Plannen[ bewerken brontekst bewerken ] De kampen rondom de stad Auschwitz in het rood Na de Duitse aanval op Polen in september kregen de Duitsers te maken met toenemende weerstand en verzet. Veel Poolse politieke tegenstanders werden opgepakt. Hiervoor werd een ommuurde Poolse legerkazerne met stenen barakken omgebouwd. Dit was een vochtig, drassig en ongezond gebied. De reeds bestaande Poolse legerkazernes in het dorpje Zasole vormden de eerste behuizing van het kampcomplex.

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Published November 23, Updated December 3, For better food, a separate room, and protection from hard labor and the gas chamber, some prisoners became kapos — but they had to beat their fellow inmates in return. In , months after being freed from a Nazi concentration camp, Eliezer Gruenbaum was walking down the streets of Paris. But before he could, someone stopped him on the street. Arrest him! Gruenbaum protested.

But the police issued a warrant for his arrest the next day. Gruenbaum was accused of one of the worst possible crimes a Jew in s Europe could commit: being a kapo.

In exchange for better food and clothing, increased autonomy, possible occasional visits to a brothel, and a 10 times greater chance of survival, kapos served as the first line of discipline and regulation within the camps. They supervised their fellow inmates, oversaw their slave labor , and often punished them for the slightest infractions — sometimes by beating them to death. The underlying threat of violence from both the SS above them and angry prisoners below brought out the worst in the kapos, and thus the Nazis found a way to get their inmates to torture each other for free.

Being a kapo came with small rewards that came and went depending on how well you did your job. That job, though, was preventing starving people from escaping, separating families, beating people bloody for minor infractions, moving your fellow prisoners into the gas chambers — and taking their bodies out.

You always had an SS officer breathing down your neck, ensuring you did your job with sufficient cruelty. That cruelty was all that would save kapo prisoners from being worked, starved, or gassed to death like those they kept in line.

Prisoners knew this, and most hated kapos for their cowardice and complicity. But that was by design. He knows only too well that they will kill him on the first night. They will thus have established with their instigators the bond of complicity and will no longer be able to turn back. After the Holocaust ended in , some kapos defended their actions, saying their positions of power in concentration camps let them protect their fellow prisoners and soften their punishments; they beat them, they argued, in order to save them from the gas chambers.

But were kapos uniquely cruel, or did their apparent obedience to the Nazis make them merely seem more vicious in the eyes of the millions of Holocaust prisoners? Wikimedia CommonsStarved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria.

May At the death camps, there were also sonderkommandos who dealt with the dead, removing corpses from gas chambers, harvesting metal teeth, and moving them to crematoriums. Cruelty was rampant. At meals, prisoners who pushed in line or tried to get more servings would be beaten by the kapos who served them.

Throughout the day, kapos were tasked with keeping order, and some them would sadistically exploit their authority. Some kapos took things even further.

In , at the culmination of the first Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, Emil Bednarek was given life imprisonment for 14 counts of murder. A comrade of mine named Chaim Birnfeld slept next to me on the third floor of the bunk. He probably had a lot of lice, because Bednarek hit him terribly, and he may have injured his spine.

Birnfeld wept and wailed through the night. In the morning he lay dead on the bunk. The Nazis set up brothels in several concentration camps and filled them with non-Jewish female prisoners. German men could only go to German women; Slavic men could only go to Slavic women.

It was state-sanctioned, systemized rape. Many kapos had piepels, pre-adolescent or young adolescent boys who were forced into sexual relationships with kapos in order to survive.

Children liberated from Auschwitz in There are also, of course, other reasons that people might have pursued the kapo position. Gruenbaum did not volunteer to be a kapo; his friends volunteered for him while he was asleep.

Wikimedia CommonsArmband of a Jewish oberkapo from the concentration camps. He spoke Polish and German, making him a good go-between for the prisoners and guards, and his father was a prominent Polish-Jewish leader, which they thought would give him good standing among the prisoners. After a few months of digging, he was sent to the Monowitz concentration camp and then to the mining camp at Jawischowitz. Wikimedia CommonsU. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U. President Franklin D.

February Under the conditions of the Yalta Conference, Poland was given over to a provisional communist party run from Moscow. He was a devoted communist, and he had always wanted a communist Poland. Upon arrival, he attempted to join the Polish Communist Party, but party officials were suspicious of his time as a kapo and opened an official inquiry.

