by Simon Malkes (Paris)
I was born in 1927 in the city whose official name was then Wilno, Poland (historically Vilna, today’s Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania). When I was fourteen, the Nazis took over the city, began murdering its Jewish population and set up the Vilna Ghetto. My own survival is due to my having been taken as a teenage repairman of German military vehicles at the plant known as HKP (Heereskraftfahrpark or Army Motor Vehicle Repair Park) on Subotsh Street (today’s Subačiaus). That one enterprise was under the directorship of Major Karl Plagge (1897–1957), a righteous gentile who did everything he could to protect as many Jewish workers as possible from the huge murder machine. Famously, shortly before the Nazi flight from the Soviet army in the summer of 1944, he gave a coded warning to his workers about a need for imminent escape.