Antisemitism

Prejudice against Jews as a religious, social or racial minority; dislike or fear of Jews; discrimination against or persecution of Jews.

 

Aryan

A term used by the Nazis to describe a superior racial grouping, specifically of German people with blond hair, fair skin and blue eyes.

 

Aryanisation

The process of excluding Jews from the economic life in Germany and Nazi-controlled countries during WW2 by taking over their businesses and professional firms.

 

Auschwitz

A complex of concentration and death camps situated at Oswiecim in south-western Poland. The main camp had an infamous motto which greeted all who entered: Arbeit macht frei ("Freedom through Work").

 

Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Number 2 (but largest) camp in the Auschwitz complex, which comprised the killing centres. It had four gas chambers and crematoria set up for factory-like extermination. From early 1944, a railway line brought victims right into its centre. Most of the Jews and Gypsies who were murdered 'at Auschwitz' died in this camp.

 

Babi Yar

A ravine near Kiev where in September 1941, with the support of Ukrainian militia men, the Nazis shot over 54 000 Jews and buried them in one mass grave.

 

Book Burning

On May 10 1933 in Berlin thousands of students gathered and put to the torch approximately 20 000 books written by Jews and other 'undesirables'. The scene was repeated in other cities. The books destroyed were written by such distinguished writers as Jack London, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, H. G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Andre Gide, Emile Zola and Erich Maria Remarque.

 

Buchenwald

Concentration camp located near Weimar in central Germany. One of the three first camps opened by the Nazis in 1933. Thousands of Jews perished or were imprisoned there.

 

Concentration Camps

Term generally used to describe the permanent camps which the Nazis established in Germany and later in occupied Europe for the detention of political opponents and of racial and social 'undesirables' under conditions which they were unlikely to survive. Five camps were designated as extermination or death camps.

 

Crematorium

A furnace installed and used in the death camps to cremate and dispose of the bodies of people who had been killed by gassing, starvation, disease or torture.

 

Crystal Night

The Night of Broken Glass. See Kristallnacht.

 

Dachau

Concentration camp located near Munich in southern Germany. One of the three first camps established by the Nazis in 1933. In Dachau thousands of Jews were imprisoned and murdered.

 

Death Camps

Vernichtungslager - Camps equipped with extermination facilities such as gas chambers or mobile gas vans, plus crematoria for disposing of bodies. Many 'death' camps had multiple functions including the concentration of Jews and other prisoners, labour and extermination through starvation, disease and executions.

 

Death Marches

In the freezing winter of January 1945 Himmler ordered the evacuation of all camps about to fall into Allied hands. Of the 700 000 recorded inmates left in camps at that time, anyone who could move was forced to march. One third of them lost their lives from starvation, exhaustion, exposure, disease and summary shooting. About half of those who perished in the Death Marches were Jews.

 

Deportation

The transportation, disguised as 'resettlement', of Jews from Nazi-occupied countries to closed ghettos, transit camps, labour and/or death camps.

 

Dictatorship

Complete and total rule by an individual or political party over a country, as of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis over Germany and the nations it occupied during WW2.

 

Discrimination

A distinction made between people because of race, colour or religion. The treatment of those people as inferiors.

 

Displaced Person (D.P.)

A refugee in flight from terror or oppression in his/her own country. Refugees suffer from all the legal, economic, political and social disabilities of stateless persons. After the Holocaust, D.P. camps were set up in Central Europe as temporary assembly centres. They accommodated many of the Jews who survived the Death Marches as well as others who had been liberated from the camps. They also housed East European workers who had been taken to work in forced labour camps in Germany.

 

Einsatzgruppen

Operational task forces of the Security Police of the Nazi Party. Functioning as killing units, they followed directly behind the advance units of the Germany military forces as they marched through the Soviet-controlled areas of Europe. Once German Army units had occupied an area, the Einsatzgruppen rounded up the Jews, marched them (men, women and children) to the outskirts of their city or town, forced them to dig their own mass graves, lined them up and either shot them individually in the head or mowed them down with machine gunfire. The Einsatzgruppen are estimated to have killed 2 million of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Nazi destruction of European Jewry.

 

Euthanasia Program

So-called 'mercy' killing of those people the Nazis deemed unworthy for life, undesirable to German society. These included the physically and intellectually disabled, the aged and infirm and many others regarded as 'racially valueless'. More than 100 000 such people were killed by lethal injections, gassing or other methods. During the 1930s the euthanasia centres were essentially the first laboratories for Nazi mass murder and by the 1940s they were training centres for the personnel of death camps. The program was brought to a halt in the early 1940s due to pressure exerted in large part by the German Church.

