The Roller

The concrete roller was used to compact the dirt street in Auschwitz I. Human beings were used like draft animals. The fat Kapo illustrates the contrast in prisoner hierarchy created by the SS; “prominenti” with more than enough to eat, ordinary prisoners starved. Most of the early prisoner functionaries, Kapos and Blockeltesta (Work foremen and Block leaders) were criminals from German prisons; the worst types the SS could find. As the camp grew others were chosen to fill these roles. Some of them were decent human beings who did what they could for their charges, occasionally beating someone when the SS were watching. It was difficult to balance one’s actions in this moral schism.

Watercolor: Mieczyslaw Koscielniak
Reproduction courtesy of Auschwitz Museum Archive, 1980