Prisoner functionary

A prisoner functionary (German: Funktionshäftling) was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who was assigned by the SS guards to supervise forced labor or carry out administrative tasks in the camp. Also called "prisoner self-administration", the prisoner functionary system minimized costs by allowing camps to function with fewer SS personnel. The system was also designed to turn victim against victim, as the prisoner functionaries were pitted against their fellow prisoners in order to maintain the favor of their SS guards. If they were derelict, they would be returned to the status of ordinary prisoners and be subject to other prisoner functionaries. Many prisoner functionaries were recruited from the ranks of violent criminal gangs rather than from the more numerous political, religious and racial prisoners; those were known for their brutality toward other prisoners. This brutality was tolerated by the SS and was an integral part of the camp system. Prisoner functionaries were spared physical abuse and hard labor, provided they performed their duties to the satisfaction of the SS guards. They also had access to certain privileges such as civilian clothes and a private room, even (being convicts) the possibility of reduced sentence or parole.[citation needed] While the official government term for prisoner functionaries was Funktionshäftling, the Germans commonly called them kapos. When the camps were libertated, they were transferred to the regular prison system.[citation needed]


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