 

Evian Conference

In 1938 U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a meeting of 32 nations to discuss the European refugee problem, i.e.: the large number of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany and throughout Europe. Each country's delegates expressed concern, but together did nothing to absorb any significant number of the refugees.

 

Final Solution

The term used by the Nazis to disguise the murder of the Jews. Entlösung in German.

 

Genocide

This word was invented in 1944 and literally relates to 'the systematic killing and annihilation of a whole people or nation and its culture'. This was the essence of Nazi policy towards the Jews. Although there is debate about exact definitions of 'genocide', genocidal acts are unmistakable.

 

Gestapo

Acronym in German for Geheime Staatspolizei ("Secret State Police"). A branch of the German police which was used to control the general population and eliminate political opposition to the Nazi regime.

 

Ghetto

A section of a town or city where Jews were segregated from the general population, and which they were forbidden to leave on pain of death. The term was probably first used in Venice, Italy, where in 1516 Jews were confined to an area called the Geto Nuovo. Ghettos were reinvented by the Nazis and in 1939 Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of Security Police, established them in cities throughout Poland. Ghetto inhabitants were crowded into a small area with little food and a minimum of hygiene facilities. Even in these terrible conditions, however, Jews managed to provide education for their children and organise cultural events.

 

Holocaust

The word 'holocaust' in ancient Greek meant 'burnt offering' or 'to burn whole'. It was used soon after World War 2 to describe the Nazi program for the wholesale physical annihilation of European Jewry. Many people prefer the use of the Hebrew word Shoah to specifically denote this Nazi effort from other instances of genocide against various peoples through history.

 

Juden

German word for "Jews".

 

Kapo

Overseer in charge of work details or other activities or sections of concentration camps. Kapos were selected from among the camp prisoners, usually from any criminal or otherwise violent element.

 

Kennkarten

German for "ID documents".

 

Kristallnacht

German for "Night of the Broken Glass". The name given to the violent pogroms (terror attacks) carried out on November 9 - 10 1938 in Germany and Austria against hundreds of synagogues and Jewish-owned stores. 101 synagogues were destroyed in the 15 hours of Kristallnacht, as well as 7500 Jewish shops and businesses. The Nazis forced the Jewish communities to pay heavy fines to repair the damage they had allegedly 'provoked'.

 

Lebensraum

German for "living space". Term popular from before World War 1 and used by Hitler to refer to the expansion of Germany's borders and its dominion over Europe and the Soviet Union.

 

Master Race

Term used to designate Germans as a race 'superior' to all others - Herrenvolk. See also Aryan.

 

Mein Kampf

German for "My Struggle". Adolf Hitler's antisemitic, anti-Russian, autobiographical and political testament. The first of two volumes was written in the Landsberg prison where he served an eight-month sentence for his part in an unsuccessful political coup in 1923. In Mein Kampf Hitler outlined his mass-psychological political techniques and the racial doctrine of Aryan-German superiority over the 'sub-human' Jews.

 

Mischling

A person who had one Jewish parent or grandparent , as defined in the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.

 

Munich Treaty

On September 29 - 30 1938 Hitler met in Munich with the leaders of Great Britain, France and Italy. In an effort to appease him, the parties agreed to his demands for the dismantling and partial annexation of Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, returned to London stating that he had achieved "peace in our time".

 

Nazi Acronym for the "National Socialist German Workers Party" or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.A.D.P). Hitler joined this party on September 12 1919 and became its leader in 1921. The party was banned in 1923, but was re-established in February 1925 and took control of Germany in 1933. After Germany's defeat in World War 2, the Nazi Party was declared illegal by the Allied powers.
Nazism

Political movement represented by the Nazi Party.

 

Nuremberg
  1. Historic town where enormous Nazi rallies were held in 1935.
  2. The town where anti-Jewish laws were announced by the Nazis in 1935.
  3. The place where in 1945 - 1946 an international tribunal held the trials of Nazis accused of war crimes.
Nuremberg Laws

Laws enacted on September 15 1935, designed to isolate the Jews politically and cause their "social death" (Goldhagen, 1996). The "Reich Citizens Law" declared that only persons of "German blood" were Reich citizens, while those of "impure blood", such as Jews, were no longer citizens. Revoking German Jews' citizenship removed all their political and civil rights. The "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour" forbade marriage and sexual intercourse between Jews and the "bearers of German blood" and also forbade German women under the age of forty-five from working in Jewish homes.