While the committee delayed and debated their decision on whether to bar him from their ranks, Gruenbaum decided to go to Paris. The city boasted a large number of communist Poles and Jews before the war, and he was certain he could find comrades there. Dwight Eisenhower and others after being liberated. April 12, But his former fellow inmates spotted him.

The Communist Party of Poland expelled him, while after a grueling eight months of questioning the French court ultimately ruled that his case fell beyond its jurisdiction.

Gruenbaum, realizing he had a target on his back in Europe, finally agreed to follow his family to Palestine. What Did Eliezer Gruenbaum Do? The accusations against Gruenbaum presented in Paris were explicit and grotesque.

By these accounts, Gruenbaum was not a good communist biding his time in a bad situation. He was a monster. Gruenbaum was said to have kicked an old man to death for asking for more soup. Another accuser said the former kapo had beaten his son to death with a stick. Yes, he did some bad things, he argued, but by and large he did what he thought would ultimately minimize harm.

The inmates outnumbered SS officers and other authorities at Auschwitz by a considerable margin. Especially early on, before there were as many sick and starving in the population, if the prisoners had risen up, they could have changed their situation for the better.

It kept prisoners alive and waiting, but for many of them, death would be their only liberation. In January , Gruenbaum visited a block of people who had been sentenced to die in the gas chambers. Gruenbaum snapped. Who is guarding you here? Why are you sitting quietly? Am I or that kid [one of the four prisoners who were guarding the two blocks] stopping you? They probably would have been killed, but they could have made a real impact; the camps could not have run without kapos.

Wikimedia Commons. Sonderkommandos disposing of bodies at Auschwitz in August With the hope of planning an escape, of being useful to other political prisoners, of eventually returning to a free and communist Poland, Gruenbaum could convince himself that what he was doing made sense. Without that hope, there would only have been the horror. His father, Yitzhak, had joined him in Paris in after a years-long search for his estranged son, and he brought him to their new home.

Wikimedia CommonsYitzhak Gruenbaum third from left with other officials at a detention camp in Palestine. In Palestine, Gruenbaum wrote extensively in his journal about his brutal and confusing memories of his kapo days.

Letters and new accusations against Eliezer were published in Jewish newspapers. Following the passage of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law in , a series of kapo trials took place. The harshest sentence given to a Jewish kapo was only 18 months, and many were sentenced to time served and released.

But he would never face an Israeli court. Eliezer went to enlist but was denied because of his kapo past. His father successfully petitioned David Ben-Gurion, another Pole and the future first prime minister of Israel, to admit him. Afula, Israel, On May 22, , just a week after the start of the war, according to the official version of events, Eliezer Gruenbaum was with his battalion on the way to engage the enemy when their vehicle was hit by a shell.

Their commander killed, Gruenbaum was struck by shrapnel in the face, losing consciousness from blood loss before recovering. Amid the fighting, Gruenbaum was shot in the head and died. There are other theories as to how Eliezer Gruenbaum died. Another popular, and still possible, theory is that he killed himself.

By surviving past the end of World War II and dying in battle, Gruenbaum may have escaped an even uglier fate. Many kapos who faced their former subordinates after the war met grisly ends. After the Mauthausen concentration camp was liberated, for instance, most of the kapos were lynched by an angry mob of prisoners. Holocaust Memorial MuseumThe U. Army liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp in May , whereafter the prisoners proceeded to lynch their former kapos.

It was relatively simple. Ten, 15, or sometimes 20 of us went to blocks… where all of the German scum had taken refuge, those who were kapos just yesterday, block bosses, room chiefs, etc. They were going to suffer when they died, in the way they had made our comrades suffer and die.


Auschwitz (concentratiekamp)

Published November 23, Updated December 3, For better food, a separate room, and protection from hard labor and the gas chamber, some prisoners became kapos — but they had to beat their fellow inmates in return. In , months after being freed from a Nazi concentration camp, Eliezer Gruenbaum was walking down the streets of Paris. But before he could, someone stopped him on the street. Arrest him! Gruenbaum protested.


Role of Kapos in Nazi Concentration Camps

Jennifer L. While there were many SS who staffed the camps, their ranks were supplemented with local auxiliary troops and prisoners. Prisoners that were chosen to be in these higher positions served in the role of Kapos. In the Nazi concentration camps, the term Kapo was first used at Dachau from which it spread to the other camps. Regardless of the origin, Kapos played a vital role in the Nazi camp system as a large number of prisoners within the system required constant oversight.

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