The middle class in Treblinka consisted of tradesmen in the workshops as well as some of the more ingenious “speculators.” … Because the tradesmen would do all kinds of jobs for the guards, they often received bread, meat, cigarettes, and occasionally even whiskey. As so, in the workshops, even at the worst times, we did not suffer too severely.854
Betrayal foiled many escape plans and led to numerous executions of inmates in Treblinka:
Our first earlier attempt [to escape] was unsuccessful and twelve—who had been betrayed by a prisoner, a man from Częstochowa who used to make wire mesh for a living—paid for it with their lives.855
It was found out later that two Jews, one of them a blacksmith, Szymon from Kosów and someone from Ryki, whose name I cannot remember, were the ones who betrayed us. The SS men selected 30 workers and killed them.856
The Jewish order police from Treblinka were also utilized in manhunts carried out by the Germans to capture Jewish escapees and punish Poles who assisted them.857 Escapees from Treblinka also had to contend with being stripped of their money by unscrupulous fellow Jews.858 The Germans were also known to stage the escape of Jewish kapos turned Gestapo agents, as was the case with Stanisław Dorosiewicz, who subsequently infiltrated a Peasant Battalions unit near Staszów and was responsible for the death of a number of Jews.859
One did not have to be a kapo or informer to turn on fellow prisoners. An inmate of Buchenwald provided the following riveting testimony:
In spring of 1944, our column—Poles and Jews—were employed in earth moving … The SS construction officer supervised us personally. Even for strong men the work was very difficult … One wanted so badly to rest for a moment, but the constant blows and kicks, the unceasing shouts forced our tiredarms to keep shoveling on and on.
Then the gaze of the construction officer fell upon two Jews whose strength had given out. He ordered a Pole named Strzaska to bury the two men, who could hardly stand on their feet. Strzaska froze with horror and refused. The construction officer took the shovel and beat him with it. He ordered him, “Lie down in the trench immediately!” Thereupon he forced the two Jews to cover with dirt the prisoner lying in the trench. These two men then did it out of fear for their lives, hoping to escape the same gruesome fate themselves. When only Strzaska’s head still peered out, the construction officer called “Halt!” and had him pulled out again.
Now the two Jews had to lie in the trench, and the construction officer again gave Strzaska the order to cover the two with dirt. Slowly the trench filled with dirt; one shovelful after another was dumped in. The face of the Polish comrade was contorted with terror; drops of sweat fell from his forehead. But the construction officer stood next to him with the look of a wild animal that hypnotizes its victims. The trench was now completely covered. The inhuman SS executioner stamped the dirt smooth himself and laughed while doing it.860
A Jew who was imprisoned in the SS camp in Oleine, Latvia, recalled:
And then there were the Jewish kapos, among whom Danziger ‘distinguished’ himself with his brutality. Any Jew who happened to cross his path he beat up mercilessly. One day my mother Rachel-Leah was his luckless victim. He kept beating her until she fell down in a faint. She died the next day.861
According to a scholarly study, the Jewish kapos in Gross-Rosen were noted for their unusual cruelty.862 Henry Freier, who worked in the kitchen in Gross-Rosen under a Jewish kapo, recalled: “I was beaten up by this man every day.”863 Peter Kleinmann recalled: “My Kapo was a Polish Jew and was merciless.”864 Harry Jubas remembers how prisoners, who froze for hours on endless Appels, were hit by Jewish kapos.865 Dr. Mojżesz Zabramny, a Jew, was prosecuted in 1946 for mistreating prisoners in the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.866 Former Jewish prisoners of the labour camp at Görlitz, a filial of Gross-Rosen, accused several Jewish functionaries—Abram Kon, Zygmunt Widawski, Mieczysław Jakobson, and Marian Borenstein—of mistreating fellow prisoners, by beating them, sometimes savagely, and stealing their food rations. Kon was also charged with mistreating Jewish labourers as head of a garment facility in the Łódź ghetto.867 Regarding the labour camp of Markstadt, another affiliate of Gross-Rosen, a Jewish prisoner recalled:
Daily we were sent to hard work, [such as] erecting ammunition factories, where a few deaths [would] occur every day. In this camp, Jews were made as overseers for other Jews. The “Judenälster” [“Jewish Ältester”] was Brukmajster; his perfunctory servants were Herzel, Mojszel, and Basok. They were the beaters, and would daily beat their own brethren with deadly blows, murdering hundreds of Jews.868
Icek Kuperberg describes his experiences in camps at Faulbrick (Feldberg?) and Niederorschel (a branch of Buchenwald), respectively:
The Jewish captain in charge in the [Faulbrick] camp was named Sandgood. He dressed as a German and collaborated with them. For example, when a soldier complained about someone, it was his pleasure to put the man, completely nude, on a special chair so that he could not move. The soldier whipped him with 25 lashes. Two people had to take the victim off of the chair and bring him to his room.