 

Partisans

Underground fighters against Nazi occupation forces, who mainly operated in the forests of White Russia, Poland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece and France. Jewish fighters either belonged to the general partisan movement or, where excluded due to antisemitism, formed their own units.

 

Persecution

Harsh ill-treatment of a person or people on the grounds of their religious, cultural or political beliefs.

 

Pogrom

An organised massacre or attack on the Jews, often a spontaneous outburst. Term used in Eastern Europe, from the Russian: "like thunder", "devastation"'.

 

Propaganda

Systematic spreading of ideas, usually to persuade people to think negatively about some person, cause or movement.

 

Prejudice

A judgement or opinion formed before the facts are known (to 'pre-judge'). A preconceived idea, usually unfavourable. Intolerance or hatred of other races and religions.

 

Racism

Judgement or assessment of a person primarily on the basis of their ethnic descent. Racist attitudes and behaviour can often be seen between people of different skin colours. Nazi Germany was a consciously and deliberately racist society, regarding ethnic Germans as superior to all other ethnic groups. This was the Nazi doctrine of Herrenvolk, "the Master Race". (See Master Race and Aryan.)

 

SD (Sicherheitsdienst)

The Security Service (intelligence branch) of the SS, formed in 1927 and headed by Reinhard Heydrich. An elite group, the SD were responsible for the security of Hitler, the Nazi hierarchy and the Third Reich in general. During the war, the SD reported that it had helped the SS and other German forces such as the Einsatzgruppen clear ghettos in Eastern Europe to the extent that by December 1942, 80% of the 3 million Polish Jews had been deported to death camps.

 

SS (Schutzstaffel)

This elite guard was originally set up as Hitler's personal protection service. Under Himmler, the organisation expanded enormously, from 280 men in 1929 to
240 000 in 1939. Their activities and powers included the administration of the concentration camps and the suppression of Jewish uprisings such as in the Warsaw Ghetto.

 

Scapegoat

A person, group or object that is assigned the blame for the mistakes or crimes of others.

 

Segregation

The physical isolation or separation of a group or groups, especially racial groups; and their exclusion from society.

 

Shoah

Hebrew word which specifically denotes the Nazi effort to annihilate the Jewish people, as distinct from other instances of genocide against other peoples throughout history.

 

Sobibor

Death camp in the Lublin region of Poland, erected in 1942. Its prisoners were Jews from Poland, the U.S.S.R., Austria, Czechoslovakia, France and Holland. The SS gassed some 250 000 people to death here. On October 14 1943 about 150 inmates staged an uprising which was quickly suppressed.

 

Sonderkommandos

German for "Special Detachments" of Jewish prisoners in the death camps who were assigned to deal with the corpses. Sonderkommandos had to extract gold teeth from the corpses and transfer the bodies from the gas chambers to crematoria ovens, among other horrendous tasks. They sometimes found themselves handling the bodies of their own family members and friends.

 

Stereotype

A fixed image or idea of a person or group; to assign the characteristics observed in a few members to a whole group.

 

Swastika

Called Hakenkreuz in German. An ancient symbol used in India, Persia, Greece and elsewhere as a religious emblem to ward off evil spirits. By using it as their official symbol, the Nazis corrupted the holy meaning of this insignia.

 

Third Reich

The "Third Empire", the name of Hitler's administration of Germany 1933 - 1945. The Nazis regarded their regime as the successor to two previous empires: the Holy Roman Empire (962 - 1806) and the Second German Reich, founded by Otto von Bismarck (1871 - 1918). It appears that Hitler adopted the name Third Reich from the title of a book written in 1923 by the German nationalist Moeller van den Bruck, entitled Das Dritte Reich. Hitler boasted that his Reich was the most glorious to date, and would last 1000 years.

 

Totalitarianism

A government or doctrine in which one political party or group has complete control, by force, over all social, economic, political and military activities.

 

Treblinka

Nazi death camp in Poland, where from 1940 to 1943, 750 000 persons, mostly Jews from Warsaw and its environs, were gassed to death. Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, aware that that they would be sent to certain death at Treblinka, were spurred to rebel against German troops and police in the famous Warsaw Ghetto Revolt of April 1943. On August 2 1943 700 prisoners revolted and about 150 - 200 of them escaped. They were all recaptured.

