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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Israel recognises 'new Schindler'
Maj Karl Plagge (pic: Yad Vashem)
Plagge ran a vehicle maintenance unit (pic: Yad Vashem)
A German army officer who saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazi Holocaust in Lithuania has been honoured at a ceremony in Israel.

The story of Maj Karl Plagge was unearthed by a US doctor, Michael Good, who began searching in 1999 for the Nazi who had saved his mother.

Maj Plagge sheltered about 1,200 Jews at a vehicle workshop while the SS annihilated the Vilnius ghetto.

Plagge, who died in 1957, was honoured by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

It is unusual for Yad Vashem to bestow the "Righteous Among the Nations" title on a German who was part of the Nazi war machine, the memorial's chairman Avner Shalev told the BBC News website.

"He asked for more and more workers and tried his best to keep the conditions relatively more humane," Mr Shalev said.

Plagge, who served in Vilnius from June 1941 to June 1944, ran a repair facility for German army (Wehrmacht) vehicles, where hundreds of Jews worked.


Yad Vashem's Certificate of Honour and medal were presented to Professor Johann-Dietrich Woerner, President of Darmstadt Technical University, where Plagge was once a student.

Dr Michael Good with photo of Maj Karl Plagge
Dr Good conducted painstaking research into Plagge's story
Plagge had no surviving relatives.

Mr Good and his parents attended the ceremony along with about 30 survivors.

"I spent a lot of time thinking and obsessing about my quest, learning about him and getting him recognised," Mr Good said.

The search for evidence was difficult, as Mr Good had to collect testimonies from survivors scattered across the globe.

Mr Shalev said some of Plagge's key letters to the German high command were discovered in archives only recently.

"We wanted to be sure he hadn't committed any crimes against humanity - that's why it took so long... All the survivors said he had saved their lives."

Plagge hired about 1,200 Jewish workers from the ghetto - 500 men, and the rest women and children, Mr Shalev said.

Plagge told the high command that keeping families together would boost the workers' motivation - thereby defying the SS troops, who were killing Jews en masse.

Record scrutinised

As the Red Army approached and the extermination of Jews intensified, Plagge hinted at the fate awaiting his workers - enabling about 250 of them to flee.

Despite his efforts, the SS took away the Jewish children.

Survivor Pearl Good points to Karl Plagge's name on Wall of Honour at Yad Vashem (pic: Yad Vashem)
Survivor Pearl Good points to Karl Plagge's name on the Wall of Honour (pic: Yad Vashem)

Plagge joins 20,757 men and women recognised by Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews from annihilation by the SS.

Of them, only 410 are German and few of them were German soldiers.

Yad Vashem approved the honour for Plagge last July.

It had twice rejected Mr Good's petitions because it required evidence that the officer had taken a "considerable and conscious risk" to save Jews.

He joined Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler in the roll of honour at Yad Vashem.

Schindler, hero of a 1993 movie called Schindler's List, saved up to 1,200 Jews by employing them in his munitions factory during the war.

Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved many Hungarian Jews.

Mr Good recently published a book called The Search For Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews.

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