Aktion A word meaning the Nazis were coming and used by the Germans to refer to assembly, deportation and murder or Jews.
Allies Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and twenty-three other countries that fought the Axis powers led by Germany, Italy and Japan during the Second World War.
Anielewicz, Mordecai Leader of the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto killed in 1943.
Anschluss From a German word for political union, Hitler's annexation of part of Austria.
antisemitism Hostility, prejudice, or discrimination against Jewish people or Judaism. The term "Semitic" refers to the descendents of Shem, a common ancestor of Middle Eastern peoples, but is now used specifically to refer to Jews.
Appelplatz Place for roll call (Appel) in the camps.
Aryan This actually has no racial meaning, instead referring to those speaking Indo-European languages. Hitler misused the term to refer to Caucausians of the Nordic type.
Auschwitz A well-known Nazi concentration camp (the largest, in fact) located in Poland, near Krakow.
Axis In 1936, Germany and Italy allied to form the Axis, which was joined by Japan and other opponents of the Allies during World War II.
Baeck, Leo Community leader in Berlin who denied opportunites to emigrate so that he could instead guide and represent his people.
Beer Hall Putsch An attempt to overthrow the government (known in French as a coup d'etat) that failed in Munich, 1923. Hitler went to jail and came up with his plan for success.
Belzec A death camp in Poland where 500,000 Jews were killed in gas chambers.
Bergen-Belsen This was the camp where Anne Frank died in March 1945, a year after the prisoner-exchange camp in Northern Germany had been converted to a concentration camp.
Bermuda Conference on Refugees 1943 Anglo-American conference where Allied ambivalence toward the plight of minorities under the Nazis was seen.
Birkenau This was Auschwitz II, the site of four gas chambers.
Brezhinka Clothing taken from victims of Auschwtiz was stored was stored here and sorted through to find any items that could be sent back to Germany.
Buchenwald One of the first concentration camps, located near Wiemar, Germany.
Bund A Jewish political group that was represented in the parliament in Poland.
Chamberlain, Neville This British Prime Minister until 1940 felt that "peace in our time" could be achieved through the appeasement policies of the Munich Agreement in 1938, but instead Hitler was merely able to increase his power prior to war.
Chancellor Chief minister of Germany.
Chelmno The first death camp, where after 1941 as many as 100,000 Jews were killed in gas vans.
Churchill, Winston He succeeded Chamberlain and recognized and worked against the threat Hitler presented.
collaborators Those who aided the Nazis in their campaign against the Jews.
collective responsibility Blaming a group for the actions of individuals within it, as is sometimes applied to Germans and the international community during the Holocaust.
concentration camp A place to confine and assemble political prisoners, such as the enemies of the Third Reich in Germany. In German, Konzentrations-Lager. Disease, mistreatment and starvation led to many deaths.
crematorium Ovens and furnaces where bodies of prisoners were burned.
Dachau The first concentration camp, established in Souther Germany in 1933.
death camp A term for concentration camps where conditions led to many deaths such as Bergen-Belsen as well as extermination camps like Treblinka.
death marches When Russian armies moved in from the East, the concentration camps were taken apart and the prisoners marched to Germany, in camps such as Bergen-Belsen. A third of the prisoners died in January 1945.
displaced persons Holocaust survivors placed in special camps when rendered homeless.
Dolchstosslegende A myth about being stabbed in the back by Jews and Communists during World War I, leading to Germany's loss.
Drancy The largest camp for the deportation of Jews from France, located near Paris, between July 1942 and August 1944. 61,000 Jews passed through on their way to Auschwitz.
dysentery An infectious disease that plagued camps and ghettos which caused uncontrollable diarrhea and resulted in internal bleeding, uclers, and other stomach problems.
Eichmann, Adolf An official who tortured and killed millions of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Einsatzgruppen Mobile killing squads who shot an estimated one million Jews in Russia
Erntefest The "Harvest Festival" was the largest single killing fest, in which 42,000 Jews were killed.
Eugenics This meant controlling the breeding of humans to improve them. Although it had some legitimate intentions, the Nazis gave such actions a bad name through programs such as Mutterkreuz that believed eugenics should work to promote Aryans and the racially pure Ubermenschen (supermen). This scientific veneer also involved belief in "racial hygeine."
euthanasia Greek for "good death," this is another idea with merit abused by the Germans. They wanted to kill the old and handicapped to put them out of their misery, laying the foundation for the final solution and promotion of a superior race.
