For the simple inmate, self-management was virtually impossible. On the one hand, inmates didn’t have to deal with the SS the entire time, but on the other, they were at the mercy of Kapos and the camp elders. Camp elders were inmates often chosen based on their level of authority amongst prisoners. They were tasked with keeping order amongst the prisoners as well as being their spokesperson. Despite the positive-sounding nature of this system, the camp elders were often abusive towards their fellow prisoners.
One famous camp elder was H. Rohr, one of the oldest inmates in the camp who was described by survivors as being a “sleazy fellow”. Rohr was a criminal who had previously terrorized inmates at other camps. Armed with a nightstick, he controlled the camp while riding on his bicycle. Due to his brutality, he was popular with the SS and enjoyed many privileges such as being permitted to wear civilian clothes.
Most of the Kapos were usually German criminals. They were sent by Dachau to “stir things up”. To prevent fighting among inmates, a camp police was created – using inmates. For identification purposes, they wore a black armband.
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