Antisemitism: Opposition to and discrimination against Jews.
Aryan: A term for peoples speaking the language of Europe and India. In Nazi racial theory, a person of pure German "blood." The term "non-Aryan" was used to designate Jews, part-Jews and others of supposedly inferior racial stock.
Assimilation: The process of becoming incorporated into mainstream society. Strict observance of Jewish laws and customs pertaining to dress, food, and religious holidays tends to keep Jewish people separate and distinct from the culture of the country within which they are living. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), a German Jew, was one of the key people working for the assimilation of the Jews in the German cultural community.
Auschwitz - Birkenau /oushvits - biakenow/: A complex consisting of concentration, extermination, and labor camps in Upper Silesia. It was established in 1940 as a concentration camp and included a killing center in 1942. Auschwitz I: The main camp. Auschwitz II (Also known as Birkenau): The extermination center. Auschwitz III (Monowitz): The I.G. Farben labor camp, also known as Buna. In addition, there were numerous subsidiary camps.
Babi Yar /bahbi yahr/: A ravine in Kiev, where tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews were systematically massacred.
Bar-Mitzvah /bahrmitsva/: A term referring to a religious "coming of age" in Judaism, when a Jewish boy or girl turns thirteen. On this day, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah leads the congregation in the service and rightfully enters the congregation as an "equal" member.
Belzec /belzets/: Nazi extermination camp in eastern Poland. Erected in 1942. Approximately 550,000 Jews were murdered there in 1942 and 1943. The Nazis dismantled the camp in the fall of 1943.
Bergen-Belsen /beagen belzen/ Nazi concentration camp in northwestern Germany. Erected in 1943. Thousands of Jews, political prisoners, and POWs were killed there. Liberated by British troops in April 1945, although many of the remaining prisoners died of typhus after liberation.
Blood Libel: An allegation, recurring during the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, that Jews were killing Christian children to use their blood for the ritual of making unleavened bread (matzah). A red mold which occasionally appeared on the bread started this myth.
B'richa: The organized and illegal mass movement of Jews throughout Europe following World War II.
British White Paper of 1939: British policy of restricting immigration of Jews to Palestine.
Buchenwald /bookhenvald/: Concentration camp in North Central Germany
Bund /boond/: The Jewish Socialist Party founded in 1897. It aspired to equal rights for the Jewish population. During World War II the Bund was active in the underground resistance and some Bund members were also part of some Judenrat councils. They took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Cantor: Leader of chanted prayers in a Jewish service; the congregational singer.
Chelmno /khelmno/: Nazi extermination camp in western Poland. Established in 1941. The first of the Nazi extermination camps. Approximately 150,000 Jews were murdered there between late 1941 and 1944, although not continuously. In comparison to the other extermination camps, Chelmno was technologically primitive, employing carbon monoxide gas vans as the main method of killing. The Nazis dismantled the camp in late 1944 and early 1945.
Communism: A concept or system of society in which the collective community shares ownership in resources and the means of production. In theory, such societies provide for equal sharing of all work, according to ability, and all benefits, according to need. In 1848, Karl Marx, in collaboration with Friedrich Engels, published the Communist Manifesto which provided the theoretical impetus for the Russian Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
Concentration camp (Konzentrationslager abbreviated as KZ) /kontsentrationslahga/: Concentration camps were prisons used without regard to accepted norms of arrest and detention. They were an essential part of Nazi systematic oppression. Initially (1933-36), they were used primarily for political prisoners. Later (1936-42), concentration camps were expanded and non-political prisoners--Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and Poles--were also incarcerated. In the last period of the Nazi regime (1942-45), prisoners of concentration camps were forced to work in the armament industry, as more and more Germans were fighting in the war. Living conditions varied considerably from camp to camp and over time. The worst conditions took place from 1936-42, especially after the war broke out. Death, disease, starvation, crowded and unsanitary conditions, and torture were a daily part of concentration camps.
