Anschluss /ahnshlus/: The annexation of Austria by Germany on March 13, 1938.
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.
Blitzkrieg: Meaning "lightning war," Hitler's offensive tactic using a combination of armored attack and air assault.
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.
Brüning, Heinrich /brooning hainrikh/: Appointed by President von Hindenburg in 1930, he was the first chancellor under the new presidential system which ruled by emergency decree rather than laws passed by the Reichstag.
Buchenwald /bookhenvald/: Concentration camp in North Central Germany
Bystander: One who is present at some event without participating in it.
Chamberlain, Neville (1869-1940): British Prime Minister, 1937-1940. He concluded the Munich Agreement in 1938 with Adolf Hitler, which he mistakenly believed would bring "peace in our time."
Chancellor: Chief (prime) minister of Germany.
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.
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 556B.C. 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.
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.
Enabling Act: The Enabling Act, ratified on March 23, 1933, allowed the government emergency powers: to pass decrees without referring to the president and eventually create new laws. This helped the new (Nazi) regime to establish a firm footing in the Reichstag.
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.
Fascism: A social and political ideology with the primary guiding principle that the state or nation is the highest priority, rather than personal or individual freedoms.
German Workers' Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)/doiche abaitapatai/: As the precursor to the Nazi Party, Hitler joined the right-wing Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP) in 1919. The party espoused national pride, militarism, a commitment to the Volk, and a racially "pure" Germany.
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., Lódz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, or Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, malnutrition, and heavy labor. All were eventually dissolved, and the Jews murdered.
Goebbels, Paul Joseph (1897-1945) /poul yosef gobles/: Reich Propaganda Director of the NSDAP and Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
Von Hindenburg, Paul /poul fon hindenboorg/: General Field Marshal who became a German national hero during World War I and was Reich president from 1925 to 1934.
Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945) /ahdolf hitla/: Nazi party leader, 1919-1945. German Chancellor,1933-1945. Called Führer, or supreme leader, by the Nazis.
Hitler Youth: Hitler Jugend /hitla yoogend/: a Nazi youth auxiliary group established in 1926. It expanded during the Third Reich. Membership was compulsory after 1939.
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.
League of German Girls: Female counterpart of the Hitler Youth formed in 1927 but not formerly integrated by Hitler until 1932.
Lebensraum /leybenzroum/: Meaning "living space," it was a basic principle of Nazi foreign policy. Hitler believed that eastern Europe had to be conquered to create a vast German empire for more physical space, a greater population, and new territory to supply food and raw materials.
Mein Kampf /mine kahmpf/: Meaning "My Struggle," it was the ideological base for the Nazi Party's racist beliefs and murderous practices. Published in 1925, this work detailed Hitler's radical ideas of German nationalism, antisemitism, anti-Bolshevism, and Social Darwinism which advocated survival of the fittest.
Napolas /nahpolas/: Elite schools for training the future government and military leadership of the Nazi state.
Nationalism: A movement, as in the arts, based on the folk idioms, history, aspirations, etc., of a nation.
National Socialist Women's Association: The NS Frauenschaft /frouenshahft/ was an organization intended to recruit an elite group of women for the Nazis.
National Socialist Teachers' Association: Established in 1929, it assumed responsibility for the ideological indoctrination of teachers.
The Nazi (National Socialist German Workers') Party: The Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei /natsional sotsialistishe doiche abaita patai/ or NSDAP was founded in Germany on January 5, 1919. It was characterized by a centralist and authoritarian structure. Its platform was based on militaristic, racial, antisemitic and nationalistic policies. Nazi Party membership and political power grew dramatically in the 1930s, partly based on political propaganda, mass rallies and demonstrations.
Night of the Long Knives: On June 30, 1934, Hitler murderously purged the ranks of the SA.
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.
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.
Reich /raikh/: German word for empire.
Reichskammern /raikskaman/: Reich government departments.
Reichstag /raikhstag/: The German Parliament. On February 27, 1933, a staged fire burned the Reichstag building. A month later, on March 23, 1933, the Reichstag approved the Enabling Act which gave Hitler unlimited dictatorial power.
SA (Sturmabteilung /shtoormabtailung/ or Storm Troopers): Also known as "Brown Shirts," they were the Nazi party's main instrument for undermining democracy and facilitating Adolf Hitler's rise to power. The SA was the predominant terrorizing arm of the Nazi party from 1923 until "The Night of the Long Knives" in 1934. They continued to exist throughout the Third Reich, but were of lesser political significance after 1934.
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.
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.
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.
Der Stürmer /shtoorma/: Antisemitic newspaper founded by Hitler's friend, Julius Streicher, which reached a peak circulation of 500,000 in 1927.
Sudetenland /zoodeytenlahnt/: Formerly Austrian German-speaking territories in Bohemia which were incorporated into Czechoslovakia after World War I.
Swastika (Hakenkreuz/haakenkroits/): An ancient symbol appropriated by the Nazis as their emblem.
Synagogue: Jewish house of worship, similar to a church.
Third Reich /raich/: Meaning "third regime or empire," the Nazi designation of Germany and its regime from 1933-45. Historically, the First Reich was the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806. The Second Reich included the German Empire from 1871-1918.
Volk /folk/: The concept of Volk (people, nation, or race) has been an underlying idea in German history since the early nineteenth century. Inherent in the name was a feeling of superiority of German culture and the idea of a universal mission for the German people.
Weimar Republic /vaimahr/: The German republic, and experiment in democracy (1919-1933), was established after the end of World War I.