Evian Conference An ineffectual meeting of 32 countries called by FDR on July 6, 1938 to discuss the problem of refugees in Evian-les-Bains, France. No countries wanted to accept the emigrants.
extermination camp Place for assembly-line style killing of Jews as part of the Sonderbehandlung (special treatment) involved in the final solution. In German, Vernichtungslager. The six camps were Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor, Maidanek, Chelmno and Belzec. Jews arrived under the guise of "resettlement" or "deportation."
fascism An highly conservative political system characterized by zealous nationalistic tendencies.
Final Solution This was the killing of six million in order to deal with the perceived problem they presented to Germany (the "Jewish Question"). In German, Endlosung. The view was taken that "extermination" was needed of a non-human pest.
Frank, Anne The diary of this young Jewish girl who died during the Holocaust has been widely read as a first-hand account of the hardships imposed by Nazi Germany.
Frank, Hans The governor-general of occupied Poland who worked to make Poland subservient to the Reich and also acted as Hitler's personal lawyer before being executed by the Nuremburg tribunal.
Freikorps Right wing armed bands that roamed the streets of Germany in the 20's, forming the roots of the SA.
Frick, Wilhelm Minister of the Interior in 1933 who enacted Nazi racial laws and was executed at Nuremburg.
Fuehrer German for leader, the title Hitler assumed.
gas chamber Sealed buildings in which the release of poison gas could be used to kill numerous prisoners at once, used primarily at death camps. Most camps used carbon monoxide, though Auschwitz used Zyklon B.
Generalkomissar SS Commander of a region.
genocide According to the American Heritage Dictionary, "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." Coined by historian Raphael Lemkin during the World War II from genos (race) and cide (to kill).
Gerstein, Kurt He was responsible for obtaining gas for executions but was part of the resistance. He funnelled information to Swedish representatives and Vatican papal nuncios and hanged himself in remorse after the war.
Gestapo Secret state police (Geheimnis Staats Polizei)of the Third Reich who utilized brutal torture to find enemies of the state, inspiring fear in the people.
ghetto Sections of cities, administered by a Judenrat (Jewish Council), surrounded by barbed wire or brick walls from which Jews could not exit without authorization.
Goebbels, Paul Joseph Propaganda minister for Hitler who believed that a repeated lie could take on the veneer of truth. His speech set off Kristallnacht.
Goering, Herman Leader of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, second in command to Hitler, and intiator of the final solution with an order to Heydrich.
Goethe, Wolfgang Famous poet and philosopher of the eighteenth century who valued tolerance, reason, international peace, and great ideas. He was an ideal for German Jews.
Goose Step A straight-legged style of marching most closely associated with the Nazis
Grynszpan, Herschel A Polish Jewish youth who had moved to Paris and worried about the fate of his parents. He shot and killed Third Secretary Enrst vom Rath at the German Embassy on November 7, 1938, providing an excuse for Kristallnacht.
Gypsies These were the roma and Sinti, nomadic people from northwest India who arrived in Europe in the fifteenth century and were persecuted. As many as 250,000 Gypsies were killed. They were seen as enemies of the state less because of race than a fear that they were parasites and criminals.
Hadamar Institute A place were handicaps were "euthanized."
Heil Hail, in German. The greeting between officers was "heil Hitler."
Hess, Rudolf He was a deputy and associate of Hitler who was sentenced to life imprisonment until he committed suicide in 1987.
Heydrich, Reinhard Head of the SS Main Office, responsible for aiding Himmler and organizing the final solution.
Himmler, Heinrich This Commander in Chief (Reichsfuehrer) of the SS was responsible for carrying out the orders of Hitler to exterminate the Jews.
Hippocratic Oath An oath not upheld by Nazi doctors created by an ancient Greek that says a doctor will only help, not hurt people.
Hitler, Adolph Charismatic founder of the Nazi party and perpetrator of the Holocaust. He proclaimed his plan in Mein Kampf, written during his imprisonment following the Beer Hall Putsch. He reportedly committed suicide in 1945 when it became apparent Germany would lose the war.
Holocaust A term for widespread discussion that is capitalized when referred specifically to massive killings, especially that of the Jews.
Israel A state created for the Jewish people following the Holocaust and the recognition that the diaspora were subject to a great deal of persecution.