Around New Year’s 1945, a transport of people arrived from Czestochowa [Częstochowa], Poland. They worked in an ammunition factory. Among them were two particularly infamous men. One was a fellow named Kolsky whom the Germans appointed as the executioner of the 25 lashes. Whenever he punished someone, though, instead of administering the 25 lashes, he flogged the person 50 times until the person died. The other man’s name was Gewirtz. He was the Judeneldester (Jewish camp captain) in camp Brande in charge of the sick people. In 1943 the camp leader, Ludwig, asked him to deal with the very sick. Instead, Gewirtz killed about 1,000 people on his own. They were bound and laid down on the floor in wash barracks. Water was then poured on their foreheads until they died. My brother, Eliyakum, was among them. Somehow the new German camp leader found out about these two men and their histories. They were terribly beaten and locked up for five days without food. In time, they simply disappeared.869
In the labour camp of Budzyń near Kraśnik, German personnel were characteristically scarce and the authorities relied on Jewish inmates to basically run day-to-day operations
Only a few Germans ran the camp. All the administrative jobs were performed by Jewish functionaries (there were about two hundred of them), and they constituted the most privileged group of prisoners. They had a better barrack, a better kitchenette, and they received a lot of food.870
The kapos at Budzyń were also Jews, as were the police.871 Informers were also to be found. Jewish inmates of that camp wrote:
These were Jewish POWs who were put to work to prepare the camps and were responsible for camp discipline. … The Kapos laid open valises in front of us and started yelling: ‘Hand it over. He means it. This is no game.’ This was said in Yiddish, which Felix [SS-Oberscharführer Reinhold Feix, the camp commander from December 1942 until August 1943] understood and enjoyed. … The kitchen was under the supervision of former Jewish military prisoners …872
Smoliar [Symcha Binem Smolarz], who was responsible for the Jewish workers in the factory … was a ruddy lad from Lodz [Łódź] … He would scream, curse, beat people with his fist or the whip in his hand … He was despised by everyone including the camp leaders. He received his punishment after the war when he was brought to justice in a Polish court and sentenced to imprisonment. The assistant camp commandant Sczepiaski … beat the prisoners to a lesser degree. … Similar to him was the Camp-Fuehrer Widunos, who treated his group as one would treat flocks of cattle who were being driven from place to place.873
There were informers and perhaps collaborators also of various forms. Of course, not all of them were known, but there was one who was known and recognized by everybody. He was a middle aged man of about fifty, a refugee from Danzig who arrived in Budzyn with the Warsaw group and became a member of the ordnungsdienst [police] by virtue of a request by Feiks rather than an appointment from the camp directorship, as was usual. His name was Samos.874
With the help of agents from among the prisoners themselves, the Gestapo learned about preparations for escape. Eight Jews were arrested in the camp on the 13th of February 1944 according to the instructions of the agents. During the investigation at the Krasnik [Kraśnik] Gestapo, the information from the agents was confirmed. Information about false identification cards found in the camp was also received. During the search of the premises of the prisoners, 12 identity cards and more than 20,000 zlotes [złotys] in cash was found. … The investigation, carried out by the Gestapo, did not give a definite explanation of how the Jewish prisoners had received these identity cards. Everyone said that after the liquidation of the labor camp in Poniatowa, an unknown Jew had come from Warsaw to Krasnik who sold the identity cards for 5,000 zlotes a piece.
