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Prisoner Functionaries–Positions

The prisoner administration can be divided into three groups: the camp administration, the work administration, and those working in the infirmary (which see). To distinguish them from the ranks of the SS members, which ended in -führer, the prisoner positions usually ended in -ältester or -dienst.


The camp administration included the following prisoner positions:

  1. Lagerältester (camp elder): wore a black armband with the white inscription ; he was senior to all prisoners except the Krankenbauältester (infirmary or hospital elder). The first camp elder of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp, beginning in October 1942, was Josef Windeck, followed in rapid succession by Franz Raschke and Hans Georg Scholle, with Paul Kozwara holding the position from late 1943 until the closure of the camp in January 1945. Windeck was classified as an “asocial” prisoner, and the three others were imprisoned as “career criminals.”
  2. Blockältester (block elder): wore a red armband with a white label giving his function and block number; he was responsible for the administration of his block. Under him were the Stubendienste (prisoners on barracks-room duty), who had to deal with food, clothing, and cleanliness; the food was brought from the kitchen by the people who carried the food pots. A Blockschreiber (block clerk or registrar) had to give the reports at roll call, as well as the food and death reports. Depending on the national composition of the block, many block elders also needed interpreters for their work.
  3. Schreibstube (administrative office): headed by the Rapportschreiber (report writer), in the initial period Paul Kozwara, then Gustav Herzog, and finally Stefan Lembke. Here the prisoners were registered and the prisoner index managed, the prisoners assigned to blocks and the transport lists written when inmates had been selected for “transfer” to Birkenau, generally meaning death in the gas chamber. Work in the administrative office also yielded the extremely risky opportunity to remove prisoners from selection lists or transpose record cards, in order to save individual prisoners. The report writer was responsible to the SS-man serving as Rapportführer (roll-call leader), and also to the camp elder.
  4. SS-Kalfaktoren (personal servants, general factotums for the SS): hand-picked prisoners who had to serve as personal servants for the SS. This position could result in a special influence to be exercised for the benefit of other inmates. In addition, some prisoners worked directly for the SS in the Political Department (camp Gestapo).

The work adminstration included the following positions:

  1. Oberkapo: (supervising Kapo): before the building of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp, a supervising Kapo oversaw all the external work detachments deployed at the I.G. Farben construction site, approximately 1,200 inmates. In Monowitz, sometimes larger work detachments of several hundred prisoners had a supervising Kapo to whom several Kapos reported.
  2. Kapos: wore yellow armbands with Kapo in black letters. At the construction site, each work detachment, usually made up of about 50 to 100 inmates, was under the authority of a Kapo. The Kapo was responsible for ensuring that all members of the detachment were present during the march in and out of the camp and at the construction site. He had to supervise the prisoners’ work at the construction site and spur them on. In so doing, he had considerable latitude to decide how brutal and despotic or even how benign and helpful to be in dealing with the prisoners, and to relay the pressure from the SS and I.G. Farben with some intensification or even to try to head it off. The Kapos of larger work detachments had foremen under them.
  3. Lagerkapo (camp Kapo): under him were the camp work detachment, which was used for maintenance tasks in the camp, and smaller detachments of skilled craftsmen, such as the tailor shop, cobbler’s shop, woodworking shop, glazier’s shop, and automobile repair shop. On the other hand, the detachments that worked in the prisoner kitchen, the SS kitchen, the potato-peeling kitchen, and the warehouse were directly under the authority of the camp elder. The camp Kapo was responsible for maintaining order during the roll call and the distribution of food.
  4. Häftlingsarbeitsdienst (prisoner labor service office): had to deal with assigning the work detachments and was reponsible for the reports on the work accomplished. The prisoner labor service office was under the authority of the camp elder and the SS labor service leader.

(MN; transl. KL)


Paul Grünberg, oral history interview [Ger.], June 16, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.

[Posener, Curt]: “Zur Geschichte des Lagers Auschwitz-Monowitz (BUNA).” Unpublished manuscript, undated, 53 pages. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute.



Wagner, Bernd C.: IG Auschwitz. Zwangsarbeit und Vernichtung von Häftlingen des Lagers Monowitz 1941–1945. Munich: Saur, 2000.