - 1944" by Irina Guzenberg, published by
Vilna Jewish Museum 2002, page 188.
12
   cited from an interview, held by Michael D. Good with (survivor) Harry Sheres on 10. June 2001
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                  JF May 2003
                                                                                                   6

ment in his unit. And to keep the workshops in a good shape (there were a lot of repairs
needed in the houses and premises which had been neglected for years) out of a total of 490
labourers a construction and repair team of up to 120 men - inclusive a construction bureau -
was on duty for a broad variety of work to keep the workshops warm in the cold winter and to
keep the area clean14 - a work force surprisingly strong compared to the number of labourers
in the vehicle workshops. For several years Plagge had been the technical manager of an
industrial company - the Hessenwerke in Darmstadt. Therefore, from the view of sheer indus-
trial productivity a ratio of 360 "productive" labourers to 890 in "support"-jobs, more or less
inefficient to vehicle repair (see Plagge's letter and his arguments) it is allowed to assume
another than only productivity oriented motivation of Major Plagge.

The documents recently published by the Jewish Museum in Vilna show that there were de-
tailed work descriptions and lists of specialists needed for each job assigned. Plagge also
planned meticulously for the future, not only to expand the space of workshops considerably
by construction of a "large production hall"15, but he also had ordered the establishment of
training courses for the Jewish workers and the rigging of class-rooms for apprentices to
cover the anticipated need for more labourers. The single work report of a construction team
we have as an example gives a valid indication for a typical German engineers work flow
organisation inside HKP.

In fact, Plagge was running a large factory of some productivity and - as documented by the
"Wehrwirtschaftsaussenstelle Vilna" - of considerable value to the economic needs of the
Wehrmacht. But there was the other aspect to Plagge's camp at Subocz Street: Unlike most
Nazi run factories with slave labour, HKP had integrated both the labourers and their families
completely into the work flow. Where others just whipped the slave labourers to the job and
did not give a damn on how they slept and survived, aside of integrating the families Plagge
had provided for heated rooms, food at least to survive, a minimum medical care16 and most
significantly he educated his men to treat the prisoners as human beings17. Anyone who
violated his rules of behaviour was immediately detached to a front-line unit as it was the
case with a younger sergeant, who was discovered attacking and kicking a Jewish prisoner
and who defended himself with the argument that the Jews were all enemies. Plagge made


13
   see documentation as above. The shifting of the labour force relates to the documented lists of
"daily number of workers", in particular as given on page 53, 55 and 57.
14
   see documentation as above, page 101, "Work Report" (translation in English see attachment)
15
   see documentation as above, page 101, "Work Report" No II.
16
   see documentation as above, page 69 "Report on Medical Personnel..., pointing out 5 med. doctors,
3 dentists (out of which 2 were not fully trained) and 5 nurses. Compared to the numbers on the sick
lists, pages 143 ff., the staff can be called "reasonable"
17
   "..a German soldier named Berger who had been assigned to our automobile repair ... exclaimed
while watching the Jews being driven to their deaths: " What this scum perpetrate here in the name
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                      JF May 2003
                                                                                                        7

him understand that he might fight the "enemy" at the front against the Russians, where he
could carry a gun. Indeed, the sergeant - in spite of threatening Plagge with his membership
in the "Allgemeine SS" - was moved to the front18.

        "...everybody knew of Plagge’s HKP. He became famous for his fair treatment of his Jewish
        workers and for his constant fights with the SD, SS, and Gestapo to keep his working force in-
                 19
        tact."

In unison survivors tell that there was no pressure at the job. Although the working times
from 6 to 6 with an hour pause were surely in excess of what would have been allowed by a
union, the speed of labour was comparatively low. This describes the typical pace of a logis-
tic establishment, which in the case of HKP was dominated by mostly elderly rank and file
members. Of course these men, working hand in hand with the prisoners or being even de-
pendent on their work, made the prisoners follow their example. Typically the labourers were
frankly asked by the drivers of vehicles being repaired at HKP, not to do the job too fast20, as
they were not interested to go back to the battle too soon. This attitude was accepted by the
men of Plagge's unit, comrades of the drivers, and of course by the prisoners who were
"compensated" by the drivers for "sabotaging" the timely repair with food. Such impressions
of sabotage by the prisoners were not in contradiction to Plagge's intention to show off a
busy, active unit, as the more important argument was the quality of work he delivered in
addition to the files and reports about the labour being done. Everybody was aware of the
life-saving need of work: At any inspection by external authorities, the speed of work, of the
German sergeant as well as of the prisoners, would rise significantly as can be seen in every
military unit in the world. The consistent testimony of survivors about the differences of the
outer image and the true goings-on in HKP 562 give one more hint to Plagge's cleverness
and success in convincing his superiors and the SS of the HKP's importance to Germany's
final victory.

Plagge also took care of a myriad of details. We see examples such as the large and dili-
gently painted road sign directing visitors to the HKP workshops21 (something like the visit
card of his unit), the tidiness of workspace and camp (always a decisive factor in inspection
reports due to the normal ignorance of higher ranks to technical requirements and complica-
tions), the distribution of work, the availability of spares down to shovels for the construction
team, the timber for his carpenters, the textiles for the tailor shops, the ovens and water sup-


of the German nation - centuries will not suffice for us to cleanse ourselves!" cited from S. Estero-
wicz, Memoirs
18
   see denazification file Karl Plagge - case witnessed by Lawyer Alfred Stumpff - Declaration in lieu of
an oath
19
   cited from William Begell: "MAJOR PLAGGE - HKP - VILNO 17 September 1943 - 30 June 1944"
20
   cited from William Begell, e-mail to the Plagge group, dated ...
21
   see documentation as above, photo on page ..
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                    JF May 2003
                                                                                                      8

ply, the roll-calls, the reports and overall high quality production. HKP could be called a mus-
ter unit, run by an engineer of the best tradition, to whom accuracy, order and clean work is
self evident. Major Plagge criticised inferior work and wastage of materials explicitly and on
the spot22. But also the care for the labourers was part of the same attitude and Plagge used
the order in HKP and the carefully worked out work flow, the precisely kept and differentiated
names and employment lists and organisation of HKP and the civil labourers as a shield. No
one in HKP should even look as if he or she was superfluous or underemployed. That is why
reports like the one we have from the construction team were diligently completed and even
children were integrated into the production as early as possible. Even they should become
indispensable wheels in the HKP production machine. Any SS inspector should be con-
vinced by the perfect image of a well organised and versatile vehicle repair park. They
should be convinced that everything in HKP was aimed only towards the "final victory" of the
Wehrmacht. Exact reports, professionalism in every detail and high motivation on the job
were the tools to demonstrate the sense and effectiveness of Plagge's management of HKP
and to blind the inspectors at the same time.

This task brought a lot of troubles to Plagge. On the one hand, he was the one who had to
care for hundreds of details in the work shops and camp to cover the discrepancy between
the number of labourers - men, women and youngsters - demanded by HKP and the real
need for the work to be done. On the other hand there was always the threat from the SS to
draw off the civil labour force, at least anyone in the camp, who just gave the slightest im-
pression of being unable to work23 - by age, health or education. Therefore Plagge had set
up the organisational details, and that is why he was keenly interested in the careful use of
materials, without which the prisoners would be unemployed. As the SS was generally cor-
rupt24, there were also some jobs to be done in HKP, which definitely were not for the
Wehrmacht, but clearly for civil - SS - purposes: furniture and fur coats. Plagge had to be
careful in all directions - he had to be aware that any word from him could be reported to the
SS. The Lithuanian guards were complete slaves of the SS, they were selected for their job
especially for their anti-Semitism, agitated by the rumours that all Jews had co-operated with
the Reds in the time of the Soviet occupation.

Formally all labourers in HKP were prisoners of the SS and literally owned by the SS. As
such, there were creatures like the SS Scharfuehrer (sergeant) "Golosheyka" Richter25, who

22
   cited from Michael D. Good, interview with Harry Sheres, www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/
23
   see footnote 40!
24
   The incredible extension of bribery, corruption and drawing of personal profits within the SS is de-
scribed by Prof. Eugen Kogon in his documentation "Der SS-Staat", Europäische verlagsanstalt, Frank-
furt am Main 1947, page 290-306 "Das Drohnendasein der SS" (The Drone Livelyhood of the SS)
25
   not to be mistaken with Obersturmbannfuehrer ( SS LtCol) Richter, the last Area Commissioner of
Vilna, successor of Hingst and Neugebauer.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                      JF May 2003
                                                                                                        9

infested HKP and the blocks on Subocz Street with a sharp eye for any chance to harass
and intimidate the civilians and also to retaliate for Major Plagge's "frivolity" - in the eyes of
the SS - to save 1200 Jews, the majority useless women and children - of the final extinction
of all Jews of Vilna, to the last one. The public and demonstrative execution in the HKP camp
of the Zalkind family was such an example for the never ending zeal of the SS to kill anyone
at any opportunity. Yes, this is a "dark spot" in the Plagge story. Following his letters (to Mr.
Greisdorf), his declaration at the denazification trial, his family background, his education, the
description by the survivors it is to be assumed that he was a dominantly intellectual, led in
his doings by traditional patterns of thinking. This would imply that in the Zalkind tragedy he
could do nothing, as the Zalkinds had offended the camps rules: They were caught on the
escape, which was known to be threatened by the death punishment. Here Plagge had no
chance to interfere, the execution was also a threat to himself under the motto: "keep a better
eye on our prisoners!" The dramatically developing scene when the child turned up was un-
foreseeable. This is the picture of a man, who carefully appreciated his possibilities, but not
in his personal favour, but in the overall interest of the prisoners in total. In such situations
tragic is inescapable.