On the 19th of February 1944, the chief of the Gestapo in Krasnik sent over a report about the results of the investigation, enclosing the 12 false identity cards for the commandant of WIFO* and S.S. Streichel in Lublin. …
In the matter of the identity cards and the preparations to escape, the Gestapo implicated 40 prisoners from the S.S. camp in Krasnik and Camp WIFO. All were shot between the 14th and 18th of February 1944.875
Jewish prisoners were known to harass Jews who spoke Polish, as one inmate recalls: “the simple people around me … so often scolded me—‘Red Yiddish! Speak Yiddish! Don’t speak Polish! That’s not our language!’”876
Jewish inmates also facilitated the smooth operation of the camp at Starachowice. A group of privileged Jews, the so-called Prominenten or camp elite, consisting of the Wilczek clique—named after the head of the camp police, Jeremiah Wilczek— enjoyed markedly better food, clothing and housing than other Jews, were free to travel to nearby towns, sold borrowed Jewish goods to Poles on the black market, and perhaps helped the Germans choose who was to die. In the opinion of some inmates, the camp police was “worse than the Germans.” Jeremiah Wilczek and his son Abraham had been agents of the Jewish police in the ghetto in Wierzbnik (Starachowice) before the deportation, “who even advised his masters concerning whom to beat to get the information they wanted.”877 According to one of the prisoners,
From now on, it was announced, several prisoners would be executed for each escapee. The idea came from Wilczek, the chief kapo whose title was ‘The Jewish Elder’. …
Among these privileges was being allowed to live with his wife and sons in a separate, well-furnished, well-equipped shack and to move freely about the camp at all hours. Sometimes, under the pretext of visiting the steelworks, Wilczek even left the camp without an escort. He was in charge of distributing the food, of which his lackeys had plenty while the other prisoners went hungry, and he was responsible for the work shifts, deciding whom to send to hard labour and whom to assign to easier jobs in camp/ This power was reinforced by a network of informers who strengthened his position among the Germans, too. The dozen or so hand-picked prisoners who worked for him as kapos while taking advantage of the rest of us were completely loyal. They knew that on a whim they could be sent to work at the blast ovens. Hated and feared, these Jewish policemen obeyed all German orders. It would have been impossible to enforce discipline at Starachowice without them. Wilczek’s son was their direct boss. …
It was Wilczek Junior who approached the Germans with his father’s idea of dividing us into pairs to patrol the inner fences in shifts, each pair equipped with a whistle and white smocks that would enable the tower guards to identify us in the glare of the searchlights. Any attempt to approach the fences would be instantly punished. Each thwarted escape would earn the patrol a loaf of bread. Each successful one would cost it its lives.878
After the liquidation of the camp, when the prisoners were being transported by train to Auschwitz, eighteen members of the Wilczek clique were killed by other Jews in revenge for their misconduct.879 (The Jews on this transport were not gassed, and most of them survived the war.)
