The Kapo Thread

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Jeffk 1970
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The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:37 pm

I wanted to open this thread in order to explore in more detail the roles of Kapos in the Concentration Camp System. We started talking about this a little in the SK thread. I'm basing this on what Wachsman says about Kapos in his KL book.

Himmler actually considered the deployment of the Kapos as part of the success of the KL system.
Wachsman, pg. 122:
....Himmler told German generals in the Summer of 1944...."this ingenious scheme for "holding down subhumans"...had been pioneered by Theodore Eike. A few select inmates, Himmler explained, forced others to work hard, keep clean and make their beds.

These Kapos enabled the SS to run the KL's with a minimum amount of men. Wachsman explains that really the idea was nothing new, German prisons utilized prisoners as trustees and the system existed in the Concentration Camps before Eicke. What made the Kapos unique was the amount of power that some of these Kapos acquired. The SS picked the Kapos (though the SS listened to prominent prisoners in choosing these Kapos).

The Kapos fell into three groups:
1) Work Supervisors
2) Block Supervisors
3) Camp Administration

At the top of the Kapo hierarchy there was the Camp Elder. He acted as the liaison between the prisoners and the SS and supervised the other Kapos. He often had two deputies.

Per Wachsman, the Communists dominated the prewar Kapos. They were disciplined and structured, plus they were very loyal to their comrades. As I stated in the SK thread, some Kapos willingly terrorized the other prisoners, others used whatever small means at their disposal to ease conditions for the other prisoners. While the Kapos appeared to hold a lot of power the reality was they were completely beholden to their SS overseers. The SS punished Kapos who didn't follow orders and even demoted them back to the common ranks. This sometimes led to the other prisoners murdering former Kapos as a means of rough prisoner justice against especially cruel Kapos.

This is just a basic outline. I wanted to start this in order to give others a chance to flesh this out.

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:52 pm

As a continuation....
Wachsman mentions that at the end of the war some prisoners took justice in their own hands against the Kapos. Because most of the SS slipped away the crueler Kapos faced the inmates they helped torment. One of the crueler Kapos at Auschwitz, Bruno Brodniewicz, died at the hands of other inmates and at Ebensee over fifty Kapos died. These incidents were relatively rare, for the most part the survivors were too traumatized, sick or hungry to enact vengeance.

I'll talk about trials next.

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:03 pm

One point to add - the Camp SS made the Kapos a wedge in their divide-to-conquer strategy. E.g., IIRC German greens from Sachsenhausen were transferred to Auschwitz to form the core of the prisoner functionary ranks there, where most prisoners would be Polish.

And something I want to look back at is the performance of green vs red vs other Kapos: my impression is that greens were generally utterly vicious whilst other groups were more mixed.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:13 pm

Statistical Mechanic wrote:One point to add - the Camp SS made the Kapos a wedge in their divide-to-conquer strategy. E.g., IIRC German greens from Sachsenhausen were transferred to Auschwitz to form the core of the prisoner functionary ranks there, where most prisoners would be Polish.

And something I want to look back at is the performance of green vs red vs other Kapos: my impression is that greens were generally utterly vicious whilst other groups were more mixed.


I'm going to look at trials next, I can back track.

The SS also put Poles in charge of Soviet prisoners and vice versa in order to exacerbate the tensions between those two groups.

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Kleon_I XYZ Contagion » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:19 pm

Nikos Zachariadis, the leader of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) allegedly was a kapo in Dachau. Zachariadis was in Greek prisons of the Metaxas regime (1936-1941) from the first month of the dictatorship, August 1936.
Then, with the invasion of German troops in Greece in April 1941, Zachariades, which was held in the General Security Athens Prisons, was delivered to Gestapo on April 27th, as hundreds of other political prisoners detained in prisons or exiled in islands.
Zachariadis went through various German prisons, and ended up in Vienna, in prisons Lezel. Six months later, on November 1941 he was transferred to Dachau, where he stayed in custody until the end of the war. In May 1945, Americans liberators of Dachau released prisoners including Zachariadis. After medical attention, he returned to Greece by airplane via Paris on May 1945.
In Dachau Zachariadis acted as a translator because he knew German, while maintained relations with the secret resistance of the prisoners by giving them information and advice. Zachariades accused by his political opponents as a collaborator but it was never proved. Many inmates stated that survived Dachau thanks to Zachariadis.

Some Dachau documents, unfortunately from Greek websites:

http://news247.gr/eidiseis/afieromata/n ... 32503.html

More details:
http://kokkinosfakelos.blogspot.gr/2016/02/o-n-1.html
http://kokkinosfakelos.blogspot.gr/2016/02/o-n-2.html
According to experts and scholars, the 10 stages of every genocide are
Classification Symbolization Discrimination Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Persecution Extermination
... and finally the 10th stage:
Denial
http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/t ... ocide.html

XYZ Contagion (‘Because the truth is contagious‘), an investigative/research political and historical website, deals also with the Srebrenica Genocide
https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/about/#English

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:03 pm

Minor minor point: Höss mentions the transfer of the 30 Sachsenhausen Greens to Auschwitz to form the core of the prisoner-functionary contingent there.

