Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982


D...did, do you remember any story of the Kapos? Did you have a Kapo in your barracks?

Yes, we had a Kapo, yes. And uh, I remember them constantly screaming and, and uh, beating up some of the people there.

Was this a Jewish Kapo?

Um, I think uh, it was a, these were from...I don't think so. I think it was a German criminals who were there and I think we had a couple Polish non-Jews were Kapos, but in my building there weren't any Jewish Kapos, but I think in other buildings there were. They behaved rather terribly, most of 'em. Uh, some of 'em say they had to do what they had to do to save their own skin. But I don't recall honestly, personally I had no experience with Kapos while I was there. I stayed out of any troubles. I was just young and...

Did you witness any punishments that, uh...

I uh, I heard. I didn't witness anything. I saw the gallows there and I was told that in different barracks somebody had done something and they were hung uh, in front of the people. I personally, the buildings that I was at, they never uh, hanged any, hanged anybody in my presence.

Any beatings?

Uh, I saw beatings, yes, by some of the people who um, I don't remember the details now, but supposedly they smuggled in a piece of bread from one building to another or they did something that uh, I saw uh, a number of beatings. I saw people sometimes let, let out from uh, the buildings where we were because they did something and they were being taken to the gas chambers, uh.

Where, um, did you ever hear any rumors of things like medical experiments or...

Yes. I have, I have heard about that. And I also would like to tell you uh, at one time that I've actually did something that could have cost possibly my life. We were terribly hungry in Auschwitz and uh, I had to do something to survive. So in my building the Appell to count us and then to hand out the bread happened maybe fifteen, twenty minutes before another building. And uh, one day I was very brave and I, I got the bread in my pocket from my building, I didn't have time to eat it and I walked over to the next building or two, to stand in line there to get another piece of bread. And um, lo and behold, I was missing in my barrack. I caused a lot of pain for the whole, I'll bet you I kept the whole neighborhood up in Appell for an hour longer or so. It was a terrible thing to do, if you think back on it. They kept counting and counting. They thought someone had run away. Finally they realized that there was one more guy in this barrack. It took 'em about a half-hour or forty-five minutes to figure out that the total amount was there. And, and I just figured that having the bread was a little showing my pocket. I said, "What if someone sees me?" I'm sure, you know, the other people, you know, would have pointed me out, that I didn't belong, if someone would have recognized me, or, or the Germans would have caught me, that I tried to get two rations of bread and that I wasn't in my barrack. Most likely I would have been sent over to the gas chambers. But thanks God, I guess I, it was, it was bashert I had to live. Uh, then they realized that, that nobody was missing. Uh, I went back to my barracks and I said, "That's the last time I'm gonna do that." But I feel like that I risked doing that.

Did, did you help each other out?

Uh, well, I think that most people did. We were six of us from our own hometown, six boys my age, childhood friends, were stuck together. And I remember that one time we said, "Three of you stay here and stake out the little place and three of us would run to get the boards." So we did. I think most people who knew each other helped each other and--I mean, there wasn't much to help, but, but uh, most of us would never harm one of, you know, another Jew who was there and of course living in the concentration camp uh, I helped no matter how weak condition I was, but I remember when we left Mittergars from one camp to Mühldorf, to the main camp before the Liberation and there was one guy who uh, stayed heavy all the way to the camp. And, and he just couldn't lose the weight. He survived and he couldn't walk very fast and I helped him walk. I knew the guy and I tried to help him. There was another guy, a good friend of mine uh, who was in the United States, Victor Radel who was with me in the concentration camp and whenever I could I helped him psychologically. Had some terrible sores on his leg and usually if you got sick you couldn't work, you died. Most of the people uh, helped each other whenever they could, in my experience that I had. Beside the Kapos who, who behaved terribly. Uh, again, I don't believe that I could have done it. I probably would have died. Not everybody has it in him to be cruel to save his own skin. But I think people helped each other as much as they could. Of course we had the same fate and, uh.

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