Plagge's muster unit was a permanent offence to SS ideology. Unfortunately for the SS,
Plagge and his fabulous Vehicle Repair Park was under protection of the Wehrmacht, al-
though a rather vulnerable haven, as the SS and SD had demonstrated at the case of Ser-
geant Schmidt, who had helped Jewish resistance fighters and was shot after military trial for
the faked accusation of being corrupt. This case was well known and remembered in the
Vilna military community. Schmidt's case demonstrated that anyone under any suspicion of
the SS could be court-martialled for any offence. The military courts didn't hesitate to take as
truth without questioning any accusations from the SS26. It was thanks to the generosity of
German military judges in decisions on death sentences - some 20,000 throughout the war27
- that members of the Wehrmacht unsympathetic to Nazi ideology were continually threat-
ened. From the point of view of the SS, Plagge consistently gave false and exaggerated
numbers of labourers required for his HKP operations. Even in terms of the Wehrmacht he




26
   "The longer the war lasted, the more the military courts became instruments of terror: The judges
were not independent, sentences were not derived from the single case and in many cases were fixed
already in advance. Only the formalities of justice were used. Tens of thousands were sentenced to
death and executed, more than in all other countries taken together" cited from B. Hirsch, Vice Presi-
dent of the German Bundestag in: Deutsches Sonntagsblatt "Urteile ohne Recht und Moral", 30.08.96
27
   An overall evaluation of these files had been successfully denied by the same military judges, who
rose in post-war Germany to high and highest positions like: Dean of the juridical faculty, chancellor
Adenauer's chief of staff or Prime Minister of a German federal state. Aside of the existing 90.000 files
of military trials another 40.000 have been destroyed deliberately after the war.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                     10

violated the strict and clear rules to treat Jews as enemies everywhere and at all times28.
These were capital offences and in terms of the military courts good enough for a death sen-
tence.

         "The chief of H.K.P. 562, Major Plagge, would come to encourage us after these events. Ob-
         viously embarrassed about the latest "achievements of his fellow Germans", he told us,
         among other things: "Regrettably, the war has destroyed moral values as well as the material
              29
         ones" .



The Letter from the SS Commandant30

Following an inspection of HKP in January 1944 by the commandant of the Kowno concen-
tration camp, ObStubaF Goecke and a discussion with Major Plagge, Goecke insisted by
letter on a "burden"31 of administrational work at the HKP headquarters, which was - in
Goeckes eyes - not fit to make up correct files for the HKP and the civil firms labourers ac-
cording to the demands of the SS. The paperwork and personnel, needed for the accounting
of 1.200 prisoners according to SS standards was considerable. There was the complicating
fact that within HKP were workshops of private firms, which produced for the Army and Air-
force as well, but were their own organisational units. Plagge had invited the uniform firms to
establish their production sites inside of the HKP camp and taken over the task to shift the
women employed at these two firms between HKP and the firms jobs according to actual
workload32. This "unauthorised" personal action of Plagge was fully in line with the
Wehrmacht's traditional philosophy of task oriented decisions, leaving to the local responsi-
ble officer all the freedom to employ his resources in favour of the overall task. However, this
was not acceptable to the SS and conflicted with her aim of total and permanent control of
her prisoners and her overall aim to extinguish the Jewish race as soon as possible.

         "The news we gleaned about the events in the surrounding world foreshadowed the
         inevitable defeat of Germany and with it the certainty of the Germans having to pay
         for their monstrous crimes. The news also told us, however, that the Nazi policy of




28
   "Therefore none, not even the slightest connection between an officer and a member of the Jewish
race is allowed." cited from General Schmundt, Chief of Army Personnel Affairs, decree from October
1942, wherein a clear-cut anti-Semitic pose of German officers is demanded.
29
   cited from Pearl Good, Memoirs (see footnote 3) - about Plagge's reaction on the "childrens action."
Also compare with the decree of Gen. Schmundt (footnote 15)
30
   see the attached English Translation of the original, as in the documents from Vilna.
31
   Goecke presumably refers to the many hand-written amendments on the roll-call lists as can be
seen on the documents published by the Vilna Museum.
32
   Survivor Molly Kadan remembers in an interview: " She worked in both the carpentry shop, the
laundry and the kitchen.", available at hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                 JF May 2003
                                                                                                 11

       general extermination of the European Jewry continued to be carried out as merci-
       lessly as before, enveloping ever more countries (Southern France and Hungary)."33

Thanks to Plagge's employment policy - he even thought of the support of the air defence
units in Vilna by "his" prisoners34 - and his diligent organisation, Goecke could and did not
question the number of prisoners working in and for HKP directly. So he used the "burden for
the offices" of HKP by administrational work as a valid argument to demand by written instruc-
tion - he could not give orders to a Wehrmacht officer - an immediate review of the system of
roll calls and reports. He "proposed" that HKP and the private firms should each report sepa-
rately for their demand of labour35. Goecke demanded "immediate action" - which he under-
lined by sending SS sergeant Richter with the letter and the newly prepared lists. He thus
expected the new lists "immediately" i.e. one or two days later. SS officer Goecke somehow
mistrusted the beautiful set-up at Plagge's HKP36, supposing some deals between Plagge
and the uniform manufacturers out of his direct control and against his never ending zeal to
get hold of any "unuseful" worker for Ponary. And although camouflaged by the bureaucratic
language, the mistrust of SS-officer Goeke is seen in the threatening undertone in his letter
to Plagge. It was a clear "affront" to Major Plagge and therefore the proof for the mistrust, to
send a low ranking SS-sergeant, Richter, to control the handling of the name-lists at HKP
and the uniform works.

Plagge's reaction is dated 9 days later, showing that he had neglected the demand for the
"immediate action" as requested clearly by camp commandant Goecke. To follow Goecke's
instructions would have deprived Plagge of the freedom to decide about the internal em-
ployment of the women in the camp on his own - a severe danger to his well organised
scheme to keep off a too close insight of the SS into his management and also a threat to
productivity, because such reports would reveal immediately that in fact there were more
women in the camp than needed for the production. His next move was aimed at first to trade
for time by diverting things into an administrative problem with the need for the involvement
of as many authorities as possible, and then to outflank the intentions of Goecke and the SS.
On the one hand his rank as a major was not high enough to bluntly decline Goecke's in-
struction, on the other he saw a chance to keep things running as they were by forwarding
the instruction - superficially a simple administrational matter - to the local Wehrmacht office,
which was in charge of checking the invoices of the SS for release of prisoners and ordering

33
   cited from Pearl Good, Memoirs
34
   see letter of Major Plagge to HUV
35
   For the understanding of the organization please see the attached graphs.
36
   The SS had confidants in the Subocz street camp: "Collaborators were (in HKP and all the ghettos
...) a routine and obvious event and occurrence. Even a young man, such as I ... was not only aware
but fully knowledgeable of the Averbuchs and others who were working for the Germans. .... It was a
natural occurrence." cited from an e-mail to the author by William Begell, dated May 15, 2003.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                      12

the money to the SS - the Army Lodging Service - using Goeckes letter to start a major and
time consuming administrational affair. In his letter to the Army Lodging Service (HUV) - re-
markably without copy37 to Goecke, which would have been self explaining in a truly sheer
administrative case - here it can only be interpreted as an attempt, not to inform Goecke too
early about his intentions. Plagge argued straight away with the HKP's task of logistic support
to the Army and the subsequent need for highly motivated civil labour and proposed a simple
move: complete rent in total of the whole Subocz street camp inmates by the Wehrmacht
administration. In this way the accounting and administration of the prisoners could be simpli-
fied and HKP relieved of substantial paper work - which would solve the initial problem and
would answer Goeckes demand.38 It can be taken for granted that at that time nobody in
Vilna or the Wehrmacht staff there was in any doubt about what would be the fate of anyone
superfluous in the Subocz street camp in the eyes of the SS39.

"... if for other reasons for the SS the employment in Vilna appears less important than at another
place" writes Plagge in his letter to HUV and his intense arguments at this point are only ex-

plainable, if we take into consideration his awareness that the women would be killed at
Ponary.

Next attention has to be drawn, to whom the letter of such importance40 was sent: The ad-
dressee of his proposal was just a low ranking warrant officer, independent of Plagge in his
task to check and pay the invoices, but in a support function to HKP. If Plagge as a Major
was not in a position to reject Goeckes demands, how could he expect that the warrant offi-
cer41 of HUV would be in a position to counteract to Goecke? The only explanation can be
the logic, after which Plagge deliberately used HUV as a time-gaining detour for his applica-
tion.