Like many labour camps, Skarżysko-Kamienna was virtually run by Jews and had its privileged—the camp “aristocracy”: the Jewish commandant of the camp, the Jewish police commander, and the so-called skilled workers: tailors, shoemakers, and other craftsmen. They lived in separate barracks and received better food rations which they exchanged for various services, including sexual favours.880 Childhood friendship was no shield from abuse, as Adam Neuman recalled:
This time, my persecutor was a Jew from my hometown! He belonged to the camp “aristocracy” and had a permanent job in the German cooperative of the Camp. … He noticed that a kidney was gone and he ordered us to confess which one of us had stolen it … He had known me from childhood and he was my senior colleague on the Maccabee Sports Club team, so, of course, I expected that he would act compassionately and overlook the incident. How wrong I was! When my turn came to be searched, he pulled out the kidney from under my shirt and, in front of everyone, he slapped me across the face. … I was totally humiliated—but this time by one of my own people!881
Another Jew who was sent to the Hasag (i.e., Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft, a privately owned German armaments company that used camp inmates as forced labour) labour camp in Skarżysko-Kamienna recalled, “We also had a Jewish foreman named Nathan who fit right in with the gang of murderers—a Jewish sadist.”882 Josef Morgenstern recalled the Jewish kapos as “refined in cruelty and more feared than their masters.” According to Morgenstern, “fawning and informing to the authorities were the order of the day.”883 Louis Kaye remembered Jewish kapos as being more cruel than the German guards.884 Elsa Thon (Balbina Synalewicz) recalled her encounters with the Jewish police during her stay in Skarżysko-Kamienna:
The police counted us, then ordered us to enter the barracks, yelling and swearing at us to make us hurry up. …
Suddenly, a policeman turned to me, and ordered me to make a list of the people in the barracks. He was short and bad-tempered. …
The next morning, as the bad-tempered policeman entered the barracks, he shouted, as if to remind us of who was in charge. Wanting us to fear him, he treated us to a display of what could happen if we didn’t obey.
A woman, tall, maybe fifty, approached him to ask for a blanket, because she was cold. He kicked her viciously in the belly. As she doubled over from pain and burst into tears, I thrust myself between them to protect her from a further blow, pleading, “Do you have a mother? Why are you doing this?”
His brutality was entirely unnecessary, as far as I could see—there wasn’t a single German around. …
Each morning we were awakened by a policeman with this song:
Wake up! Your mothers are whores!
I’ve been calling for half an hour!
You are still sleeping!
You are sons of bitches!
Remembering this still brings tears to my eyes. We had been oppressed and humiliated by the Nazis. Was it necessary for these policemen to add pain to our degraded existence? Or was it supposed to be a kind of entertaining diversion for us? …
One day, the bread was delivered at the same time as the soup was being distributed outside the barracks. The man pouring the soup into the dishes was also an orderly in the infirmary. I asked him to serve me first so I could get back and divide the bread before it was stolen.
“Stay in line!” he yelled at me.
“If the bread is stolen, the others will kill me!” I pleaded. He got furious with me. “You whore!” he shouted, slapping my face so hard that I couldn’t speak for days. I threw away my dish, went into the barracks and divided the bread, then threw myself down on my bunk. I lay there unable even to cry. My face twisted. I felt hatred, for him, for the rest of the police, for all the oppressors who imagined themselves the lords of our lives. Who could imagine that such low instincts could emerge in other human beings?
Especially, I felt rage against the orderly who had hit me. … He could have poured the soup into my dish with no problem; everyone standing in the line agreed. He had plenty of time. It was well known that no one left the infirmary alive. …
Not all the policemen were as bad as this one. Some were even worse. Remembering the bad ones still brings back the anger. …
But that sort of thing [i.e., taking advantage of women prisoners] was routine there. Even the chief of police was a philanderer. He had a wife and a lover; what’s more his wife had her own lover, and that lover was having other casual affairs, and so on …
The chief used to invent ways to amuse himself by humiliating us. He would order the girls to stand naked outside the barracks at night. Some of the staff would then take them away, supposedly to protect them from further shame, and would rape them. There was no such thing as consent. These women were trapped. What made it worse was that so many of these atrocities were committed by our own people. …
I was sent one day with a small group to gather spent bullets at a place where the Nazis practised target shooting, very near the forest. Near the range was a small mechanic’s shop where two Poles worked. … We worked near them. The older man talked to me when the policeman and the SS weren’t around.
After a few days, the older man started bringing me sandwiches from home, cigarettes, or a few zloty [złoty]. He told me he had a daughter my age and was sad about what happened to us. …
Every day, the older man tried to convince me to keep looking for a chance to break away from the group. He told me how to find his house. … He also made me a beautiful aluminum soup-dish with a handle. … But one day the policeman who took us to and from work saw me talking to the old man. On the way back, he grabbed my cigarettes and money, and walked very close to me. I couldn’t even think of escaping. …
The next day, I told the Polish man that I was afraid to accept anything further from him. But he still brought me hairpins and wooden clogs, with leather straps for shoes. He did what he could to help me. I remember him with affection.