 

Versailles Treaty

At the end of World War 1 in Versailles, France, the triumphant Allies concluded the terms of a peace treaty that did more to prolong a spirit of war against Germany than to promote peace in Europe. The treaty saddled Germany with the impossible economic burden of reconstructing France, as well as its own demolished economy. Germany reluctantly accepted the treaty and signed what became known as the "guilt clause", taking responsibility for starting World War 1. Humiliating an already defeated nation, the treaty weakened the foundations of the Weimar Republic and polarised German politics into the Communist Left and the Nationalist Right. Hitler and the Nazis rejected both the treaty and the Allies who had authored it, with tremendous support from the German public.

 

Wannsee Conference

A meeting of high-level Nazis and government officials held in January 1942 in the Berlin suburb of Grossen-Wannsee, where they formulated the practical details of their decision for the"Final Solution": the plan to annihilate the Jews of Europe.

 

Warsaw Ghetto (and Revolt)

The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the ghettos in wartime Europe. (See Ghetto.) At its peak, it held 360 000 Jews, crammed into an area of about 7 square kilometres. On November 15 1940 the SS sealed the ghetto, isolating its inhabitants from the outside world. Thousands of Jews died of starvation and disease. By mid-summer 1942 mass deportations to the gas chambers at Treblinka had begun and by January 1943 only 60 000 Jews were left in the ghetto. The ghetto's (illegal) Jewish Fighting Organisation, using guns that it had purchased from the Polish underground and smuggled in, staged an uprising. For three weeks, (April - May 1943), these starved, untrained and practically unarmed Jews held off the superbly-trained and armed Nazi enemy, inflicting heavy losses. Eventually, with increased armaments, the Germans liquidated the final remnants of Jewish resistance. Fewer than 100 people survived the ghetto and some of the few who escaped joined the partisans in the forests to continue the struggle against the Nazis.

 

Zyklon-B

Poison gas used in the gas chambers of death camps.

 

 
Eichmann, Adolf

Chief of Subsection IV B-4 of the Reich Security Office, Eichmann was responsible for organising the deportation of millions of European Jews. He reported to Himmler in August 1944 that as a result of his policies, approximately 4 million Jews had died in the death camps and another 2 million had been killed by mobile units. In May 1960 the Israel Secret Service smuggled him from his hiding-place in Argentina to Israel where he was tried and found guilty of crimes against the Jewish people and all humanity. In May 1962 he was executed.

 

Goebbels, Joseph

Reich Minister of the Nazi Party's Department of Propaganda. He controlled all newspapers and radio broadcasts throughout Germany and Occupied Europe.

 

Goering, Hermann

Number two Nazi after Hitler. Military and economic chief of the Third Reich. Hitler named Goering as his successor, but later accused him of treason.

 

Hess, Rudolf

Early supporter and confidante of Hitler, at one point number three Nazi after Hitler and Goering. Assisted Hitler with the writing of Mein Kampf. On May 10 1941 Hess piloted his own plane and parachuted into Scotland in an unsuccessful attempt "to stop the war" by persuading England to join Hitler in the fight against the Soviet Union.

 

Heydrich, Reinhard

Head of the Reich Security Main Office. At the Wannsee Conference in 1942, Heydrich was chosen to administer the Final Solution. He was assassinated by three members of the Czech Resistance in Prague on May 29 1942. The Nazis responded by destroying the entire Czech village of Lidice.

 

Himmler, Heinrich

Reichsfuhrer of the SS, chief of the Gestapo and a fanatical racist, Himmler rose to be arguably the most ruthless man in Germany behind Hitler. He devised the most systematic and 'efficient' methods of mass murder.

 

Hindenburg, Paul von

Leader of the German military in World War 1, he became President of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1920s. In an atmosphere of economic and political turmoil, Hindenburg eventually used the Weimar constitution to appoint Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

 

Hitler, Adolf

Fuhrer ("leader") and Chancellor of the Third Reich from 1933 until his death in 1945. He built a German regime unparalleled as an instrument of tyranny, oppression and ruin. His simultaneous (and to him, equally important) campaigns to annihilate the Jewish people and conquer Europe brought Western civilisation to the brink of destruction.

 

Mussolini, Benito

Fascist dictator of Italy 1922 - 1943.

 

Streicher, Julius

Brutal, sadistic editor of the militant antisemitic and pornographic Nazi newspaper Der Stuermer ("The Stormer").