The leader of HUV must have immediately recognised the true meaning of Plagge's pro-
posal. The mutual stalking of the SS and Plagge regarding the dispute about handling of the
HKP prisoners was known by many minor clashes between SS and Plagge's men42. Now

37
   as the letter was documented in the unit's "letterbook", it would have had a "copy to" note, if such
copy would have been sent to Goecke. The note in the letterbook was essential to protect Plagge
against accusations of being dormant.
38
   For the understanding of Plagge's proposal see the attached graph.
39
    Oskar Schoenbrunner describes in his memoirs, how he met SS Sturmfuehrer (lieutenant) Neuge-
bauer drunk in the officers club (1943) until he told in detail about the killing at Ponary. see MSG 2,
Vol. 2822 Bundesarchiv – Militärarchiv Freiburg, page 7
40
   The importance is clarified by listing the letter in HKP's letterbook. Also the length - unusual for
military issues at that level - points to the importance given to the case by Plagge.
41
   Such administrational institutions were led by officers of the special "Intendantur"-branch, ranking
below regular officers.
42
   Rescuer Oskar Schoenbrunner describes similar incidents. The witnesses of Plagge's denazification
trial reported cases, when Jews were retrieved from the SS by Wehrmacht men at gun point. See also
footnote No 12.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                              JF May 2003
                                                                                               13

Plagge demanded that he should be responsible for the account of the prisoners and sign
with his name the number requested. At least HKP, a permanent installation of 250 soldiers
plus 1250 civilian - men, women and children - day by day contacted by all kind of military
personnel coming and going with the trucks and vehicles on repair or conversion at HKP,
was one of the main objects aside of all the other more or less important offices and head-
quarters in Vilna.

Plagge's proposal brought the officer in charge of the Army Lodging Service into an incon-
venient situation: to follow the proposal would have posed him right in front to the SS - a po-
sition in which nobody would feel comfortable. So he looked for excuses to deny the proposal
and as reasons he found that he was not entitled to having the men to do this additional ad-
ministrative work and secondly, but decisively he indicated that the administration had no
one to run the guard at Subocz Street. Well, this was visibly a fake argument , the guards
were Lithuanian policemen and they would have carried on, only under the supervision of the
Wehrmacht - logically Plagge's unit.

The Army Lodging Service did, what all administration levels are doing in questionable or
such cases which would enlarge their responsibility - the proposal was answered by as "not
being entitled" and "we suggest you forward the case to our superior office". This was unwill-
ingly well done, as this could only be the aim of Plagge - to mark up the case on a decision
level, which could not be neglected by the SS. In addition, time had been gained, the answer
was written on 21st of February and by pointing to the superior headquarter as being the cor-
rect addressee, some more days or weeks were available to find a way to outmanoeuvre
Goeckes demand. As long as there was no final decision on the case initiated by Plagge, he
could neglect the dangerous change of procedures.

A minor slip-up in the answer to Plagge (by mentioning that the superior office could possibly
arrange the "take over of the work camp" - a term, Plagge had not used in his letter to HUV)
shows us in writing the true point of discussion - it was not the reorganisation of some pa-
perwork, but a frontal attack on the SS - the "take over" of the Subocz street camp and all the
prisoners by the Wehrmacht, depriving the SS of their prey.



March 1944

From here on onwards we have no documents about the further development of the ex-
change of arguments. But the daily reports as found in the documents mirror the terrible ac-
tion that was taken briefly after Plagge's attempt to outmanoeuvre the SS: A few weeks later
in the raid on 27th of March the SS snatched and killed those, who were not listed belonging
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                  JF May 2003
                                                                                                   14

to the workshops or construction team - 200 children of Subocz street and a number of
women, who seemed to be not really employed:

       "Harry's mother was killed after the children's action in March of 1944. She had been working
       in the mending shop when the action started. Not knowing what kind of action this was to be,
       she left her workplace and hid. However she was discovered and since she was not at the
       workplace where she was supposed to be, she was taken with the children and Harry never
                         43
       saw her again."

Remarkably they raided the camp, when Plagge was absent44.

       "The "children's aktzye" shook the camp to its very foundations. The air was filled with
                                                                                          45
       moans of the disconsolate mothers, people moved around the camp like shadows."

On the daily lists for the following 2 weeks we find the simple remark "not worked"46 - the
prisoners were not driven to the workshops, at least interpretable as a gesture of sympathy
by Plagge and his men.

There is no written evidence of a correlation between the two cases, but according to the
manifold witnessed actions of the SS it can be assumed that Goecke started the children's
action in the concentration camps within his area of responsibility more or less working for
the Wehrmacht, as a demonstration of his overruling power. Goecke didn't need an order
"from above" for his actions, if he only wanted to demonstrate his "pre-emptive obedience" to
Nazi ideology.



May 1944

The Wehrmacht had started the last major initiative at the Eastern Front in the summer of
1943 at the battle of the Kursk salient. 4000 German tanks had attacked the well prepared
Soviet defences and came to a grinding halt. The counterattack caught the Germans on the
wrong foot and since then the front was closing in to Vilna slowly but quite visibly to every-
one. In the spring of 1944 it was only a question of time, when the Soviets would overrun
Vilna. The prisoners of Subocz street started to look for hideaways for that case early and


43
   cited from Michael D. Good, e-mail to the Plagge group, telephone interview with Harry Sheres,
dated June 21st, 01
44
   "We later found out that this only happened because Major Plagge was on leave in Germany, and
was not there to object" Memoirs of Mark and Anna Balber, available at
"hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/" and: "The Balber's trust in Major Plagge's power is really touching -
they thought that if only Plagge was not on vacation he could have saved the children from the "Ak-
tzye" which was also taking place simultaneously in the Kaunas ghetto." cited from Pearl E Good, e-
mail to the Plagge group, dated 3 Jul 2001.
45
   cited from Pearl Good: Memoirs
46
   "I did not return to work after the Kinder Aktzye. I did not go to the Apells
either" cited from Pearl E Good, e-mail to the Plagge Group, dated 21 Jan 2003
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                   JF May 2003
                                                                                                   15

immense covert activities started, malines - even a tunnel out of the camp - were dug and
built within Subocz street blocks for as many people as possible.

       "Working diligently, the men blocked off the farthest room in the basement by a brick
       wall and excavated an underground passage to gain access to this isolated space.
       For this we had to chisel a large hole through the stone foundation of the house. The
       shaft leading to the crawl-space we camouflaged by covering it with an earth-filled
       flat wooden box. We fastened wires to two sides of the box. By pulling on the wires
       we could raise the earth-filled box. The needed materials - cement, boards and so
       on, we stole from the Germans. The car battery we needed for illumination we ac-
       quired by the same means."47

Looking on the drawing of the blocks48 and the malines in there, the blocks must have been
hollowed like a rabbit's burrow.

       "When the news of the advancing Russian army reached us some began building hid-
       ing places in the cellars, under the roof, just any place they could think of, fearing that
       the Germans would shoot us before retreating."49

In the end possibly 400 or more found shelter in these malines. All this was done in buildings
in which were some of the workshops and where the German soldiers were at least present
throughout the day. The many contacts between the soldiers and prisoners and their pres-
ence on the spot make it implausible that Plagge's men did not recognise any of the prepara-
tions in the camp. At least the Germans themselves were thinking about what would hap-
pen, when the front comes nearer. The SS would have been very interested in knowing
about these activities. The survivors speak about the need to hide the malines from everyone
except the few who were to hide there. First there would have been too many, who would try
to get into the maline and secondly, those rejected from entering could give notice to the en-
emy, hoping to save the own life.




1st of July 1944

The summer offensive of the Red Army against German Army Group Centre had started on
May 1, 1944 and the closing in of the Soviets must have been audible in Vilna for days or
even weeks, as the thunder of the hundreds of artillery pieces can be heard in the summer

47
   cited from Pearl Good: Memoirs
48
   Drawing provided by Michael D. Good. The original is drawn by architect Gary Gerstein.(see attach-
ment)
49
   cited from Boris Greisdorf: Escape-HKP story 1956
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                   JF May 2003
                                                                                                   16

nights on a distance of more than one hundred kilometers50. At the rear headquarters and
logistic installations of the German Army Group Centre in Vilna the hectic activities accom-
panying the defensive operations must have been visible to everyone. The drivers coming
with their vehicles for repair from the front would have told about the goings-on, so that no-
body in HKP and the Subocz street camp was really unprepared for decisive changes. The
Jews, still employed at the SS headquarters, forwarded to the camp the information they
necessarily picked up there. There had also been a radio in the camp, used to listen to the
BBC51. From there the prisoners knew already that the Germans had killed all Jewish prison-
ers on their retreat.52 Without any doubt there must have been growing a tremendous tension
in the camp about the coming events, possibly the inescapable death to all.

