Mikhail (Meir) Plotkin was born in 1912 in the village of Ardon, Chernigov Province. His father was a melamed, a teacher in a traditional Jewish religious elementary school or heder. Meer studied in this school until he was 10, when a massive campaign was launched in many parts of the USSR to close the hadorim and transform them into general Soviet schools. In 1929 he moved to Moscow and in 1931 he was drafted into the Red Army. When he graduated from a military school for naval flyers, Plotkin began serving with the airplanes of the Baltic Fleet. Around that time he exchanged his Jewish first name and patronymic for the Russian ones Mikhail Nikolaevich.
Plotkin fought in the Soviet-Finnish winter war of 1940 as the commander of a wing and then as commander of a squadron. He was awarded the prestigious Order of Lenin for his exploits in battle.
From the very beginning of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union Plotkin participated in operations, including the bombing of naval bases and of enemy tank columns near Daugavpils and Pskov.
In late July of 1941 Captain Plotkin became commander of a wing in an special air group whose assignment was to bomb German cities, including Berlin. On August 8 and 9, with his crew Plotkin took part in the first Soviet bombings of factories and a train station in the German capital. The planes of that time were not capable of flying at high altitude and during one mission Plotkin almost died from the cold and lack of oxygen. Although these bombings did not cause great damage to Germany, they had a major effort both in terms of morale and for propaganda purposes. One woman from Berlin wrote as follows to her husband at the front:
"My dear Ernst. The war against Russia has already cost us many hundreds of thousands of lives. Gloomy thoughts do not leave me. Recently bombers have been flying over us. Everyone is told that it is the Americans but we know for certain that on that night it was the Russians who bombed us. They are taking revenge for Moscow. Berlin is shaking from the bomb explosions…. And in general I have to tell you from the time that the Russians appeared over our heads, you can not imagine how dreadful we have been feeling. The parents of Willi Furstenberg were working at an artillery factory. The factory no longer exists! Willi's parents perished under the debris. Oh, Ernst, when the Russian bombs fell on the Siemens factory, I felt that everything was just falling through the earth. Why did you get ever get involved with the Russians?"
For his participation in these operations Plotkin was honored as Hero of the Soviet Union (on August 13, 1941). When in September of that year the Wehrmacht occupied the entire territory of Estonia, Soviet bombers that flew from there to attack Germany had to stop this operation. In the proceeding months Plotkin had taken an active part in aerial combat around Leningrad, including in nighttime attacks. On March 7, 1942, returning from a combat mission, Plotkin was killed in an accident when landing. Plotkin and his crew were buried in Leningrad's most prestigious cemetery, that of the Alexander Nevsky religious seminary (Lavra), where the remains of Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, Mussorgsky, and other great Russian cultural figures rest.
After the war Plotkin's airplan, with an indication of his name, was exhibited in the Museum of the Defense of Leningrad. Most of the Museum's exhibited were destroyed after the Museum was closed down in 1951 during Stalin's postwar repressions.
Article about Mikhail Plotkin
Plotkin was recalled as follows in Eynikayt by one of his comrades-in-arms G. Shoshmin:
"I had the opportunity to spend the first half year of the war with Mikhail Nikolaevich Plotkin. And I never saw him happier than during the time of our missions to Berlin. He then often said: 'The Germans want to annihilate all the Jews. That is not an empty threat to the world – the Fascists are capable of anything. Just look at what they are now doing in Europe. I must fly and keep flying, fly until we beat them. And we absolutely will beat them."
G. Shoshmin, "Er hot der ershter bombirt Berlin" (He Was the First to Bomb Berlin), Eynikayt, August 17, 1946.