Jehovah's Witnesses A religious sect started in the United States by Charles Taze Russell that does not allow recognition of any worldly power, including priests, instead looking only to the Bible and the kingdom of God. Their refusal to salute the flag, bear arms, or work in the government created a conflict with National Socialism. As many as 10,000 were imprisoned (of which 2,500 died) as "enemies of the state."
Jewish Badge A sign which Jews were required to wear in Nazi Germany and occupied countries, often a yellow Star of David. The Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, is a six-pointed star formed from two interlaced triangles, one inverted, and is also called the Magen David or the Shield of David.
joy division A group of attractive female prisoners kept for the enjoyment of the soldiers.
Judaism The religion of ancient Israelites (the twelve tribes descended from Jacob) and modern Jews founded my Abraham, with Moses as a central figure. Judaism holds that there is one God and that the Jews are chosen people, basing its beliefs on the Torah.
Judenjagd The "Jew hunt" search for Jews after a massacre.
Judenrein Purified of Jews, the goal for Europe. Also called Judenfrei (Jew-free).
Kampfzeit Time of struggle, referring to the period when Hitler executed the plans spelled out in Mein Kampf.
Kapo Short for Kameraden Polizei, these were prisoners forced to supervise their comrades and act violently less they themselves be killed.
Keitel, Wilhelm He was Chief of Staff of the High Command of the German Armed Forces and was Hitler's closest military adviser and highly submissive. He was responsible for orders such as the Night and Fog decree and signed the unconditional surrender in Berlin. He was hanged in Nuremberg.
Korps der Politischen Leiter The Leadership Corps of the Nazi party that was one of the groups indicted at Nuremberg.
Kristallnacht "Night of the broken glass" involving anti-Jewish violence in early November 1938, carried out by SA men set off by the killing of a German official by a Jew. 35,000 were arrested and 35 killed. There was international outrage.
labor camp These were camps where Jews were forced to work for the military or government, as in the case of Monowitz (Auschwitz III) belonging to chemical conglomerate I.G. Farben.
League of Nations Part of the Treaty of Versailles, this was an international organization that Wilson crusaded for during World War I, as part of his idealistic crusade to "make the world safe for democracy." This international organization was powerless, due in part to the United States' absence. America failed to join when Senator Henry Cabot Lodge objected to the United States relinquishing its sovereignty when it came to declaring war. Whenever a country came under attack within the League, it merely withdrew its membership.
Lebensraum Living room, which Hitler declared was something Germany needed and could obtain by conquering neighboring countries' land and people.
Lessing, Gotthold Like Goethe, an Enlightenment philosopher and writer during the 18th century. He advocated reason, tolerance, equal rights, and peace. His play Nathan the Wise about a wise Jew became famous in Germany.
Lidice A Czech mining village of 700 destroyed after assassination of Heydrich.
Lodz A West Polish city that was home to the first major ghetto in April 1940. 144,000 people lived in 1.6 square miles in September 1941. After growing in size with immigrants from conquered lands, many were sent to Chelmno and in1944 the ghetto was liquidated and the remaining Jews sent to Auschwitz.
Maidanek (can also be spelled Majdanek) Camp in Poland where 200,000 and 30,000 others were killed.
Master Race The plan to create a superior race of purely Aryan descent (blond hair, blue eyes). Toward this end, Jews, people with handicaps, and enemies of the state were killed. In German, Herrenvolk. (The word Volk, originally meaning people, took on the connotation of unity via blood alone under Hitler.) The other races, in contrast, were called Untermenschen (subhuman).
Mauthausen Camp in Austria that killed hundreds of thousands with a program of "extermination through labor."
Mein Kampf Literally meaning "my struggle," this was a book by Adolf Hitler in which he explained that all of life is a struggle and man must do what he can to succeed. He declared Jews to be the enemies of the world and outlined a plan for their destruction.
Mendelssohn, Moses Like his friend Lessing, an 18th century philosopher and writer. He was the "first German Jew," assimilating by writing, dressing, and discussing German but still maintaining his Jewish identity; he thus served as model for Jews that followed.
Mengele, Josef The "Angel of Death" of Auschwitz known for his medical experimentation, especially on twins, and his decisions as to who would die.
Musselmann Camp word for a prisoner who gave up fighting for life.
