Capos, Kapos and Nazi Murder Inc.
I have heard from "survivors" that the Nazi Germans, may their memory rot, could not have done it on their own. Had they not found willing partners in the countries they conquered, they could not have done to the Jews what they did -- cold bloodedly murder of so many of our nation.
The Lithuanians started savagely murdering the Jews before the arrival of Hitler's emissaries. From all reports, they compete with the Ukrainians as the most savage and brutal of concentration camp guards, and the Poles, themselves persecuted by the Germans, even managed a pogrom or two in 1945 aimed at returning "Polish" Jews. Ukrainians actively volunteered for the S.S., and after a "special" course, joined their full ranks, wearing the same infamous black uniform. I am told, by first hand sources, that these foreigners were more brutal than the "native Germans".
But perhaps the worst collaboration of all, the evilest of humanity, were Jews who worked and collaborated with the regime. These were the so-called Capos, the "court Jews". Unfortunately this cooperation did not represent a phenomenon new to Jewish history. Take Pablo Christiani, a thirteenth century orthodox Spanish Jew who became a catholic of the dominican order. He comes to us down the road of history as the "christian" who debated Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, the Ramban, Nachmanides, in the famous Disputation of Barcelona. Christiani subsequently convinced the Pope to censor the Talmud, and later, the King of France to force all Jews in the dominion to wear identifying badges. A true slime if ever there was one. He is not unique in Jewish history.
A midrash relates an occurrence during the first visit of the sons of Ya'akov to their (then unknown to them) brother, Yosef, viceroy of Egypt. Joseph "plays a game" with them, testing them. He tells them they should return home, but to leave brother Shimon behind. Now Shimon was the wild son of the family, the wilder chayeh. He knew how to fight when necessary, and to fight to the end. "And who's going to arrest me", he yells as he stomps on the ground so hard that the palace walls shake and sway. Joseph gestures to eight year old Menasseh, his son and personal assistant. Menashe simply walks up to Uncle Simeon, punching him so hard that his teeth fall out, and collapses him into a useless heap of humanity on the floor. The sons of Jacob can only express their disbelief with the words, "this is a strike from our father's house". Yes, the allegory is teaching us, only a fellow Jew, and not a gentile, can do serious damage to the Jewish people!
I want to write about the Kapos amongst us. Those that survived the Holocaust, those who still live amongst us, even to this day.
But first I wanted a "simple" definition of the term Kapo. I've spoken to many survivors and heard many of their histories. I was surprised, however, to not find too much of use on the Web. Some spell it with a 'K' and some spell it with 'C', but a Capo is a Kapo.
Some definitions and references I did find on the Internet I think are a little sanitised.
Capo A position of authority in concentration and death camps occupied by an inmate. Capos carried out the instructions of their immediate S.S. supervisors. They were most frequently selected from among inmates incarcerated for their criminal activities [and not just for being Jews?]. As their own, frequently limited, albeit life-saving, privileges, depended on the whim of their SS supervisors, they more often than not treated other [Jewish] inmates with extreme harshness and brutality.
Recently these "people" (I use the word loosely) have been characterised also as victims. "There was no right and wrong in the Camps . . . there were just survivors and there were those who did not survive." But most Jews, if not almost all, were able to maintain their dignity, their morality and their humanity throughout this blackest period of history.
It has become "fashionable" in recent times to use this horrendous "title" to describe the wicked of our generation. While many of these, Jewish leaders among them, deserve the lowest level of denigration possible, to call them Capos, in my opinion, demeans the slaughtered Holocaust victims, our brethren, whose (often brutal) death was hastened by the concentration camp kapos.
Some of these abhorrent people lived in Sydney, my hometown when I was growing up. And as could be expected, each had a different story. One used to say, "Leave me alone -- if I hadn't done it, another Jew would have -- so what? So what if it happened to be me. It would have been done anyway." Needless to say, he didn't have too many friends . . . surprisingly he did have a wife.
In general people did leave him alone. Literally. I don't know if there were people in our town who actually witnessed his handiwork. But, to give him some credit, he didn't deny his role in the extermination.
Surely every Kapo spends his life in fear of revenge . . . and I would venture, rightly so. A surviving Kapo would want to stay away from a large Jewish community, and stay away from one where eliminating him is easy. Israel is definitely out of the question on both accounts. Too many Jews. Everywhere. Eventually someone who knew her, who remembers her firsthand, would meet her, see her, follow him home. Must stay away from Jews of European origin. My friend who grew up in Israel in the fifties remembers, a number of times, someone suddenly yelling out in a bus, animatedly pointing to another passenger, yelling, "Kapo, Capo!!!! Here is a Capo!"
And too many weapons in Israel -- easy access. Maybe a superior officer at the next regular compulsory military reserve duty, perhaps the grandson of someone whom our Kapo speeded to his death. King David did it to Uriah the Hittite, so perhaps our officer may arrange a "little work accident" or an assignment to some suicidal front line action.
OK. Now now we're living in a small Jewish community, preferably in a big city, with good law and order enforcement. And only a few survivors around. Lowers the probability of recognition. As soon as our man can afford it (remember most of our survivors arrived to the New World close to penniless), he acquires a gun license . . . and of course, a firearm. Legally if possible, but maybe an illegal weapon at first, just to keep under her bed, in case of an unwanted nocturnal visitor.
And don't hang around the synagogue . . . too many former European Jews equals "survivors" there, or again, more precisely, people who may recognise you. Get involved in the local, non-European Jewish establishment -- maybe the Jewish Board of Deputies. Very English. No greeners. Make believe you're coming to meetings in order to provide protection for local Jews, gun at ready in holster . . . in fact you are there to keep your ears close to the ground, always looking over your shoulder.
How long do you need to fear retribution? Forever. Until the day you die, however you meet your demise. The older you get, the slower you are on the trigger; the easier you are to dispose of.
You could live a lie, develop a cover identity. Sure, those who know who you are, they know. But if you have communal standing, maybe you can aside these lunatics, "they lost some marbles in the war, mistaken identity". Surely can't be true. Me?
"I was a war hero."
There's a guy in my hometown who fits the mold, to a T.
And whenever I see him, whenever his name is mentioned in my presence, I shudder. I always have to wonder . . . did this despicable excuse for humanity "help" my grandfather, my uncle, my four year old cousin, or perhaps carry my eighteen month old sister . . . into a gas chamber!
Menachem Kuchar, 2nd April, 2009
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