It is the scene which all survivors of HKP remember similarly: On Saturday, 1st of July 1944
Major Plagge appeared in the camp and called together whoever was around. With him
turned up the SS-Sergeant Richter. Plagge informed the prisoners that the situation de-
mands to move HKP west and the prisoners will be moved out of the camp under the "care"
of the SS. His words are well remembered:

       "Major Plagge warned us that the German army was leaving Wilno and our camp
       would be evacuated westward in connection with the nearing of the Russians. To
       emphasize his warning Major Plagge informed us in his speech that we would stop
       being a H.K.P. work camp and would be entirely in the hands of the S.S. - he then
       carefully commented: „And you all know full well how well the S.S. takes care of their
       Jewish prisoners“.53

It has been stated that Plagge left the prisoners simply to their fate, when he got the order to
move HKP out of Vilna. But remembering the activities the months before his declaration to
the prisoners - and as far as we know now the warning of Sergeant Grammer - get an addi-
tional meaning: not only "run for your life" but also now "hide where you can" - knowing well
that there were hideaways. It was foreseeable for Plagge weeks before July '44 that he
would have to leave with his unit well before a Soviet attack on Vilna. It was foreseeable that




50
   I remember the late summer 1944, when I was with my mother, sisters and brothers evacuated
from East Prussian Gumbinnen to a village, a hundred km to the West. Here in the nights and on si-
lent evenings the far away growling of the front, still 150 km East, was a permanent background
noise.
51
   The extensive reporting of BBC about the situation is documented at many places, f.e. as audio
documents at: WWW.gimarc.com/1941.html: Reel George Productions - Jan. 19, 1943 Russian Front
News (1:13). Even in POW-camps existed radios: http://www.merkki.com/powwow.htm
52
   "According to the British Radio station BBC, before retreating the Germans had shot without mercy
all the Jewish inmates of the camps." cited from Pearl Good, Memoirs
53
   cited from Pearl Good, Memoirs
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                      17

the Wehrmacht would not allow any transport for civilian labour54: Due to the successful of-
fensive trucks as well as rail-transport were extremely short to the Wehrmacht on the Eastern
front during the summer of 1944. The logic conclusion to Plagge must have been the only
way he found. That was to keep HKP running in Vilna under his command as long as possi-
ble and warning the prisoners at the latest possible time. In the best case he would have
held on, until the SS, belonging to the "rear area formations", would have had to leave Vilna
as well. Leaving Vilna too early would have left too much time for the SS to search Subocz
street. Warning the prisoners too early would have revealed the prisoners preparations to
hide to the SS guards. Once ordered to leave Vilna, he could not argue that the task of his
unit would become impossible without the civil labour, as his unit consisted of 250 men al-
ready, for which - last but not least - he was responsible as the commandant. He did not
have the financial resources to buy transport or bribe the SS. HKP was ordered to a new
location in France55. Major Plagge could not assume to get westward more that 1000 Jews
safely right across Europe.

Plagge held his speech on Saturday, and the first escape of the prisoners was made on Sat-
urday evening. On Sunday his unit packed up and moved out on Monday. Then the camp
was searched by the SS from Monday to Tuesday and all those who could not hide or run
were killed. About one half of the Malinas was detected. Thereafter the SS did not turn up
any more.

          "Discovering that a large percentage of inmates did not appear at the inspection, the
          Germans started a search of both buildings and those discovered there, (numbering
          about 200) were shot immediately in the yard. The Germans mobilised the sur-
          rounding gentile population for burial of the corpses, after which they lifted the guard
          and abandoned the camp on Tuesday, July 4th."56

Not belonging to the front-line troops, Gestapo and SS as well as all other Nazi-organizations
had good reasons to leave Vilna at the earliest possible moment. Already the next day, the
camp was left for pilferage by the Gentiles and Vilna was swept by the retreating Wehrmacht.
Actually in these days the German Army Group Centre disintegrated under the Soviet on-
slaught.

54
   "..in his speech warning his Jewish workers in July of 1944, Plagge said that he wanted to take the
HKP workers with him along with his unit. He said he had asked the administration in Vilna and then
in Kaunas (Harry thinks that he said that he actually went to Kaunas to make this request) but was
turned down. As a result, Plagge said that the workers would no longer be under his protection, but
rather would be under the direct jurisdiction of the SS. He said this with an SS officer standing right
next to him." cited from Michael D. Good, telephone interview with Harry Sheres on June 18 th, 01
55
   On 6th of June the Allies had begun the invasion in Normandy. In the denazification trial Plagge
reported that he and HKP 562 went into captivity to the Allied forces in France.
56
     cited from S. Esterowicz, Memoirs
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                    JF May 2003
                                                                                                     18

The brief interval between the retreat of Plagge and the retreat of the SS gave as little time
as possible for the SS to search the camp. The sequence of action and timings demonstrate
that Plagge and his men, conforming a rather immobile logistic support unit, kept on in Vilna
right until the complete rear organization disappeared and fighting in Vilna started. Any other
commanding officer of such a unit, who would have been interested only in the safety of his
men, envisaging the speedy attack of the Soviets, would have made any attempt to leave
Vilna days earlier, like many other military installations.



June 1947

With the destruction of the Nazi regime in Germany not all those disappeared, who were
responsible for and involved in the Nazi terror. The dreams of the German opposition to es-
tablish a government of democrats and punishment of all those who carried guilt for terror
and murder had already vanished. The Allied occupation regime had swiftly recognised that
they needed specialists and experienced administrators as well as those who knew how to
run German factories as well as the courts, hospitals, schools and universities. Particularly
the juridical organization was crucial. The simple "by chance" fact that in Nazi-Germany
judges were not necessarily members of the Nazi party (calling tradition they pretended not
to be biased), made the Allies believe the German judges were not culpable - a tragic error.
Those, who in 1933 were with the first to expel Jews from their courts and chambers, who
were responsible for thousands of terror sentences not in the name of law, but in the name of
the Nazi ideology and "the peoples healthy judgement" were now in charge of trials, wherein
they had to judge about the responsibility of Nazi party members for terror, crime and sup-
pression.

       "Aside of the widespread interest then to brush under the carpet as much distress as possible,
       the extremely strong personal continuity between courts and juridical administration of the
                                                                                            57
       young German democracy and of those of the Nazi regime offers an explanation ...."

In June Plagge was called to a denazification trial58, as all Germans, who had joined the Nazi
party before 1933. At that time several witnesses could be found, not only his employer be-
fore the war, Mr. Hesse, who declared that he had employed Karl Plagge also, because he
needed someone in his factory trustworthy to the Nazi organizations and to avoid an official
NS-party supervisor in his factory. But as a clear demonstration of his humanistic conviction,
already in 1938 Karl Plagge became the godfather of Hesse's son Konrad, although the wife


57
   to the role of Nazi-judges in post-war Germany see H. Daeubler-Gmelin: "Rehabilitierung und
Entschädigung von Deserteuren" Ansprache Februar 1997, published under: www.spd-tuebingen.de
58
   see original documents (Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Wiesbaden 4.3.1, Department 520 / Spruch-
kammer / Dl / Plagge, Karl) and transcripts in English as provided by Michael D. Good
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                     19

of Mr. Hesse was rated by the notorious Nuremberg Laws a Jew. Becoming the godfather
was an official act and everywhere were denunciators - at least the clerk, who noted the god-
fathership in the official "family book". Openly Plagge as member of the Nazi party demon-
strated his close relation to a "half Jew" or "non Aryan" against the wordings of the Nurem-
berg laws59.

All other witnesses, without exception, men of his military unit HKP 562, declared that Plagge
had employed many more people and their families in HKP and given them shelter in Subocz
street, than were needed. The witnesses pointed out that Plagge against the threat of the SS
had protected "his" labourers and that he had tried to obstruct the attempts of the SS to draw
away and kill the Jews in Subocz street as far as he could.

Of course there might have been some bias with these witnesses, as any anti-Nazi behav-
iour of the unit's commander would throw a favourable light on their own reputation, which
was really helpful in Germany under the Allied Commission. But two facts - aside of the
memoirs of the survivors - could contribute to the finding of the truth: First - there is not the
slightest contradiction in the declarations of the witnesses, second - on the last day of the
trial Mrs. Maria Eichamueller, unknown to Plagge until then, appeared and declared that she
was in search for Karl Plagge on behalf of Jews from Vilna, who lived in Ludwigsburg by now
and who wanted to find and thank Karl Plagge for the help they had received from him.

Being found by the few survivors of the HKP prisoners, they contacted Karl Plagge. He was
invited by the Greisdorf family for a visit. We have letters60, written by Karl Plagge after the
several days long visit at the Greisdorfs.

Remembering the situation in 1947 it is unrealistic to assume that a survivor of the Holocaust
would invite to his home anyone, of whom he would not been convinced to be someone to
trust, a friend. We have heard from many of the Jewish survivors of HKP that they do have
positive remembrances of Karl Plagge; indeed many credit him with having saved their lives.

A German commandant of Jewish prisoners, who carried only a minimum of guilt for the kill-
ings and atrocities, hardly had dared to set a foot into a DP-camp in 1947.

Although the court accepted Plagge's actions as being in favour of the Jewish prisoners, he
was rated a "fellow traveller" of Nazism by the court and sentenced to a fine of 9,100 RM, a

59
   "However, in 1936, my father was confronted with the question as to whether he should separate
himself from his non-Aryan wife or whether he would accept being excluded from all public offices,
associations and clubs. My father decided for his wife. This caused the loss of his “friends” and “ac-
quaintances” with the exception of the two friends mentioned above, i.e. Plagge and Gunther." cited
from: Konrad Hesse, letter to Michael D. Good, dated April 2001
60
  originals (deposited by Lazar Greisdorf to the Jewish Gaon Museum in Vilnius) and English transcript
provided by Michael D. Good, available at www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                        JF May 2003
                                                                                                         20

rather negligible sum at the time, but a slap in Plagge's face, compared to the many high
ranking Nazis, which escaped any punishment.