I was sent back to the munitions factory, and then came winter. My shoes were worn out … The soles of my feet touched the ice and snow on the ground with every step. I had asked for shoes at the warehouse, but had been refused. …
So one morning when we were marshalled for work, the head count was one short. One of the policemen came into the barracks, where I was sitting on my bunk. “Come out, they will kill you,” he yelled.
“I’ve had enough,” I said, staying put.
“Get down, you can’t stay here.”
“I’m not going anywhere until I get shoes.”
They went off to the factory without me. An hour later, a German foreman came in, asking me why I refused to get to work. Without a word, I showed him my broken shoes. He smiled. “Come with me, you will get shoes.”
I walked with him to the factory. … As we passed by the office window, he stopped to ask for a piece of paper, then he wrote out an order that I should be given shoes. … After work, I went to the warehouse and got a pair of clogs.885
One of the few Jews who was prosecuted after the war for collaborating with the Germans was Henryk Gnat, a block elder at the Skarżysko-Kamienna camp accused of mistreating fellow prisoners, by beating them, physically abusing them, and stealing their rations. Former camp inmate Regina Finger testified:
We work sixteen hours a day … From the hell in the factory we come back to the jaws of the camp. I have no hope that German hirelings and bandits such as Teperman, Krzepicki, Gnat, and the others would treat us better than the Germans.886
Israel Mittelberg described conditions at Skarżysko-Kamienna, after his transfer there from Majdanek, and his subsequent peregrinations.
At night, when we walked into the barrack, we found a group of Jews with a Jewish camp commandant, Jewish police, some Jewish supervisors, and Jewish quartermasters. … In exchange for a piece of bread we gave away our clothing. …
A great deal of difference existed between those of us who had just arrived from Warsaw and those who had come from the nearby small towns. … the others had come directly from their homes, still in possession of valuable items they were hiding. … Also, the Gentiles with whom they had left their belongings used to help them from time to time. It was, therefore, much more difficult for us. The inmates resorted to stealing hunks of bread from each other, or an additional bowl of soup in the kitchen …
The Jews who had arrived from the provinces ahead of us held all the service posts. Therefore a kind of antagonism grew up between them and those from Warsaw; among us, many refugees from Lodz [Łódź]. … The commandant Mordechai, a butcher by trade, had bought off the chief, thus achieving complete jurisdiction over us, which he knew exactly how to exercise. He released whoever had money from the drudgery of work. When I asked him for an exemption, he simply laughed. He disliked us intensely. He did not care whether someone was really ill. For money, he let his good friends go home and we had to work on their behalf. Wagons of shoes would arrive from Treblinka for distribution. Mordechai would then order the shoemakers to take the shoes apart looking for hidden wealth. They would keep the shoes that were in better condition, and pass the rubbish on to us.
The doctor also would issue an exemption for money; without money, one was obliged to go to work, regardless of the state of his health. After fifteen months of loading shells, I fell ill. On my way from work to camp, I had a very painful attack and could not walk. My friends supported me. Lenczner, a Jewish policeman from Volbram [Wolbrom], noticed it and admonished me for not walking in the ranks. My complaints simply went unheard. He continued to kick me in the spine with his heavy boot in the very spot which was causing me the most pain. He tortured me the whole way. He survived the war. …
After much haggling Dr. Rotbalsam came and, for money of course, gave me some ointment. All he wanted was money. He also survived. Mordechai had an assistant in our barrack by the name of Bakalasz. He refused to help anyone with anything. When I made a request of him, he would reply, “Ah, you’ll die soon, so many people are dying, you’ll also be among them.” Mordechai had several other assistants, among them the brothers Avram and Hershel Band of the same town, Volbram … There were also the brothers Moishe and Kalman Gastfreund, tailors by trade. They were bad people. …