(Rather, Höss whines that these 30 Greens, chosen by Palitzsch, were not the sort of men he envisioned in his Great KL Reform Program and that they were one more obstacle to the realization of his dream of a hard-working, positive camp experience. Palitzsch's transfer of the Sachsenhausen Kapos was a case of the old guard - the SS staff working for Höss - with Glücks' connivance thwarting the earnest efforts of the reform-minded Höss. From above, Glücks, and from below, Palitzsch, Frtizsch and others, substituted a regime of incompetence and brutality in place of Höss's aspiration - a well-run, decent, fair camp. The Sachsenhausen Kapos were part of what Höss was up against - Auschwitz being such a unjust hardship for him - a kind of prolonged punishment. In Höss's telling.)
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:08 pm

Statistical Mechanic wrote:Minor minor point: Höss mentions the transfer of the 30 Sachsenhausen Greens to Auschwitz to form the core of the prisoner-functionary contingent there.

(Rather, Höss whines that these 30 Greens, chosen by Palitzsch, were not the sort of men he envisioned in his Great KL Reform Program and that they were one more obstacle to the realization of his dream of a hard-working, positive camp experience. Palitzsch's transfer of the Sachsenhausen Kapos was a case of the old guard - the SS staff working for Höss - with Glücks' connivance thwarting the earnest efforts of the reform-minded Höss. From above, Glücks, and from below, Palitzsch, Frtizsch and others, substituted a regime of incompetence and brutality in place of Höss's aspiration - a well-run, decent, fair camp. The Sachsenhausen Kapos were part of what Höss was up against - Auschwitz being such a unjust hardship for him - a kind of prolonged punishment. In Höss's telling.)



Wow. In his own way...Hoess was a hero. The man deserves a posthumous medal for his humanity.

:lol:

More to come....I'm going to finish Hitler: The Ascent if it kills me, look into the trials of Kapos and then start a major reading project (thanks again).

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:12 pm

You know, he was beaten too. After trying so hard to make things good for the "associates" incarcerated at Auschwitz. No one seems to have understood Höss, and then the Commies brutally killed him. For no reason.
Last edited by Statistical Mechanic on Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:15 pm

Sadly Hoess is a historically misunderstood figure who only worked for the betterment of the KL system to make it more humane. He even said in his testimony at Nuremberg that the starving prisoners were due to allied bombing and not due to any fault of the SS.

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:05 pm

He was all about his Volk and his Nation. He wanted nothing more than to "mache Deutschland wieder großartig,"
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:09 pm

I just noticed I've been upgraded to a "Persistent Poster."

Translation:

"Get a Life!!!!!"

:lol:

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:14 pm

Jeffk 1970 wrote:I just noticed I've been upgraded to a "Persistent Poster."

Translation:

"Get a Life!!!!!"

:lol:

That is both a noteworthy accomplishment and a subtle hint to get help :)
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:17 pm

LOL

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 12:31 am

Victim swaps (Wachsman):

This was an extreme case of "groupness," the practice of of certain groups of Kapos (generally political Kapos like the Communists) saving members of the same "group." So, Communist Kapos that worked in the infirmary, as an example, made sure that Communist prisoners received the best care and medication.

In the case of "victim swaps," Kapos altered SS lists for prisoners transferring out to worse camps, like Dora, to exclude Communists and substitute other prisoners. This generally swapped out for social outsiders like criminals or homosexuals. They also did this for lists of prisoners selected for human experimentation. Wachsman singeled out Buchenwald as an example because it was heavily documented there. Walter Bartel, the most senior Communist Kapo that survived, stated during an East German investigation:
"When I have the opportunity to save ten anti-fascist fighter then I will do it."

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:35 am

A rather interesting Kapo to examine is Karl Kapp. Kapp was a union activist and an SPD City Councilor and was imprisoned twice in Dachau, the first time in 1933 and the second in 1936. He remained at Dachau until his release in 1944, rising to Camp Elder.

Per Wachsman, the other inmates feared Kapp. He screamed at and beat prisoners for rules violations. He also reported prisoners to the SS and even participated in executing fellow prisoners.

At first glance Kapp appears to be a monster, a true collaborator worth prosecuting for crimes. But, it's a bit more complicated than that. Kapp also used his position to assist other prisoners. He allowed prisoners to smuggle food into the penal company and saved other prisoners where he could, even those whose political views did not match his. By punishing prisoners himself he kept the SS away from the collective and lessened the punishments that were handed out.

As Wachsman states, "if he (Kapp) had not kicked lazy prisoners, the SS would have tortured them and punished the rest of the labor detail."

At his trial in Munich in 1960 the court found Kapp innocent of all charges.

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Re: The Kapo Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:25 pm

Trials:
Wachsman mentions the difficulties the occupying powers had in distinguishing between Concentration Camp prisoner functionaries and the SS. In the first Belsen Trial a Jewish survivor who was a block elder for two days was included with the Commandant Kramer. A Kapo named Christof Knoll was hung with another Kapo along with 26 SS after the first Dachau Trial.


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