Mutterkreuz Meaning mother's cross, it refers to a program that encouraged women to have Aryan children, for which they could receive gold, silver or bronze crosses for eight, six or four children, respectively.
National Socialist Bond Dutch Nazi party.
Nazis Members of the facist National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) founded in 1919, and empowered by Adolf Hitler in '33 (short for Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei).
Night and Fog Decree An order on December 7, 1941 to capture "persons endangering German security" and make them vanish without a trace into night and fog.
Night of the Long Knives A night of conflict between the SS and SA.
Nuremberg Code A code for doctors that arose out of the doctors trial at Nuremberg.
Nuremberg Laws 1935 laws depriving Jews of their German citizenship enacted at the Nazi national convention in Nuremberg in September 1935. Another result was the idea that intermarriage was Rassenschande (race treason).
Nuremberg Trials War crimes trials following World War II, which punished many Nazis for violations.
occupation The takeover and control of a country by a foreign military power.
Palestine, British Mandate of In 1920, this territory was assigned to the British following victory against Turkey, and on May 15, 1948, the mandate ended with the division of the land into the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan.
Partisan Guerilla-like resistance in invaded lands.
persecution Act of causing others to suffer, often because of differences.
pogrom Attacks on Jews by non-Jews that had occurred for centuries and included Kristallnacht. They were not systematic the way that the Holocaust was.
Propaganda Advocation of a particular point view through various methods of communication. The Nazis were masters of propaganda which helped make their cause successful. Slogans such as Arbeit macht Frei (Work makes free) and Die Juden sind under Ungluck (The Jews are our Misfortune) drove the point home.
Protocols of the Elders of Zion A forgery by the Russian Sceret Police at the turn of the century that made it appear that there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world by creating feuds amongst Christian, corruting and undermining established systems. It fed rampant antisemitism.
putsch The violent takeover of power, as that attempted by Hitler in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch.
Ravensbruck A German concentration camp just for women prisoners.
Red Army The army of the Soviet Union.
refugee One who is driven from or loses their home.
Reichsregierung The Reich Cabinet, the collection of leaders who aided Hitler.
Reichstag German lawmaking body (parliament).
Rhineland A buffer between Germany and West Europe where no troops were allowed.
Righteous Among Nations Term for non-Jews who helped saved Jews from the Nazis.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano President of the United States from 1933 to 1945, responsible for the New Deal and the United States' actions in the war up until a little before the end when his death required Truman to take his place. FDR opted to use resources on strategic targets before liberating the camps.
Rosenberg, Alfred Reich Minister for Occupied Eastern Territories, Nazi politican, and skilled promoter of Nazi ideology.
SA Sturmabteilung, storm troopers, Brownshirts, led by Ernest Röhm. Responsible for the Night of the Long Knives and other attacks on the opposition.
scapegoat The Jews were a scapegoat for German problems, taking all of the blame without meriting it. The name comes from a ritual in the Old Testament where a priest placed the sins of Israelites over the head of a goat and drove him away, metaphorically driving away their sin.
SD Sicherheitsdienst, Security Service spies led by Heydrich.
selection This was when it was decided who would live and die, often under the guise of qualified medical expertise.
shtetl Yiddish word for small Jewish town or village.
Sobibor A camp in Poland where an estimated 250,000 were killed. In 1943, prisoners blew up the camp and escaped, though most were later caught and killed.
Social Darwinism The adaptation of Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory of evolution to human society, suggesting that superior humans will and should triumph.
Sonderkommando Meaning special command, this was a name given to those forced under death threats to work in the crematoria, gas chambers, and undressing rooms.
Speer, Albert Hitler's architect and minister or armaments.
SS The Blackshirts, elite members of Hitler's army during the Holocaust. (short for Schutzstaffel, safety squadron)
Stalin, Josef Leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics between 1924 and 1933 who signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact, thus allowing the invasion of Poland. Hitler attacked the USSR in June 1941, and Stalin's joining of the Allies in part insured Hitler's defeat.
stereotype A false generalization that assigns the traits of a few members of a group to its entirety and creates a fixed image of what a group is like.
St. Louis A steampship that went from Hamburg to Cuba in 1939 carrying 1128 Jewish refugees, of which only 22 were allowed to disembark. After being rejected by various countries, they were eventually allowed to go to England, Hollan, France, and Belgium.
