Film Screening & Conversation: The Good Nazi

When: Thursday, May 30 2019, 7:30 pm
Where: Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 [view map]


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Film Screening & Conversation: The Good Nazi Image

1943. The Vilna Ghetto is about to be liquidated when Major Karl Plagge, a Nazi officer chooses to risk his own life to save the lives if Vilna's Jews. Plagge's heroism was relatively unknown until Dr. Michael Good sought out Professor Richard Freund to tell him a miraculous story of the Holocaust known by very few people. Professor Freund is the Director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies and Greenberg Professor of Jewish History at the University of Hartford, in Hartford, Connecticut.This is the story of Plagge, of the people he tried but failed to rescue, and of the hundreds of people who he saved. 

The Good Nazi explores how Plagge, while acting as the commandant of a forced labor camp, sheltered hundreds of Jewish families. 

Today, the former “HKP” – unchanged! – is home to impoverished Lithuanians. Because the government is about to tear down the site and put up condos instead, a group of scientists arrives to locate the hiding places of those that were saved and identify the mass grave of those who were murdered. A child survivor of the camp and an American physician, whose mother was saved by Major Plagge, join them. The film tracks their three stories and, ultimately, brings to light the unknown tale of a Schindler-type German who listened to his conscience, instead of his superiors.

Dr. Freund, the lead archaeologist on the Vilnius temple project will give us the back story on the work that reveals the story of the “Schindler of Lithuania” Major Karl Plagge with writer Michael Good. 

Dr. Richard A. Freund is the Maurice Greenberg Professor of Jewish History and Director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford. Professor Freund has directed over a dozen archaeological projects on behalf of the University of Hartford in Israel, including sites associated with the beginnings of Christianity and Judaism at Nazareth, Bethsaida, and Qumran, site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, he has directed projects on behalf of the University of Hartford in Spain (2 sites), Poland (3 sites), Rhodes, Greece (four sites) and Lithuania (15 sites in Lithuania). His work has been featured in the New York Times, Time magazine, Reader’s Digest, Newsweek, Archaeology, two major articles in Smithsonian magazine and featured on the BBC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and Fox News and in hundreds of media outlets worldwide. His work is featured in 20 television documentaries from National Geographic, CNN, Discovery, History Channel and PBS. His most recent work in Lithuania has been chronicled in a recent NOVA science series episode: “Holocaust Escape Tunnel” on the new discoveries made in the Ponar Burial Pits and the Great Synagogue of Vilna, Lithuania that has been seen around the world. Dr. Freund is the author of over 100 scholarly articles and ten books (written or co-edited) including his most recent book Digging through History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012; paperback 2016). In spring, 2019 his new book: Archaeology of the Holocaust: Vilna, Rhodes, and Escape Tunnels (Rowman &Littlefield, 2019) will be published.

Michael Good a family physician from Connecticut became interested in Holocaust history in 1999 during a family trip to Vilnius, Lithuania.  During this journey, his mother told him of the mysterious German army officer, a certain Major Plagge, who commanded her slave labor camp and who  she claimed had saved her, her parents and over 250  Jewish workers from the murderous intent of the Nazis. She did not know who he was or what had become of the German officer, but she insisted that “Plagge saved us all”. Following this trip, Good set out to find this enigmatic officer, trying to understand who Major Plagge was and why a German officer would have acted so benevolently at a time when his countrymen were committing atrocities on a previously unthinkable scale. In his book,”The Search for Major Plagge" Dr. Good shares his parents’ stories of survival and  describes his search for the man who saved his mother’s life. During this journey of exploration  he built a team of camp survivors and researchers from Canada, France, Israel, and Germany to answer the questions that had haunted camp survivors and their descendants for decades. Good gradually reveals the story of a remarkable man of conscience, who transformed from an early supporter of the Nazi party into a covert rescuer of persecuted Jews.

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