For other uses, see Kapo (disambiguation).

Italian film poster
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Produced by Franco Cristaldi
Moris Ergas
Written by Gillo Pontecorvo
Franco Solinas
Starring Susan Strasberg
Didi Perego
Laurent Terzieff
Music by Carlo Rustichelli
Cinematography Aleksandar Sekulovic
Distributed by Cineriz
Release dates
  • 29 September 1960 (1960-09-29) (Italy)


Running time
116 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian

Kapò (Italian pronunciation: [kaˈpɔ]) is a 1960 Italian film about the Holocaust directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. It was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film.[3] It was an Italian-French co-production filmed in Yugoslavia.


Naive fourteen-year-old Edith (Susan Strasberg) and her Jewish parents are sent to a concentration camp, where the latter are killed. Sofia (Didi Perego), an older, political prisoner, and a kindly camp doctor save her from a similar fate by giving her a new, non-Jewish identity, that of the newly dead Nichole Niepas.

As time goes by, she becomes more hardened to the brutal life. She first sells her body to a German guard in return for food. She becomes fond of another guard, Karl (Gianni Garko). The fraternization helps her become a kapo, one of those put in charge of the other prisoners. She thrives while the idealistic Sofia grows steadily weaker.

When she falls in love with Sascha (Laurent Terzieff), a Russian prisoner of war, Edith is persuaded to play a crucial role in a mass escape, turning off the power. Most of the would-be escapees are killed, but some get away. Edith is not one of them. As she lies dying, she tells Karl, "They screwed us over, Karl, they screwed us both over." She dies saying the traditional prayer Shema Yisrael, to feel again her real identity.



From the Wall Street Journal article, "Hollywood's Nazi Revisionism", by Bernard-Henri Lévy:[4]

The Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo earned "the deepest contempt" of French director Jacques Rivette in an article in Cahiers du cinéma nearly 50 years ago for a scarcely more insistent shot in the 1959 film "Kapo." The shot was of the raised hand of actress Emmanuelle Riva, her character Terese electrocuted on the barbed wire of the concentration camp from which she was trying to escape. The criticism hung over Pontecorvo until his dying day. He was ostracized, almost cursed, for a shot, just one.

Lévy contrasts this reaction to one shot with what he asserts is the garish exploitation of Nazi history in 2009's Inglourious Basterds and 2010's Shutter Island.

See also


  1. Erickson, Hal. "Kapò". Allmovie.
  2. "Kapo". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  3. "The 33rd Academy Awards (1961) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  4. Bernard-Henri Lévy, "Hollywood's Nazi Revisionism", trans. Janet Lizop, Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2010.
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