Dachau /dakhou/: Nazi concentration camp in southern Germany. Erected in 1933, this was the first Nazi concentration camp. Used mainly to incarcerate German political prisoners until late 1938, whereupon large numbers of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other supposed enemies of the state and anti-social elements were sent as well. Nazi doctors and scientists used many prisoners at Dachau as guinea pigs for experiments. Dachau was liberated by American troops in April 1945.
Death camp: Nazi extermination centers where Jews and other victims were brought to e killed as part of Hitler's Final Solution.
Death marches: Forced marches of prisoners over long distances and under intolerable conditions was another way victims of the Third Reich were killed. The prisoners, guarded heavily, were treated brutally and many died from mistreatment or were shot. Prisoners were transferred from one ghetto or concentration camp to another ghetto or concentration camp or to a death camp.
Dehumanization: The Nazi policy of denying Jews basic civil rights such as practicing religion , education, and adequate housing.
Desecrating the Host: Jews were accused of defiling the Host, the sacred bread used in the Eucharist ritual, with blood. The red substance that can grow on bread which has a blood-like appearance is now known to be a mold. This allegation was used as the reason for a series of antisemitic attacks.
Diaspora: From the Greek word meaning dispersion, the term dates back to 556 B.C.E. when Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Judeans to Babylonia and refers to the Jewish communities outside Israel.
Displacement: The process, either official or unofficial, of people being involuntarily moved from their homes because of war, government policies, or other societal actions, requiring groups of people to find new places to live. Displacement is a recurring theme in the history of the Jewish people.
DP: Displaced Person. The upheavals of war left millions of soldiers and civilians far from home. Millions of DPs had been eastern European slave laborers for the Nazis. The tens of thousands of Jewish survivors of Nazi camps either could not or did not want to return to their former homes in Germany or eastern Europe, and many lived in special DP camps while awaiting migration to America or Palestine.
Displaced Persons Act of 1948: Law passed by U.S. Congress limiting the number of Jewish displaced persons who could emigrate to the United States. The law contained antisemitic elements, eventually eliminated in 1950.
Drancy: Largest transit camp for the deportation of Jews from France.
Einsatzgruppen /ainzatsgroopen/: Mobile units of the Security Police and SS Security Service that followed the German armies to Poland in 1939 and to the Soviet Union in June, 1941. Their charge was to kill all Jews as well as communist functionaries, the handicapped, institutionalized psychiatric patients, Gypsies, and others considered undesirable by the nazi state. They were supported by units of the uniformed German Order Police and often used auxiliaries (Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian volunteers). The victims were executed by mass shootings and buried in unmarked mass graves; later, the bodies were dug up and burned to cover evidence of what had occurred.
Euthanasia: Nazi euphemism for the deliberate killings of institutionalized physically, mentally, and emotionally handicapped people. The euthanasia program began in 1939, with German non-Jews as the first victims. The program was later extended to Jews.
Final Solution (The final solution to the Jewish question in Europe): A Nazi euphemism for the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe.
Führer /fewra/: Leader. Adolf Hitler's title in Nazi Germany.
Gas chambers: Large chambers in which people were executed by poison gas. These were built and used in Nazi death camps.
Generalgouvernement (General Government): An administrative unit established by the Germans on October 26, 1939, consisting of those parts of Poland that had not been incorporated into the Third Reich. It included the districts of Warsaw, Krakow, Radom, Lublin, and Lvov. Hans Frank was appointed Governor-General. The Germans destroyed the Polish cultural and scientific institutions and viewed the Polish population as a potential work force.
Genocide: The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, cultural, or religious group.
Gestapo /geshtahpoh/: Acronym for Geheime Staatspolizei /gehaime shtahtspolitsai/, meaning Secret State Police. Prior to the outbreak of war, the Gestapo used brutal methods to investigate and suppress resistance to Nazi rule within Germany. After 1939, the Gestapo expanded its operations into Nazi-occupied Europe.