          "The help offered by the deported Jews in Ludwigsburg shows that the person in question par-
                                                                                           61
          ticipated in an uncommon manner in the saving of lives of persecuted people."

Looking on the Nazi ideology, which consisted in it's core of Anti-Semitism and had called the
Jews the eternal deadly enemies of the German race, which was aimed at the complete ex-
tinction of every Jew, it is illogical to rate Plagge a "fellow traveller" and simultaneously con-
cede him to have saved the life of Jews. The summary of these two statements does not
make sense, but there are reasons for the conclusion of the court. First, Karl Plagge had
asked for this rating by himself and secondly, the plea of Karl Plagge helped the judges out
of their dilemma to find a sentence for something unwanted in those days: The recognition of
the simple fact that it was possible to help the threatened, to protect the haunted and to act
against the Nazis, the SS and Gestapo without being shot on the spot. This fact was denied
by all those functionaries and true fellow travellers of the Nazis, it could not and was not con-
ceded to be true. The full inconsistency of the sentence is displayed by the last words of the
denazification court:

          "Resulting from the belief that the anti-national-socialistic motive of his actions is not proven,
          that probably his human attitude was more important, the chamber finishes the trial with the
          categorisation of the person in question into group 4 of the fellow travellers or hanger-ons. The
          reason is that he has to be seen through his attitude as a nominal member of the NS
          movement."

Karl Plagge himself felt guilty and in his letters to Mr. Greisdorf he clearly says "I have done
only, what was allowed to me" - not more. But he had done far more than the majority of the
Germans under Nazi rule, he had exploited the limits and in doing so he enabled the survival
of at least some 200 men, women and children.

          "As was mentioned by me before, it was thanks to the endeavours of Major Plagge, who was
          guided by his desire to protect his Jewish workers, that the dwellers of H.K.P., numbering over
          1000, were able to avoid, at least temporarily, the fate of those Jews who remained in the
          ghetto.
          Not surprisingly, therefore, Major Plagge, our protector (who, in addition, according to those
          who had personal contact with him, was a man of the highest moral character - as we also as-
                                                                      62
          certained later) was much beloved and respected by us".




61
     cited from the decision of the denazification court (see footnote 20)
62
     cited from S. Esterovicz, Memoirs, www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                     21

Attachments (all translations by the author)

Translation of the Letter SS ObStubaF Goecke to HKP 562

                                                                                      (Handwritten: 59)
                                                  Copy

Concentration-Camp Kauen
    Command HQ
FileNo.: Work.Deploy. 16/2.44-AU.                                             The 8th of February 1944

Subj.: Deployment of Jewish Workforce
Reference: verbal meeting on January 13th 44
Attachments: 3 Applications

To
V.P./East/562

Vilna.

Referring to the meeting on the occasion of the review of the places of employment with Major Plagge
about the offset against the Jewish labourers working for company REITZ attention is invited to the
following:
It cannot be dismissed that the prisoners employed at the companies Reitz and Herbert Meier are a
burden for the offices there. Still it must be welcomed and acclaimed that V.P./East/ successfully
strives to employ productively elsewhere those prisoners, which are not employed in the vehicle work-
shops. But as it is otherwise not acceptable that the accounting of the labourers of V.P./East and the
companies is done between them, it is invited to renew the application for release of labourers for the
vehicle workshops of V.P./East/ at this headquarter on the attached forms. On this application only
those prisoners are allowed to be listed, which are actually employed there. For the companies Reitz as
well as Herbert Meier the information is needed by V.P./East/ which and how many labourers are em-
ployed for these firms in the repair shop and knitting room respectively, as for these separate applica-
tions by the firms must be handed in. The remaining rest of labourers is to be distributed by percentage
to the three employers, as it is here prisoners, which are detached to run the camp functions and whose
costs the three have to share.

At this opportunity it is invited to send SS-Unterscharfuehrer Richter (Golosheyka?) together with the
as well attached applications to the companies, as so the applications can be belaboured in total after
reception.

Immediate execution is invited.
                                                                       sig. G o e c k e
                                                                 SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer and
                                                                     Camp Commandant

For correctness of the copy.:
                                (hand-written signature)
                                  Captain and Adjutant
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                      JF May 2003
                                                                                                       22

Translation of Major Plagge's letter to H.U.V. 190

Vehicle Park (East) 562
___Letter Book No 12069/44

                                                                           O.U. the 17th February 1944.
Subj.: Employment of Jewish Labourers.
Ref.: Letter from Concentration Camp Headquarter Kauen File: Work. Deploy.
       16/2.44-Au. dated 8.2.44 to V.P./East/ 562.
        To                                                                            Stamp:
        Army-Housing Administration 190                                               18. FEB.1944
        Vilna.
         At disbandment of the Jewish Ghettos in Vilna V.P./East/562 achieved by immediate protest
at the superior SD-Command in Riga / Superior Leader Piffrader/ that ca. 500 Jewish specialist la-
bourers shall be preserved for V.P.E. 562 for vehicle repair tasks. The pre-condition was set up that
these were to be employed in a closed concentration camp.
         As the motivation and effectiveness of the Jewish labourers is essentially dependent of the fact
that not only the men but also their wives and children can remain in Vilna, by expressed accordance
by the SD the associated women and children were held back as well and transferred to the work camp
Subocz street. At this time are 1243 Jewish persons are in the work camp. Out of these are 499 men,
554 women and 190 children.
         To get the at first unemployed women post-haste to productive work, these by consultation
with the War-Economy Extern HQ Vilna / Capt. Klipfl/ were brought to employment as well. For this
purpose 311 women were attached to (Fa. = firm) Reitz Uniform works and (firm) Herbert Meier,
which have to perform assignments for Army- and Air Force clothing offices. Within the work camp
appropriate rooms were provided, where those firms have established their machines and installations
for the repair of blankets, coats, stockings etc.
         During month November the Concentration Camp of V.P./East/562 in the wake of regulation
valid for all C.C. in the East released by the SS_Economy Main Administration - Office D 2, Oranien-
burg-Berlin was taken over administratively and sub-ordinate to C.C. Kauen. From this time on all
prisoners are distributed and charged on application to the pertinent offices, in this case V.P.E. 562
and accounted at Marks 4.- for a specialist, Marks 3.- for an assistant worker, M 3.- for a female spe-
cialist and M. 2.50 for an assistant female worker. The invoices as have handed in by now were for-
warded for balance and control respectively to H.U.V. 190.

                                                                                               please turn


         By letter dated 8.2.44, which is attached in copy, C.C. Kauen now asks by now for separate
applications for those labourers in the vehicle work shops and those employed at the firms, whereas
the firms have to hand in the applications themselves.
         At this procedure the park sees a danger insofar, as the SS is now in a position, to control the
female labourers at will and transfer them in case even to a non-local work-site f.e. in the C.C. Kauen.
This case could materialise particularly then, when by lack of materials the firms operating in the work
camp have only a need for a lower number of labourers than the existing, or if for other reasons for the
SS the employment in Vilna appears less important than at another place.
         Hereby not only the principle would be broken that strictly the male specialists of V.P.E. 562
in the interest of their motivation will stay with their wives, but also the cantonment Vilna will be de-
prived of most valuable labourers. Therefore the park proposes the following:
         H.U.V. 190 in Vilna requests all male and female Jewish labourers existing in the work camp
at the SS-Economy Main Administration and controls the distribution of these forces to the single
users of Army and Air Force in Vilna, whereby the firms Reitz Uniform Works and Herbert Meier,
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                      23

producing for the Army- and Air Force clothing offices will be kept included. Also V.P./East/ 562
claims it's specialists at H.U.V. 190 and accounts about the dues with this.
        A principle decision is invited, if shall be acted according to the proposal of V.P.E. 562.

1 Attachment                                                           Plagge
                                                                Major and Park Commandant



Translation of the answer of H.U.V. 190 to Major Plagge:

Army Lodging Administration 190                                          Vilna, the 21st February 1944
FileNo: 27 d__________________

Subj.: Employment Jewish Labourers
Reference: Your letter dated 17.2.44 letter book No. 12069/44
                                                                        Stamp: "Draft"
To
Vehicle Park East 562

Vilna

To the proposal as made in the letter mentioned above, the administration cannot concede, as the nec-
essary labour force is missing.
It is invited to contact in this respect the War Economy Forward office in Vilna, as this has a better
overview on the employment of certain Jewish labourers at the different demand holders of Army and
Air Force, as well as private firms.
As the case may be this authority could set up contacts on the take over of the work camp.

                                                                                 hand-written name tag

Remarks:

Plagge had "upgraded" his proposal by inserting the letter into the official letter book of his
unit. This letter book was kept at all units to document important written material. The letter
book also served Plagge as a document to demonstrate at any time his intentions, which
were aimed officially only on highest possible productivity of the HKP!

