Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Water - 1982

Winning Favor with Kapo

Can I ask you--he was a Kapo, you said. Um, he was a prisoner?

No. He was not a prisoner. He was--he became a Kapo because maybe he liked it. He liked to be close to the Jewish guys, maybe the chance for him to, to practice his sadism. So, we had--the first day we had to unload fifty kilo cement bags. And there was a truck, and two guys supposed to take off that fifty kilo cement bag. And the uh, a fifty kilo cement bag is very small, so two guys could hardly carry it. So I went over to him, speaking--being that I spoke very a fluent German--I said to him, "You know what, I got an idea. I think two guys cannot carry, but one will." He said, "Do you mean to tell me that if two guys can't, that one will?" I said, "Yes," and he said, "How?" I said, "I'll show you," and I went over towards the truck, and I said to the two guys who are loading the uh, the bags, I said, "Put it on my right shoulder." And they did, and I carried it. As small and weak I was, I still was able to carry that fifty kilo bag. So he said, "Gee whiz, this ingenuity--you got something there," he said to me. So that's why I said to myself, "I have to try him out, because people told me he's a killer, and a sadist." So purposely, I dropped a bag and it broke open. And he rushed over to me, but he remembered that I used my brains--that I could--I cut the help in, in half. Instead of two guys carrying one bag, only one guy carry that bag. So he said, "Okay," and, and I started limping, which I did not, but I did limp purposely. He said to me, "Okay, you go into the tent. Sit down and rest." This was the first time I'd had any warm water, to soak my foot. I didn't need it. Then there, there was a kid inside; he was in charge of this tent. He happened to be a neighbor of mine, before the war and he said, "Listen, Moshe," that's my Jewish name. There was a shelf with tobacco. He said, "You see this tobacco? It dries out. It's a very son-- this is--and Gustav's son, is--he's on the front, he's gonna send him the tobacco. Don't you touch it." Well I became intrigued. I never smoked, but I've seen what's happening to smokers. They gave away their livelihood, their sustenance, their piece of bread for a smoke. I was not a good--a do-gooder but I felt sorry for those guys. So the minute this kid turned around, or went out somewhere, I grabbed a bunch of tobacco. It was loose. I put it in my pockets and I made it loose, so nobody would see it, that I was taking some. I got away with it. When I came back to the tent, I gave it out to those guys who were smoking. I worked in this, in this Kommando a few days, and I got out of it. I came back to my original Kommando. The original Kommando's eh, Kapo's name was ???. In the beginning, he spoke to me. He said he left three children in the ghetto, and he'll never see 'em again, probably. And I was trying to talk him out of it. I've seen some humanity in him. And I talk to him, I says, "Look, hopefully we'll survive, and you'll see your children, you'll see your children," even though I didn't believe it. But you don't tell it to a father. All of a sudden, he became a different man, that Kapo. How did he become a different man? In the vicinity of our camp were barracks of POWs: Dutch, English, Belgian, French. Naturally they had different food than we had. Occasionally they used to put out a piece of bread on the side on the, on the--there was some lumber lying around there. And whoever it was--and they--because we always marched in fifths, so whoever was on the right side grabbed it, and we'd divide it among us, that piece of bread, whatever it was. All of a sudden, he grabbed it, and he said, "I'm the boss around here. I'm gonna give it to those who I feel." And he had a couple of cronies, and he did give it to them. Being that I had a big mouth--I still have probably, because the only time I have a big mouth, I have to say, is when I see injustice done to somebody else. I'm no good-doer, but I just can't see injustice done to somebody. And I told him, I says, "???, you're not supposed to grab this bread and give it to those people, who you feel like. How about us? We are twenty people here. Let's divide that evenly." He said, "No, I am the boss." I said, "What do you mean, you're the boss? You might be the boss because the Germans told you to be the boss. Where a piece of bread's concerned, you're not the boss." So he hit me. And he kept hitting me, and hitting me, and blood running down my face. And, first of all, I didn't hit back, for two reasons: I was too weak, and then I knew if I would raise my hand to him, he would put my number down, and I would be eliminated. So I said to him, "Well, the time had come." He hit me again. So finally, at the end, I was put back in his Kommando. He said, "Well, you came back to me, didn't you?" I said, "Well, I got news for you, it won't take long, it won't take long." I had a feeling.

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