Ghettos: The Nazis revived the medieval term ghetto to describe their device of concentration and control, the compulsory "Jewish Quarter." Ghettos were usually established in the poor sections of a city, where most of the Jews from the city and surrounding areas were subsequently forced to reside. Often surrounded by barbed wire or walls, the ghettos were sealed. Established mostly in eastern Europe (e.g., Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, or Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, malnutrition, and heavy labor. All were eventually dissolved, and the Jews murdered.
Gypsies: A collective term for Romani and Sinti. A nomadic people believed to have come originally from northwest India. They became divided into five main groups still extant today. By the sixteenth century, they had spread to every country of Europe. Alternately welcomed and persecuted since the fifteenth century, they were considered enemies of the state by the Nazis and persecuted relentlessly. Approximately 500,000 Gypsies are believed to have perished in the gas chambers.
Holocaust: Derived from the Greek holokauston which meant a sacrifice totally burned by fire. Today, the term refers to the systematic planned extermination of about six million European Jews and millions of others by the Nazis between 1933-1945.
Homophobia: Fear of homosexuals.
Jehovah's Witnesses: Religious sect that originated in the United States and had about 2, 000 members in Germany in 1933. Their religious beliefs did not allow them to swear allegiance to any worldly power making tham enemies of the Nazi state.
Judaism: The monotheistic religion of the Jews, based on the precepts of the Old Testament and the teachings and commentaries of the Rabbis as found chiefly in the Talmud.
Kippah /kippa/: The skull cap worn by Jewish men. A Kippah is worn to symbolize that man exists only from his Kippah down; God exists above the Kippah.
Korczak, Dr. Janusz (1878-1942): Educator, author, physician, and director of a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. Despite the possibility of personal freedom, he refused to abandon his orphans and went with them to the gas chamber in Treblinka.
Also known as
The Night of the Broken Glass. On this night, November 9, 1938, almost 200 synagogues were destroyed, over 8,000 Jewish shops were sacked and looted, and tens of thousands of Jews were removed to concentration camps. This pogrom received its name because of the great value of glass that was smashed during this anti-Jewish riot. Riots took place throughout Germany and Austria on that night.
Majdanek /maidahnek/: Nazi camp and killing center opened for men and women near Lublin in eastern Poland in late 1941. At first a labor camp for Poles and a POW camp for Russians, it was classified as a concentration camp in April 1943. Like Auschwitz, it was also a major killing center. Majdonek was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944, and a memorial was opened there in November of that year.
Marranos: Jews who professed to accept Christianity in order to escape persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. Marrano comes from the Spanish word "swine."
Muselmann /moozelmahn/: German term meaning "Muslim," widely used by concentration camp prisoners to refer to inmates who were on the verge of death from starvation, exhaustion, and despair. A person who had reached the Muselmann stage had little, if any, chance for survival and usually died within weeks. The origin of the term is unclear.
Nuremberg Laws: The Nuremberg Laws were announced by Hitler at the Nuremberg Party conference, defining "Jew" and systematizing and regulating discrimination and persecution. The "Reich Citizenship Law" deprived all Jews of their civil rights, and the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor" made marriages and extra-marital sexual relationships between Jews and Germans punishable by imprisonment.
Operation Reinhard (or Aktion Reinhard): The code name for the plan to destroy the millions of Jews in the General Government, within the framework of the Final Solution. It began in October, 1941, with the deportation of Jews from ghettos to extermination camps. The three extermination camps established under Operation Reinhard were Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka.
Pale of Settlement: The area in the western part of the Russian Empire in which Russian Jews were allowed to live from 1835-1917.
Pogrom: An organized and often officially encouraged massacre of or attack on Jews. The word is derived from two Russian words that mean "thunder."
Prejudice: A judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known. In most cases, these opinions are founded on suspicion, intolerance, and the irrational hatred of other races, religions, creeds, or nationalities.
Propaganda: False or partly false information used by a government or political party intended to sway the opinions of the population.
Ravensbruck /rahvenzbrook/: Concentration camp opened for women n 1939.
Resettlement: German euphemism for the deportation of prisoners to killing centers in Poland.
Revisionists: Those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.
Scapegoat: Person or group of people blamed for crimes committed by others.