Struma This boat left Romania in 1941 with 769 refugees but was not allowed into Palestine or Turkey and was tugged into the Black Sea where it sank the following February, killing all but one.
Der Stürmer Meaning "the attacker," this was the name of an antisemetic German weekly between 1923 and 1945 published in Nuremberg by Julius Streicher.
Sudetenland Land predominantly populated by German-speakers that belonged to Czechoslovakia until Hitler annexed it.
Swastika Symbol of the Nazis, a cross with equal arms bent at a right angle. It was an ancient symbol of good luck and is a contemporary symbol of the Hindu religion. Some believe the Swastika was the root of the Indo-European scripts.
terribilita A Renaissance word used by Hitler biographer Robert Payne to describe Mein Kampf, implying "superb daring, immense disdain, an absolute lack of scruples, and a terrifying determination to ride roughshod over all obstacles."
Theresienstadt A Potempkin village of camps, it was shown to observers as a model camp, though it was deceptively better than its brethren. In reality, it was actually just a stopping point on the way to Auschwitz. It was also called Terezin.
Third Reich The self-declared third empire of Germany established by Hitler. The previous two were the Holy Roman Empire and Germany under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Another name given to Germany after 1933, was Fuhrerstaat (leader state).
Treaty of Versailles This was the treaty that ended the World War I. A clause in this treaty placed all of the guilt for the war on Germany and burdened them with heavy reparations.
Treblinka An estimated 850,000 Jews were killed in the year before it was blown up in 1943, though only 540 of the 600 involved survived.
Tuberculosis An infectious disease, usually attacking the lungs.
Typhus An infectious disease carried by lice or fleas, making it hard to control in camps. High fever, exhaustion, and death often resulted.
Umschlagplatz Meaning collection point, it was a square in the Warsaw Ghetto where Jews were amassed for deportation to Treblinka.
Underground The resistance movements in various countries secretly fighting Nazi occupation.
Volksgemeinschaft A term for the mystical familial unity of the members of the national community.
Volkswagen An attempt by Hitler to make affordable cars for German families.
Wallenberg, Raoul As a Swedish diplomat, he managed to save 30,000 Jews by handing out papers, passports, and visas in Hungary. He was taken into custody by the Russians after the liberation of Budapest and the rest is a mystery.
Wannsee Conference This was a conference at a lake near Berlin to coordinate the final solution attended by Heydrich and Eichmann, among others.
war crimes Even warfare has rules, and the violation of basic standards for treatment of prisoners of war and civilians can be prosecuted. Such violations are codified in the Geneva Coventions.
War Refugee Board In 1944, Treasry Department members including Secretary Henry Morgenthau convinced Roosevelt to establish this to negotiate the relief or rescue or war refugees, especially Jews.
Warsaw The captial of Poland that in November 1940 was where a ghetto was estalished for 500,000 Jews. Starvation, disease, cold, and shoting killed 45,000 over the course of almost a year. An attempt by General Jurgen Stroop to send the Jews to Treblinka led to a revolt on April 19, 1943. On May 16, the survivors were all deported to camps.
Wehrmacht The German army.
Weimar Republic The troubled republic established in 1919 and ended in 1934 by Hitler when he combined the offices of Chancellor and President. The Republic had been beleaguered by various problems ever since the end of the war.
Weltanschauung World view or ideology -- in the case of the Nazis, the Jews were the enemies of the world.
Westerbork A way station for 100,000 Jews between 1942 and 1944 ontheir way to Auschwitz, Sobibor, Theresienstadt, and Bergen-Belsen, inlcuding Anne Frank in August and September, 1944.
Wiesel, Elie 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to insure that people remember the Holocaust.
Wiesenthal, Simon Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to collecting evidence for the prosecution of war criminals.
World Jewish Congress This is a coordinator of Jewish agencies. During the war, it worked from its offices in Switzerland to rescue Jews.
World War II A war fought between 1939 and 1945 where the Axis was defeated by the Allies.
Yiddish A language made of German and Herbrew elements, written in Hebrew characters and used by East European Jews.
Zegota A Polish resistance group led by Colonel Henryk Woinksi and Adolf Berman that managed to save 4,000 - 6,000 Jews from Krakow and Warsaw.
Zyklon B While other gas chambers used carbon monoxide, Auschwitz used this cyanide gas made of prussic acid from a company partly owned by I.G. Farben.