Bystanders During the Holocaust


Antisemitism: Opposition to and discrimination against Jews.

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.

British White Paper of 1939: British policy of restricting immigration of Jews to Palestine.

Bystander: One who is present at some event without participating in it.

Collaboration: Cooperation between citizens of a country and its occupiers.

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.

Death camp: Nazi extermination centers where Jews and other victims were brought to be 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.

Final Solution (The final solution to the Jewish question in Europe): A Nazi euphemism for the plan to exterminate the Jews of 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.

Holocaust: Derived from the Greek holokaustonwhich 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.

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.

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.

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.

Righteous Gentiles: Non-Jewish people who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to save Jewish people from Nazi persecution. Today, a field of trees planted in their honor at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel, commemorates their courage and compassion.

Scapegoat: Person or group of people blamed for crimes committed by others.

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.

Stereotype: Biased generalizations about a group based on hearsay, opinions, and distorted, preconceived ideas.

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.

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Discussion Questions/Research Topics


A bibliography of American responses to the Holocaust is available at the Wiesenthal site.

Other Resources

Lesson Plans from the Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust

Headlines. Students respond to news articles from the Holocaust era.

ACTIVITY Human Nature. Students discuss a list of questions related to human nature.

ACTIVITY News Flash. Students create news headlines based on Holocaust events.

ACTIVITY Twenty and Ten: Holocaust Outreach Center - Florida Atlantic University: Fourth Grade Unit.

ACTIVITY Bystanders in the Holocaust. Students recognize the effects of apathy and indifference and explore legal responses to issues raised by the Holocaust.

Lesson Plans on Other Sites

Deathly Silence: Everyday People in the Holocaust is a Holocaust education manual produced by the Southern Institute for Education and Research, Tulane University.

Florida Resource Manual on Holocaust Education

The following materials from the State of Florida Resource Manual on Holocaust Education, Grades 9-12 will enrich your class's study of this topic. This manual was distributed to all Florida high schools in the spring of 1999 and should be available in your school resource center.

An Olympic Athlete's Dilemma Unit 4 pages 34-35
Preface to The Abandonment of the Jews:
America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945
Unit 4 pages 38-40
The Issue of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto Unit 5 pages 29-30

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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
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