HKP 562 forced labor camp
HKP 562, located on Subocz Street (now Subačiaus Street 47 and 49) in Vilnius, Lithuania, was the site of an unusual labor camp during the Holocaust. The camp was officially owned and administered by the SS, but run on a day-to-day basis by a Wehrmacht engineering unit, HKP 562 (Heereskraftfahrpark 562) stationed in Vilna. HKP 562's commanding officer Major Karl Plagge was sympathetic to the plight of his Jewish workers. Plagge and some of his men made efforts to protect the Jews of the camp from the murderous intent of the SS.
The HKP camp was hastily erected in September 1943 when Major Plagge learned of the impending liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto and with considerable difficulty gained permission to move his Jewish workers and their families to a free-standing labor camp on the outskirts of Vilna. The camp housed approximately 1,000 Jewish men, women and children. Due to the sympathies of Major Plagge, it was largely free of the abuse, hunger and brutality found in most slave labor camps in Nazi-occupied Poland. In spite of the generally benign attitude of the officers and men of the HKP unit, the SS did enter the camp on several occasions and committed atrocities. Most notable was the Kinder Aktion (an action against the camp's children) on March 27, 1944, during which the SS removed the vast majority of the 250 children living in the camp, who were then taken to their deaths.
Just before the German retreat, on July 1, 1944, Major Plagge made an informal speech inside the camp. In the presence of an SS officer, he told the prisoners that he and his men were being relocated to the west, and he was unable to get permission to take his workers with his unit. The prisoners were told that they would be relocated on July 3 by the SS. With this covert warning, over half the camp's prisoners went into hiding before the SS death squads arrived on July 3, 1944. The 500 prisoners who did appear at roll call were taken to the forest of Paneriai and shot. Over the next three days the SS searched the camp and its surroundings and succeeded in finding half the missing prisoners; these 250 Jews were shot in the camp courtyard. However, when the Red Army captured Vilnius a few days later, some 250 of the camp's Jews emerged from hiding. This group represents the largest single group of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Vilnius.
- Guzenberg, Irina (2002). Žydų darbo stovykla HKP: 1943–1944: dokumentai. The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. ISBN 9955-9556-1-9.
- Good, Michael (2005). The Search For Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews. Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-8232-2440-6.
- Chronicles of the Vilna Ghetto: wartime photographs & documents - vilnaghetto.com
- Family Journey Website