The "War Economy Forward office in Vilna" was the superior office to HUV 190 . The head of
HUV 190 simply ducked away. His last sentence gives clear evidence what was the true topic
of the discussion: the "take over" of Subocz street by HKP, doubtlessly to get rid of any SS-
guards, -controls and creatures like SS-sergeant Richter. The word "take over" (Übernahme)
also clarifies that the "missing of labour force" included the men to guard Subocz street. In
February 1944 the Wehrmacht was on retreat at all Russian fronts, the invasion of France
was expected daily and every man, able to fight was needed in the front-line units, or - like
Plagges men - highly needed as specialists, who were not meant to be "wasted" on dull
guard jobs. (Here I remember my early days in military service, when briefly I had to guard
an ammunition depot....)
     Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                          24


     Charts to illuminate the organizational background to the three letters
      ObStbFhr Goecke to HKP 562
      Major Plagge to HUV
      Answer to Plagge by HUV


           SS-Headquarter                        1: Existing organization as discussed between
            Oranienburg                          Plagge and Goecke on January 13, 1944

                                           this section was not under
                                           direct control of Goecke
                   delivered money

           Concentration
           Camp Kaunas               requested and paid
                                     for workers of HKP,
                                     UR and UM
              controlled number                                               Uniformwerke
Guards
                                                                                  Reitz

                             HKP 562                  requested
              Concentration
                            Workshops                 and paid for            Uniformwerke
               Camp Vilna
                                                      workers                     Meier
              Subocz Street



                           kept and reported name files

                                                      This "organization" of course gave some
         Wehrmacht or working for Wehrmacht           additional administrative work to HKP. So he
                                                      asked for a "better" solution.
         SS




  2: Goeckes idea of a new organization

                                                      Concentration
                                                      Camp Kaunas
    guard and allot to HKP, UR and UM

                                           request and pay for workers on separate files

    Concentration
     Camp Vilna        report name files       HKP 562               Uniformwerke          Uniformwerke
    Subocz Street                                                        Reitz                 Meier




                       The setup becomes much clearer, Plagge would have been relieved (!) of admin
                       work and Goecke would have had better control of workers
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                         JF May 2003
                                                                                     25

3. Plagge's proposal for a new organization:


 SS Headquarter                           Army HQ Berlin      Wehrmacht
 Oranienburg
                                                             Admin. Branch
                                 Wehrmacht
                                Army Chain of
                                  Command
                                                       Wehrwirtschaftsaussenstelle
 KZ Kaunas                  proposed by HUV 190        Vilna
                          "Rent" of all
                           workers in
                         Subocz Street                            HUV 190
                                                                   Vilna
                                             HKP 562
    KZ Vilna
  Subocz Street
                                                               Uniformwerke
                                   Plagge's Aim:                                Hermann
                                                                   Reitz
                            "flexible distribution of all                          Meier
                            workers in Subocz Street
                            according to material and            working for
                                     workload"                   Wehrmacht



Gary Gerstein: Drawing of the malines in Subocz street
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                               JF May 2003
                                                                                                   26



Translation of Work Report to HKP
                                                                    The 1st of March 1944

                                                                            stamp (upside down):
                                                                            registered as incom-
                                                                            ing (?)

                                         REPORT
              about the construction works performed by the construction office
                                in the work camp V.P.East 562
                                in the month of February 1944
                                      -----------------------

The compilation of the performed construction works is as such:

       I. Barracks construction:
               1. Covering of a part of the roof ca. 180 m2
               2. Finishing of the interior dividing walls - 52 m2 - including the filling of saw
                   dust.
               3. Finishing and fitting in of door frames - 3 pieces.
               4. Finishing of 3 doors.
               5. Installing & lining of 2 ovens.
               6. Insulation of exterior walls with oakum / left-overs ca. 180 m2
               Levelling of surface in front of the barrack. Earth moving predominantly in
               frozen soil ca. 100m3 / ca. 30%/

       II. Production Hall:
               Debris moving / predominantly frozen/ from a surface of 1200 m2 / prepared
               for the construction of a large production hall / up to a distance of 50 - 60 m &
               piling up of ca. 60 m3.

       III. Sewers:
               Laying of sewers in a depth of maximum 3.5 m in frozen ground including ex-
               cavation, laying, and refill / 6 inch concrete pipe/ 51 running meters. Installa-
               tion of gutters & their attachment to the main sewer - 2 pieces.

       IV. Waterline:
             1. Disassembly of old water pipes, their repair & re-connection in the two
                  staircases of the block, wherein are the special workshops / fire protection
                  measures/.
             2. Waterlines up to the chemical laboratory.
             Total waterline installation 70 running meters
             3. Dirt-waterline from the chemical laboratory and from the kitchen with con-
                  nection to the exterior sewer.

       V. Repairs:
             1. One brick wall /10 m2/ removed in the locksmithery & debris removed.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                               JF May 2003
                                                                                               27

               2. One door opening in the wall /110 cm thick/ broken up in the barber shop
                  & the projection of the door whitewashed. One door frame & one door
                  mounted. One plank-tambour established & the door opening painted both
                  sides.
               3. In the floors & staircase chambers new lodging rooms installed inclusive
                  laying of floors, doors, windows & ovens & whitewashing of walls and
                  ceilings with sand and clay - in total 46 m2 living space.
               4. Complete overhaul of ruined rooms with debris removal 28 m3 from the 5th
                  floor down.
                     a/ covering of ceilings with poured ware insulation
                     b/ windows installation & glass fitting, c/ floor laying, d/ repair of doors
                     & fittings.
                  For the training courses of the youth a surface of 56 m2 was repaired.
               5. 32 ovens in the living rooms were repaired, 3 new ovens installed.
               6. Cleaning from soot & conservation of all smoke channels & the herewith
                  connected opening & renewal of chimneys.
               7. Repair and fitting of 24 doors & 35 windows in the living quarters.

       VI. Cleaning Works:
       Cleaning of the courtyard surface all around the work shop & living quarters of frozen
       debris & garbage after completion of repairs with moving of ca. 70 m3 up ti a distance
       of 100 m. Cleaning of the area of garbage /45 m3/ with moving to a distance of 100 -
       150 m




Remarks:

   The report was not written by a German, but obviously by some educated prisoner, who
    had learned a "higher society" Austro-German. (Does anyone remember, who was in
    charge of these reports?)
   The report is not written by a trained construction worker / engineer. The details of work
    are described quite pictorial, but not in the manner, a trained bricklayer, locksmith, engi-
    neer or architect would do. It looks like another argument for the fact that Plagge em-
    ployed non-specialists on specialists jobs.
   The report is written with great diligence - formally and by language. It shows that it was
    one of Plagge's demands to deliver as exact work reports as possible, as only in this way
    he could justify the number of people employed in the "construction office". In this con-
    text the remark under point II. about " prepared for the construction of a large production
    hall" is of interest: It demonstrates that Plagge intended to extend his workshops and
    capacity inclusive the need for a suitable work force.
   Salomon already pointed to the "training courses of the youth" , whereby Plagge tried to
    justify the existence of children in the camp.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                               JF May 2003
                                                                                              28


SS-confidants in HKP

e-mail from William Begell to the Author:

Re: Joerg's Paper and Simon's complaints
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 10:04:56 -0400
From: BillBegell@aol.com
To: MichaelDG@aol.com, malesim@noos.fr, klaczko@lopos.de
CC: PearlEGood@aol.com, viefhaus@pvw.tu-darmstadt.de, lazargreisdorf@yahoo.com,
   gwindor@gmx.de, fiebelkorn@lopos.de

Dear All
Collaborators were (in HKP and all the ghettos and probably other camps) a routine and ob-
vious event and occurrence. Even a young man, such as I (I was 16 at that time in HKP) was
not only aware but fully knowledgeable of the Averbuchs and others who were working for
the Germans. They came and went from the camp as they pleased. They showed off their
pistols, they had good looking girl friends and plenty of money which they flashed. For camp
inmates, these people were a target of some envy, same disdain and much fear and hatred -
- a mixture of feelings. It was a natural occurrence, as I said before. Thus, it is, in my opi-
nion, perfectly normal for all of us, in historical retrospect, to mention these people, to judge
them and to discuss them, regardless how they affect different feelings and adversely reflect
the entire camp population. So be it!
Bill


e-mail from Lazar Greisdorf to the author:

Re: Spies
Date: Sat, 17 May 2003 13:36:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: Greisdorf Lazar <lazargreisdorf@yahoo.com>
To: fiebelkorn@lopos.de


Hello Joerg,
I appreciate your reluctance to use the term "spies". However, I see no advantage in this to
anyone. Terrible things were done by these spies and collaborators. I watched as my grand-
father Hirsh Greisdorf was led away by two young Jewish policemen to the assembly point
from where he and thousands of elderly were taken to Ponar and murdered. I knew a man
here in Toronto who literally sold two yellow i.d. cards (gele shaynen) which he managed to
acquire for his parents, because he knew that they would not survive no matter what docu-
ments they had. My uncle Lew (Leibl) was beaten black and blue a number of times by both
German and Jewish guards at the gate, for trying to smuggle food into the ghetto.
Two men in our building in HKP were pointed out to me, who's job it was to wander about
the streets of Wilna, to sniff out Jews who were living under false documents on the outside.
Also, from a brief conversation a few days ago with my cousin Avreml Klok who lives in De-
troit, I learned that he remembers the name Dreyzin as one of the known spies in HKP.
There is not enough "perfume" in heaven or on earth to hide the stench of people like that.
However, it must be remembered under what circumstances these people lived. They were
desperately searching for a short-term advantage, to extend their lives for another few days
or months. I would have been very surprised if there had not been such people, ready to do
desperate things under desperate circumstances.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                           JF May 2003
                                                                                          29

The search for short-term advantages is nothing new. It is being practiced in the board-
rooms of large and small corporations throughout the world today. These advantages are
called by various names; the most popular recently, are called stock options and shareholder
value. And it should be remembered that these goodies are sought after by people who are
neither hungry nor in fear for their lives.
Zai gezunt. (I am sure you can figure out what this means, without any knowledge of Yid-
dish.)
Lazar.



