Project Genesis

Religious Kapos?

How could a religious Jew have been a kapo, or a member of the Jewish police, during the Holocaust, ordering the death of other Jewish inmates or treating them harshly?

If there were indeed religious Jews among the kapos in the Holocaust, I would assume it was for the same reasons non-religious Jews did it: fear for their own lives and those of their families, the hope that they might somehow help other Jews from this position, simple greed and poor character qualities, or some combination of the above. Such feelings and fears are common to all human beings, irrespective of religious identity. That the Torah specifically demands a high level of personal conduct that would certainly preclude gratuitous violence against other people has, in fact, borne wonderful fruit (as can be seen, for instance, in the book “To Vanquish the Dragon“, or “Those Who Never Yielded“). That the impact was somehow lost on some individual Jews should hardly come as a surprise.

I hope this is helpful. With best regards,

Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Ottawa, Canada

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