SD (Sicherheitsdienst /zikherhaitsdeenst/ or Security Service): The SS security and intelligence service established in 1931 under Reinhard Heydrich.
Hannah Sennesh: A Palestinian Jew of Hungarian descent who fought as a partisan against the Nazis. She was captured at the close of the war and assassinated in Budapest by the Nazis.
Shoah: The Hebrew word meaning "catastrophe," denoting the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry during World War II. The term is used in Israel, and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) has designated an official day, called Yom ha-Shoah, as a day of commemorating the Shoah or Holocaust.
Sobibór: Extermination camp located in the Lublin district of eastern Poland. Sobibór opened in May 1942 and closed the day after a rebellion by its Jewish prisoners on October 14, 1943. At least 250,000 Jews were killed there.
Social Darwinism: A concept based on the idea of "survival of the fittest." Based on Social Darwinism, Nazis created a pseudo-scientific brand of racism which was most virulent when directed against the Jews, but others, particularly Slavs, were not exempt.
Sonderkommando /zonderkommando/ (Special Squad): SS or Einsatzgruppe detachment. The term also refers to the Jewish slave labor units in extermination camps that removed the bodies of those gassed for cremation or burial.
SS (Schutzstaffel /shoots shtahfl/ or Protection Squad): Guard detachments originally formed in 1925 as Hitler's personal guard. From 1929, under Himmler, the SS developed into the most powerful affiliated organization of the Nazi party. In mid-1934, they established control of the police and security systems, forming the basis of the Nazi police state and the major instrument of racial terror in the concentration camps and occupied Europe.
Star of David: A six-pointed star which is a symbol of Judaism. During the Holocaust, Jews throughout Europe were required to wear Stars of David on their sleeves or fronts and backs of their shirts and jackets.
Stereotype: Biased generalizations about a group based on hearsay, opinions, and distorted, preconceived ideas.
Theresienstadt /tereysienshtat/ (Terezín /terezeen/): Nazi ghetto located in Czechoslovakia. Created in late 1941 as a "model Jewish settlement" to deceive the outside world, including International Red Cross investigators, as to the treatment of the Jews. However, conditions in Terezín were difficult, and most Jews held there were later killed in death camps. Theresienstadt is the German name for the town; Terezín is the Czech name.
Treblinka /treblinka/: Extermination camp on the Bug River in the General Government. Opened in July 1942, it was the largest of the three Operation Reinhard killing centers. Between 700,000 and 900,000 persons were killed there. A revolt by the inmates on August 2, 1943, destroyed most of the camp, and it was closed in November 1943.
Umschlagplatz /oomshlagplats/: Place in Warsaw where freight trains were loaded and unloaded. During the deportation from the Warsaw ghetto, it was used as an assembly point where Jews were loaded onto cattle cars to be taken to Treblinka. It literally means "transfer point."
Underground: Organized group acting in secrecy to oppose government, or, during war, to resist occupying enemy forces.
Raoul Wallenberg: A Swedish diplomat who deliberately stationed himself in Hungary during the war to save Hungarian Jews from their deaths.
Wannsee Conference /vanzey/: On January 20, 1942 on a lake near Berlin the SS official, Reinhard Heydrich, helped present and coordinate the Final Solution.
Warsaw ghetto: Established in November 1940, it was surrounded by wall and contained nearly 500,000 Jews. About 45,000 Jews died there in 1941 alone, as a result of overcrowding, hard labor, lack of sanitation, insufficient food, starvation, and disease. During 1942, most of the ghetto residents were deported to Treblinka, leaving about 60,000 Jews in the ghetto. A revolt took place in April 1943 when the Germans, commanded by General Jürgen Stroop, attempted to raze the ghetto and deport the remaining inhabitants to Treblinka. The defense forces, commanded by Mordecai Anielewicz, included all Jewish political parties. The bitter fighting lasted twenty-eight days and ended with the destruction of the ghetto.
Zyklon B: (Hydrogen cyanide) Pesticide used in some of the gas chambers at the death camps.