Literature:

   Samuel Esterovicz: Memoirs, www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/

   Pearl Good (Perella Esterovicz): Memoirs, www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/

   Karl Plagge, Denazification File, www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/

   William Begell: Testimony to Yad Vashem, www.hometown.aol.com//michaelDG/

   Irina Guzenberg:

   The Plagge Group: Archive

   Armin D. Steuer: "Dem deutschen Volke"

   Eugen Kogon: Der SS-Staat




See Letters of Conflict Part II below
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                  JF May 2003
                                                                                                  30




Letters of a Conflict - Part II. (Karl Plagge - A Struggle for Life)


               "I have never been afraid of Major Plagge of ever taking out a Luger and killing me on
               the spot. This was not the case with the German SS or Gestapo." This is the brief
               summary about Major Karl Plagge by survivor William Begell, given in his speech at
               the Darmstadt Technical University on October 6, 2002.


Having finished the work on the “letters of a conflict” end of May 03, there was still some
doubt, whether there are more sources to be surveyed for possible further information about
Karl Plagge and his actions in Vilna.


Somewhere it was suggested that Plagge had been on a search-list of the OSS immediately
after the war. This could have been a plausible course, as officially Plagge had been some-
thing like the commandant of a concentration or at least slave labour camp. Anyone who
was not familiar with the rather complicated relations between SS and Wehrmacht in Vilna,
must have seen Plagge as the responsible man for the Subocz Street camp. Having been in
such a position, the OSS had all good reasons to put Plagge on their “wanted” list.


Since the Plagge group had been so successful in using the internet, it was my first idea to
contact the US-adminstration and simply ask there for help. Unfortunately the post-war files
of the OSS seem to be held by the CIA and for understandable reasons and probably in the
context of the parallel political situation in summer my attempts to get further into the CIA
than the lengthy questionnaire about myself with which they answered my requests ren-
dered rather futile.


As usual Marianne was the one who took the more successful approach: long before she had
the intention to contact the Central Information Board about war criminals in Ludwigsburg,
where all files of post-war cases of crimes against humanity are to be found. And she found,
what we were searching for: More information about Karl Plagge and the situation in Vilne.
We have several documents:
      A summary about the most important men in Vilne by the Central Board (Doc.Sum)
      The questioning of witness Jehoshua Rosenfeld about the SS personnel in Vilna,
       (Doc.JR) including Goecke and Golosheika Richter.
      The questioning of Elias Gurewitz (Gurvicz?) about the SS – important, because
       Gurewitz worked throughout 1942 – 1944 for the SS HQ as a plumber. (Doc.EG)
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                             JF May 2003
                                                                                              31

      The questioning of attorney Stumpf, who was the adjudant to Plagge in 1942 (we
       know him from the denazification file). Stumpf was accused to have taken part in the
       Kinder-akzye, but he had never been member of the SS and was at the time sta-
       tioned in Paris. (Doc.AS)
      The questionning of Karl Plagge in the case of Zwi Klejnberg against the Baden-
       Wurttemberg adminstration for compensation for false imprisonment (Doc.KP) and
       last but not least the
      Questionning of Karl-Heinrich Proepper, member of the "OT", who ran a warehouse
       for vehicle spare parts in Vilne and therefore was in contact with Plagge and in even
       closer contact with the SS. (Doc. KHP)


Of course for me it was the most important question, wether these sources would strengthen
the image of Plagge as I had tried to paint or wether the conclusions drawn in the “Letters of
a Conflict” would be wrong. To cut it short, at least they must be amended in one or the
other point, some are supporting the appreciation of Plagge. A careful look into the last days
of the Subocz street camp must be taken, as we now have information, which to a certain
amount are in contrast to the former assessments.


Surprisingly I received a list of three people from the “Deutsche Dienststelle”, which were
given as somehow having been in contact with HKP. I wrote to all of them as they had offi-
cially given their readyness to be contacted by me. Unfortunately only one answered – Mrs.
Mueller, who turned out to have been the secretary of Plagge’s paymaster. She had married
Mueller after the war. She was about 19 years old, when she came to Vilna and remembers
very little about the time, except the warm treatment of her house-lady. She remembers
Plagge as a very serious man and that he had visited the Muellers after the war and had
discussed the denazification trial with her husband. But no details are known to her as she
wrote, except the hurry, in which she and some other secretary was burning all the papers
and documents of HKP before they left Vilna.


There were some more contacts – f.e. to Mr. Rejshewski in Israel, a survivor from the Kailis
camp, to Mr. Arnold Kerr and Meir Shapiro, who also had been briefly in Kailis, but all of
them could not give other than already known information. Only via Simon Malkes we were
informed about the “Swirsky-case”. As far as known to us until now, the father of Mr. Swir-
sky had studied in Darmstadt at the same time as Plagge and they both knew each other.
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                JF May 2003
                                                                                                 32

Once, when the Swirskis were caught by the SD having smuggled some food, Plagge saved
them. Details will be asked by Dr. Paldiel.


There are two events and one aspect to concentrate at:
     The corruption, which was common all over the SS.
     September 1943, when the Ghetto was dissolved and Plagge could save 100 Jews from
      being killed at Ponary and
     June 1944, when the Germans fled from Vilna.


Corruption
It is already mentioned that the SS was generally susceptible to bribes. All remarks about
this fact came from the side of survivors, while former SS-men demand strongly that the SS
was "clean" - a fact which was repeatedly claimed at the post-war courts. Not only in the
Buchenwald concentration camp as described before the SS could be bribed. We now have
an excellent witness for the widespread corruption and self-enrichment within the SS in
Vilna. Karl-Heinrich Proepper gives enough evidence for this. Proepper - a car salesman and
former civil pilot, unfit for military service - ran a vehicle spare part warehouse within the
"OT63" in Vilna. As he was dependent on local work-force, he employed some Jewish "spe-
cialists" - just like Plagge. Out of his insight into the SS organisation and most of the SS per-
sonnel he must have co-operated very closely with the SS. To his warehouse belonged some
trucks, with which he had to pick up spares in the factories in Germany. As these trucks
drove to Germany empty, they were used for private mail:
          "These offices (of the SS and SD64) contacted me .... and asked for transportation of
          their packets, cases, suit-cases and baggage from time to time, what I evidently did.
          I posted these items mostly in Danzig, Koenigsberg and sent them to their addresses.
          Especially the SD (Security Police) used this service quite often. Meanwhile I also rec-
          ognised, what one or the other of these offices was sending and - curiosity may be
          excused - saw that in these pieces of luggage were items of highest value, such as:
          gold, gold-roubles, diamonds, watches, valuable porcelains, carpets, cameras etc. etc.
          This curiosity paid off in so far, as from now on I knew something and could "paint
          the town red" where I had to keep silent until then.




63
     OT: Organisation Todt, civil organisation for technical services
64
     inserted by the author
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                             JF May 2003
                                                                                             33

       ...Being asked for further persons, for whom I had transported luggage from Vilna to
       the Reich, I declare that within the coming times it were all members of the SS in
       Vilna."


Two results can be drawn from Mr Proepper's testimony
-   everybody within the SS was stealing
-   all of them could be bribed and blackmailed.
It is important for our case, because otherwise the rescue of at least a hundred Jews cannot
be fully explained:


September 1943
The witness Elias Gurewitz, being asked about the SS in Vilna said:
       "The following names of members of the Gestapo in Vilna are known to me:
       ....
       "Dietz, master sergeant (3 stripes), responsible for the administration, short but
       sturdy figure, age 53, took part in WW I, hobbled due to an old war-injury, told me
       that his home had been bombed.
       110 Jews had been hiding in Rudnitzka No 6. They were detected and brought to the
       Gestapo prison. Kammermacher, the Jewish leader of the Jewish work forces at the
       Gestapo and Kolis, the leader of the Jewish work force at HKP (about 1300) asked
       Major Plagge of HKP for help. He sent a request for 200 labourers for an express re-
       pair job to the Gestapo. On this Dietz handed over all 110 prisoners, which otherwise
       certainly would have been shot."
The same (?) SS-sergeant "Dietz" was described by witness K-H Proepper as follows:
       "When being confronted with the name Dietz of EK (Einsatzkommando) III, I declare
       that I have transported luggage for him .... into the Reich. Thereby it became known
       to me that a package of 2 kg of gold, diamonds and the like was included. This pack-
       age I have mailed on his order to Berlin-Schoenwalde." (Proepper indicates that this
       was the private address of Dietz)


Although Dietz had not been described by Elias Gurewitz as a "killer", he must have had spe-
cial reasons to follow Plagge's request. Normally the SS did not "obey" to Wehrmacht orders,
but here it can be assumed that both came together: Plagge's compelling authority and
some bribes from Kammermacher and Kolysh. At another opportunity we already heard of
such a case, where Plagge took over a hundred people from Kailis, following a request of
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                              JF May 2003
                                                                                                34

Kolysh and with the full knowledge of SS-sergeant Richter, the supervisor of Subocz Street.
Here again we have a testimony for the swift and successful help, rendered by Plagge to
save people in direct threat to their lives.


