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The armband of an oberkapo (chief kapo)

Kapo was a prisoner who worked inside German Nazi concentration camps during World War II in some lower administrative position (prisoner-functionary). The German word also means "foreman" and "non-commissioned officer", and is derived from French for "Corporal" (fr:Caporal) or the Italian word capo[1][2]'. Kapos received more privileges than normal prisoners, towards whom they were often brutal. They were often convicts who were offered this work in exchange for a reduced sentence or parole.

From Oliver Lustig's Dictionary of the Camp:

Vicenzo and Luigi Pappalettera wrote in their book The Brutes Have the Floor [3] that, every time a new transport of detainees arrived at Mauthausen, Kapo August Adam picked out the professors, lawyers, priests and magistrates and cynically asked them: "Are you a lawyer? A professor? Good! Do you see this green triangle? This means I am a killer. I have five convictions on my record: one for manslaughter and four for robbery. Well, here I am in command. The world has turned upside down, did you get that? Do you need a Dolmetscher, an interpreter? Here it is!" And he was pointing to his bat, after which he striked. When he was satisfied, he formed a Scheisskompanie with those selected and sent them to clean the latrines. [4]

This role has been described in many books, among them Primo Levi's If This is a Man and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, the latter treating it from a psychiatrist's standpoint. It is also mentioned in Elie Wiesel's autobiography Night, Art Spiegelman's graphic novel Maus, and is featured in the Gillo Pontecorvo movie Kapò.


  1. ^ Kogon, Eugen (1980). The theory and practice of hell: the German concentration camps and the system behind them. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 0-425-16431-4.   (Translated from: Kogon, Eugen (1946). Der SS-Staat: Das System der deutschen Konzentrationslager. München.  )
  2. ^ de Jong, L., (1978). Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, deel 8, gevangenen en gedeporteerden, eerste helft. 's-Gravenhage: Staatsuitgeverij,. ISBN 90 12 00829 8.  , p. 481
  3. ^ The author or translator probably refers to the book: Pappalettera, Vincenzo y Luigi. " La parola agli aguzzini: le SS e i Kapò di Mauthausen svelano le leggi del lager.", Milano: Mondadori (1969), Mursia, (1979), also "Los SS tienen la palabra: las leyes del campo de Mauthausen reveladas por las Schutz-Staffeln". Barcelona: Editorial Laia, (1969).
  4. ^ Oliver Lustig, Dicţionar de lagăr, Bucharest, Hasefer, 2002 ISBN 973-630-011-0 (English translation online)


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