Kapo duties

Among the different duties assigned to Kapos was the supervision of fellow inmates during work and after. Each barrack was overseen by a block elder, who was answerable to the SS. SS demands on Kapos were high, as the following regulations from Buchenwald highlight.

064 – Camp SS instructions for block elders

The block elder ensures that the camp order and the instructions of the camp leadership are implemented by all prisoners of his block. He is responsible for their implementation, for order and cleanliness, as well as for the furniture in his block. […] He sees to it that no one leaves his bed, let alone the block, before reveille and that, at the waking signal, every inmate immediately gets up from his bunk. […] Under his direction the coffee and the helpings to which the inmates are entitled are distributed. At the first whistle signal for morning parade, about three-quarters of an hour after reveille, he makes his block fall in, convinces himself that no one is left behind in the block and, at the second whistle signal marches them to the parade ground. […]

Once the parade has been inspected and the command “Work squad fall in” has been given, he goes to the place assigned to him.[…]

He is responsible for … order and cleanliness

Neuengamme prisoners and Kapos (with armbands) at work (1941-2)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of KZ-Gedenkstatte Neuengamme

When working time is finished, he sees to the hand-out of the food and to quiet and order during mealtime and free time. He has to concern himself with the orderly receipt of the prisoners’ clothing and bed linen and to ensure the smooth exchange of linen in the room. In the event of new arrivals to the block, it is the task of the block elder to instruct them, familiarize them with the camp order and initiate the filling out of the forms required for new arrivals.

At the evening whistle he has to convince himself that all prisoners are in the block and by lights-out (second whistle) he should have counted the occupancy. If a prisoner is missing, he has to report at once to the camp elder, who sets the rest into motion. The block elder is also responsible for quiet at night. During that time no one is permitted to leave the block, show himself at a window or turn on the light.

Source: Bundesarchiv Berlin, NS 4 BU/102, undated

Translation: Ewald Osers