Certainly at the same time the SS was mainly occupied with the sweep up and killing of all
the other inmates of the Ghetto. Therefore Plagge could dare to pretend an "express repair
job". But still there was the danger that SS-sergeant Richter might have the idea to control
the case and look for the "repairs", which needed 200 people immediately and must have
been of a size not to be overseen.


Proepper met similar difficulties in performing his job as others: repeatedly men of his work-
force, which were trained on the job "disappeared" - being taken and killed by the SS or SD.
He complained at the SD headquarter and was turned down by Bruno Kittel65:
       ".. and it was indicated quite frankly that I had nothing to complain, I shouldn't be-
       come impertinent....
       This I reported to the commandant of HKP 564, Captain Plagge, who was promoted
       to Major in 1943. Mr. Plagge is a civil engineer. Since I had talked about with Captain
       Plagge, the conditions became slightly better, liquidations - as far as pertaining to my
       labourers - stopped and I could continue my job."
In other words, it was thanks Plagge's influence that "the liquidations stopped".


1st of July 1944


The information given in the "Letters of a Conflict" about the end of the Subocz street camp
has to be amended. Until then we had the testimonies of the denazification trial in 1948 and
the remembrances of the survivors. Out of that and being without any exact information I
had assumed (following the fact that Plagge and the HKP went into captivity in France) that
HKP had been ordered from Vilna to the invasion front in France. A central point of my ar-
gument was somehow derived from here: The timing of Plagge's speech.
We learn from Plagge's testimony in April 1956 two things of importance: that HKP was or-
dered to move only a few hundred kilometres West to East Prussia and secondly, that on 3rd
of July he returned to Subocz street, only to hear the shooting there and to be stopped in
entering the camp:
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                      JF May 2003
                                                                                                       35

        "When in summer 1944 the HKP received the order, to move to East Prussia, we in-
        tended to take the Jews (of Subocz street - author's remark) with us. In the midst of
        the clutter during the evacuation I got information that a mob-up commando of the
        SD would be in the camp and that there would be shooting. When I drove there, en-
        trance was denied to me. Only later I learned to know from a Jew that a part of them
        managed to escape."
When I read this statement, immediately I asked myself, why Plagge did not mention his
attempt to save the Jews in Subocz street in the denazification trial. He also did not mention
it to Dr. Alfred Stumpf:
        "With Major Plagge I met after the war at several occasions. I had searched for him
        after the war, because I wanted to help him in his denazification trial. Plagge had told
        a lot to me about his experiences with HKP until the end of the war. But he never
        mentioned that in July 1944 or at another time about 1.500 inmates of the HKP-camp
        in Vilna were liquidated. Also about a children's action in the Kailis work-camp in May
        1944 nothing is known to me"66


Could it be that Plagge gave false information about what had happened? Why did he only
talk about his futile trial at Subocz street 8 years after the denazification trial?
Having gone through all the possibilities, the only valid explanation to me is the following:
If HKP was ordered to move to East Prussia, the distance was as such that Plagge could
hope to take the labourers with him - he even had reasons for that, as in the Reich there
were no slave labourers available. Also the technical problem for the transport of a thousand
people was less difficult than for a move to France. We should not forget that still in 1944
most of the German Wehrmacht moved on their flat feet - that was the normal speed of mili-
tary movements - also the Red Army's movements were at least dictated by the speed of the
infantry. A march of the prisoners in Subocz street from Vilna via Kaunas to Gumbinnen - a
traffic node in the East of East Prussia - was a distance of less than 200 km.
        " Of course most of the HKP Jews would make it to Prussia if permitted to do it
        slowly, we were not starving or exhausted, but July 3rd would probably have been
        too late, that was the day marked for our 'evacuation' "67
Chart of East-Prussia to Vilna:

65
   Witness Proepper (Doc.KHP) says about the fate of Kittel: "With reference to Kittel I state that it is
said he drove on a mine during a guerrilla action, whereby both his legs were torn off. In his rucksack
many golden items were found. Whether Kittel is dead I cannot say."
66
   Stumpf was questioned, because Rosa Zusman-Schufian had notified, a certain SS-officer named
"Stumpf" had been the responsible leader of the children's action.
67
   Pearl Good, answering to this question in an e-mail of October 29, 2003
 Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                            JF May 2003
                                                                                               36




GUMBINNEN -
now Gusev




 Could there have been a realistic chance for the prisoners in Subocz street that they would
 not been liquidated as all the other Jews in the concentration camps on the retreat of the
 Wehrmacht? We know that on one side the SS ruthlessly tried to eradicate all traces of their
 murder. The knowledge about had even come to Vilna as described in Samuel Esterovicz'
 testimony. But on the other hand there were a lot of cases - especially to the end of the war
 - where prisoners of concentration camps were marched to other camps out of the reach of
 the Russians.


 Without any doubt Plagge knew about the zeal of the SS to escape with as much pilferage as
 possible. And of course he knew their weakness of character, being open for bribery. Unfor-
 tunately here one man turned out to be different: Jehoshua Rosenfeld, characterising the
 SS-men in his testimony, described Goecke as follows:


        "Goecke, SS-Lieutenant-Colonel and commandant of concentration camp Kowno,
        came from Karlsruhe (150 km south of Darmstadt) ( an acquaintant named Hoff-
        meckler, leader of the Jewish camp-orchestra, has visited Mrs. Goecke in Karlsruhe),
        about mid 40, medium high, very good looking, claimed for himself, the enemy's ra-
        dio called him the mass-murderer with the glacé kid gloves, has come from the KL
        Mauthausen to Kowno, his personal behaviour in the camp is not to be objectionable,
        was well acquainted - if not even friendly - with the Ghetto-inmate Hoffmeckler, as he
        himself as well was a music-lover, the foundation of the camp-orchestra was his ini-
        tiative (has f.e. at the camp-police action selected those camp police men, who were
        members of the camp orchestra, before they were brought to fort IX by the Ge-
        stapo).
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                                     JF May 2003
                                                                                                     37

          Goecke has liquidated the camp. An offer made to him by Dr. Elkes, to save the camp
          until the Russians would approach and receive for that 1 million Dollars, he rejected
          with the remark, he could not betray his uniform. Up to which extend Goecke would
          be responsible for the "Elder and Children's Action" in his time, I cannot say, as his
          participation was his allowance that the Gestapo executed them. In late autumn 1944
          I have read myself in the "Schwarzes Korps"68, Goecke supposedly had been killed in
          Italy."
So Goecke was determined to kill all Jews on the retreat of the Wehrmacht and SS. Actually
we have the testimony of Proepper to this point:
          "On July 1 1944 came the order from Kaunas (The commanding SS-office), to dis-
          solve the office until 3rd of June. The order was as such:
                    'The external office Vilna is to be dissolved with immediate effective, all
                    charts, files etc. are to be destroyed. All prisoners in the local prison are to be
                    liquidated at once. The other Jews in the secured house in the ghetto are to
                    be brought to the special treatment ("Sonderbehandlung") as well. If there
                    are any incidents, the ghetto is to be blasted. Execution must be reported.
                    signed Schmitz SS captain'
          Dr. Richter (SS-Major Richter and chief of the SD) gave the liquidation order at 6 a.m.
          In the afternoon, when I was loading the baggage into a wagon at the station,
          someone of the SD told me that the secure house of the ghetto was blown up and
          the torn bodies of the Jews were thrown through the air."


Under these circumstances Plagge had no chance to get through with any idea to use the
general clutter for the evacuation of the Jews in Subocz street.


Why did he not mention this earlier? Remembering the word in his letters to the Greisdorfs,
it is my deep conviction that he was ashamed about his failure to help in a decisive situation.
He must have been convinced that all his attempts over the last years, all his tricky man-
agement of HKP, all his arguing against the SS and last but not least all the risks he had
taken, had rendered futile at the end: The prisoners were all killed! He must have had ac-
cused himself for that: "I did only, what I was allowed to do" - these words have got the
true tragic content since we know, what must have moved him, when he recognised at the
gates of Subocz street the ongoing killing. It can be assumed that he was ashamed. There-
fore he did not mention the two most inculpatory cases, in which he was unable to interfere

68
     "Schwarzes Korps" (Black Corps) was the name of an SS-newspaper
Karl Plagge - Letters of a conflict                                             JF May 2003
                                                                                               38

or act against - the children's action and the disbandment of Subocz street - even to Dr.
Stumpff - the lawyer, who contacted him for help. Up to and until the end of his denazifica-
tion trial he must have assumed that all prisoners of Subocz street were killed, only at the
end of the trial he heard from Mrs. Eichamueller - the unexpected witness - that there are
survivors! Immediately he wrote to the Greisdorfs and contacted them. Only now he recog-
nised that his attempts to save life were not completely futile. And now he could speak about
what had happened.

				
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