How did the Kapos come into power?

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clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Kapos were selected by the Nazis and were actually prisoners in the concentration camps who carried out the orders of the guards and camp commandants. The Kapos were considered trusted inmates that would do as they were told. The selection process was simply being told to take control or die and many took the job willingly because it meant more food, better conditions, and often times the chance at survival, even though it was at the cost of lost lives at their own hands. Some Kapos were even Jewish and carried out executions and brutality against their fellow inmates, sometimes even family and friends. Failure to carry out orders often times meant severe punishments and death. The Kapos created a tough ethical dilemma when it came time to prosecute war criminals after the war, especially when a Kapo was Jewish. It was difficult to know just how criminal their acts were because of the coercion it took to get them to carry out orders. It was difficult to know how much of what the Kapos did was for survival and how much of it was a crime against humanity.

Eli and his father had both nice and cruel Kapos. Probably their worst experience was with Idek who beat Eli's father for two weeks because he couldn't march in step. It was actually a way that Idek could procure Eli's gold crown. He also delivered Eli a beating that nearly killed him because Eli saw him bedding a young Polish woman and he laughed at the thought that 100 men were moved so he could copulate.