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June 26, 1987 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-06-26

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he also saved from death some sick or in-
jured Jews by hiding them until they could
return to work. He also surreptitiously
destroyed a list of Jews slated to be ex-
And while several survivors testified
that 'Ibncer had beaten and abused pris-
oners, 23 affidavits spoke favorably of him
Thstimony at the case of the one kapo
who was deported was equally equivocal.
Three witnesses said Jonas Lewy had hid-
den them in the Polish ghetto of Piotrkow
and given them food. Four others said he
had beaten or betrayed them. Ordered
deported, Poland refused to accept him in
1962. Lewy died in New York in 1980.
Shortly after the war, Holocaust sur-
vivors created their own "courts of honor"
in displaced persons camps. They rendered
verdicts on kapos, Jewish police chiefs and
members of the Jewish councils, the Juden-
rat . The guilty were shunned and
sometimes excommunicated.
But some kapos, killed by Jews im-
mediately before or just after their libera-
tion, never made it to these "courts of
honor." The kapo in Goerlitz's Bloc No. 4,
for instance, was "more brutal" than Jacob
Tannenbaum, according to Goerlitz survi-
vor, Leon Hostig. Some survivors from
Goerlitz, said Hostig, killed this kapo in
"I would have killed him also if I had
been there," said Hostig, who blames the
kapo for the death of his brother, Joel, then

As Soviet troops approached Goerlitz in
the spring of 1945, some kapos at the camp
had the inmates, including Hostig, march
westward toward the American army.
Hostig's brother wasn't allowed to come
because he was too weak.
"I begged the kapo [from Bloc No. 4] to
let him come with us," said Hostig. "He
said Joel had lived too long."
Hostig and other prisoners returned to
Goerlitz when the Soviets briefly pulled
their forces back. "I couldn't find my
brother," said Hostig. "Finally, one
prisoner said, 'I'll tell you the truth. He's
over there,' pointing to the morgue. The
kapo in No. 4 wouldn't let him into the bar-
racks. He froze to death."
Raul Hilberg of the University of Ver-
mont, perhaps the preeminent historian on
the Holocaust, estimated there were
"thousands, perhaps tens of thousands" of
kapos. A minority of these were Jews; an
even smaller minority were prosecuted by
authorities or killed by inmates after the
war. Just two weeks ago, for instance,
Goerlitz survivor Aaron Miller saw a
former kapo from Goerlitz, now an Or-
thodox Jew, in Brooklyn. Miller said the
man once beat him when he didn't hear
him yelling at him to bury the dead.
The 76-year-old. Chasidic cantor does not
plan to report the kapo to authorities.
"How can these people sleep?" he said.
"Maybe they are their own punishment.
Let God upstairs take care of him." 0

Are There Kapos In Detroit?

Staff Report

Survivors of the Holocaust in
the Detroit Jewish community
believe there are no kapos — in-
mate guards used by the Nazis
— among their ranks. Long-
time leaders of the survivors
organization Shaarit
Haplaytah and the Holocaust
Memorial Center told The
Jewish News that they knew of
no formal. charges being
brought against any member of
the Jewish community.
But Abraham Weberman,
current president of Shaarit
Haplaytah, knows of at least
two men that he believes were
forced by the Nazis to work as
inmate guards.
"When I came to Detroit in
1960, I heard a few stories,"
Weberman said. "I was told
these people came in 1951 or
1952." Weberman said the peo-
ple in question have never been
charged with crimes, and he
refused to divulge their names.
"One man is sick and has a
wife and children. There is
nothing to be gained now."
He added that just because
someone was a kapo does not
mean that they were "a bad
kapo. Sometimes the Jewish
kapos were forced to hit so-
meone, but it was better that
the kapos did the hitting than-
the SS."
Dr. John Mames, former

president of Shaarit Haplaytah,
and long- time Shaarit
Haplaytah officer Sonia
Popowski both said they hadno
knowledge of kapos within the
2,000-family survivor com-
munity in Detroit. Dr. Mames'
wife, Eva, was a Hungarian
Jew who was at the Auschwitz
and Bergen-Belsen camps. "By
1944 when I was at Auschwitz,"
she said, "most of the kapos
were Polish, not Jews. And the
few Jewish kapos were not

Mrs. Mames and Rabbi
Charles Rosenzveig, director of
the Holocaust Memorial
Center, both said that when so-
meone in the survivor com-
munity is not liked, he or she
will often be labeled "a kapo."
"But I have never heard any
formal allegations against
anyone here by any competent
agency," Dr. Rosenzveig said.
And he repeated that just
because someone was a kapo
does not mean that the person
committed crimes.

Barbie Trial Concluding

Lyon (JTA) — The trial of
Nazi war criminal Klaus Bar-
bie entered its final phase last
week with the beginning of
summations by lawyers repre-
senting surviving victims of the
former Lyon Gestapo chief and
the families of those who did
not survive.
The first to address the jury
was Serge Klarsfeld, who with
his German-born wife, Beate,
has devoted years to tracking
down Nazi war criminals.
Klarsfeld is representing sur-
viving relatives of 44 Jewish
children arrested by German
soldiers at the children's shelter
in the village of Izieu on April

6, 1944 and deported to Au-
schwitz, where all perished.
In all, 39 lawyers will argue
why Barbie should be given the
maximum sentence allowed by
French law — life imprison-
ment. But the question of
whether Barbie will be brought
to justice may hang on the out-
come of a cunning legal maneu-
ver by his attorney, Jacques
Verges petitioned the court to
free Barbie whether or not he
is found guilty of crimes
against humanity. He cited
Wench law, which requires that
a defendant found guilty of
crimes during the same period


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