Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team


Appendix A-Z


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Holocaust Glossary of Terms





A Nazi operation involving seeking out, assembling, shooting, deporting to labour or death camps - taking place in Jewish villages or ghettos.

Anielewicz, Mordechai

Jewish resistance leader in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, killed on 8 May 1943.


German for "political union," used by Germans to describe the annexation of Austria by Germany on 13 March 13 1938.


            Opposition to and discrimination against Jews.



A group of countries originally consisting of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan after they signed a pact in Berlin on 27 September 1940.  Eventually Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia joined as well.

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Beer Hall Putsch

The failed attempt by Hitler and his associates to overthrow the German Weimar government on 9 November 1923.  Hitler was imprisoned and released after eight months.


One of the four major death camps located in Poland . A Jewish forced labour camp was established in the vicinity in 1940. An extermination camp commenced functioning in March 1942 when the death camp ceased operations in December 1942, a minimum of 434,508 Jews had been murdered there.


Originally a prisoner of war camp, and then a holding camp for the possible exchange of prisoners for Germans held captive by the allies. It was not initially a concentration camp, being given the official title of Aufenhaltslager (“staying camp”). Although always under the jurisdiction of the Concentration Camp Inspectorate, it was not until December 1944 that it was designated a concentration camp.  Anne Frank died there in March 1945.

 Bermuda Conference on Refugees

Anglo-American conference which took place in 1943. The Nazis took note of the Allied ambivalence to the plight of persecuted minorities the outcome of the conference indicated.


Auschwitz II, originally a camp for Russian prisoners-of-war. In spring 1942, the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and others began there. Four purpose built gas chambers and crematoria were eventually functioning in the camp.


Near Weimar in Germany, opened in July 1937 as a concentration camp

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Chamberlain, Neville (1869-1940)

British Prime Minister from 1937-1940; misunderstanding Hitler, supported appeasement policies in the Munich Agreement of 1938, believing it would bring "peace in our time."


Established as an extermination camp in late 1941 near Lodz, western Poland.  It became the first camp to execute victims using carbon monoxide gas produced by gasoline powered vehicle engines.  At the end of the war, at least 152,000 people had been killed there. 

Concentration Camp

Camps established at the beginning of the Nazi regime to for the imprisonment and forced labour of "enemies" of the Reich, political and "anti-social," as well as Jews.  Disease, maltreatment, starvation, and execution led to many deaths.


The ovens and furnaces where dead bodies of prisoners were consumed.

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The first concentration camp, established near Munich in southern Germany in March 1933.

Death Camp

A location designated solely for the extermination of people.

Death March

Transfer of concentration camp inmates, in which they were forced to march to new locations, in order to prevent their liberation by the invading Allied armies.  At least one third of the prisoners died or were killed along the way.

Der Stürmer

Meaning "The Attacker" - an anti-Semitic propaganda weekly founded and edited by Julius Streicher, published in Nürnberg between 1923 and 1945.

Displaced Person

A survivor remaining when the war ended on 8 May 1945, and who had no home to which they could immediately return.

D.P. camp

Special camps set up to house, treat and revive displaced persons.

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Eichmann, Adolf (1906-1962)

SS Lieutenant-Colonel and head of the Jewish Section of the Gestapo.  Instrumental in organizing the "Final Solution," planning the extermination  of 11,000,000 European Jews.  The Israeli Secret Service finally discovered his presence in Argentina, and he was smuggled to Israel, tried, convicted and executed on 31 May 1962.


Mobile killing squads of the SS that followed the German occupation of several countries, principally Poland and the Soviet Union.  Supported by units of German police and local volunteers, they executed over a million Jews and others, mainly through shooting and the use of gas vans. Victims were buried in mass graves, from which many bodies were eventually exhumed and burned.


A pseudo-scientific program focusing on human breeding, which the Nazis used to promote racial purity and the concept of  “Aryan” Übermenschen (supermen) as opposed to the inferior Untermenschen of all other races, classes, or nationalities.

Evian Conference

A conference arranged by President F.D. Roosevelt in July 1938, which met in France to discuss the refugee problem.  Since most western countries were disinterested in accepting the refugees, the conference was unsuccessful.

Extermination camp

A location to which Jews and others were deported, in order to be executed by efficient mass assembly-line killing methods.  The camps, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, were located in occupied Poland.

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Final Solution

The name for the plan to eliminate 11,000,000 Jews in Europe to solve the "Jewish Question."  Beginning in October 1941, Jews were rounded up in occupied German territories and deceptively sent to be "resettled" in the east; ultimately, most of the deportees were shot or gassed.

Frank, Hans

Governor-General of occupied Poland from 1939 to 1945, under whose auspices millions of Polish Jews were murdered. Also represented Hitler as his personal lawyer.  He was tried and executed in Nürnberg in 1946.


German for "leader."  Title which Hitler chose for himself.

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Gas Chamber

A sealed room in which numerous victims could be killed all at once by inhaling poison gas.  Although Zyklon B gas was used at Auschwitz, the majority of victims were killed at other death camps by the use of carbon monoxide produced by gasoline driven engines. In the so-called “euthanasia” centres and some other places, bottled carbon monoxide was utilised.


A term coined by historian Raphael Lemkin during World War II to describe the systematic and planned destruction of an entire religious, racial, national or ethnic group.


Contraction of Geheime Staatspolizei, Secret State Police of the Third Reich who used brutal physical and psychological torture to create immense fear in the population and to seek out enemies of the State.


In its original meaning, the area of a town or city where Jews were required to live, although there was nothing to prevent non-Jews also residing there. Under the Nazis, the ghetto became a very clearly defined district, often walled- or fenced-in, and surrounded by armed guards, in which only Jews were allowed to reside, inevitably in the worst possible conditions.  

Göring, Herman

Appointed by Hitler as his second in command and eventual successor.  He was in charge of Germany's re-armament program and in particular the establishment of the German air force.  He initiated the “Final Solution” and gave the order to Heydrich to carry it out.

Grynszpan, Herschel

A Polish Jewish youth who immigrated to Paris.  His concern for his parents' fate led to his shooting of the third secretary Ernst vom Rath of the German Embassy in Paris.   This provided an excuse for the staging of the Reichkristallnacht pogrom.

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Hess, Rudolf Walter Richard

(See also Höss, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand.) A long-time, close associate of Hitler, he flew from Augsburg in Germany and landed in Scotland on 10 May1941, where he was arrested. He was tried at Nürnberg and sentenced to life imprisonment, but committed suicide in 1987.

Heydrich, Reinhard

Head of SS Nazi intelligence, he became head of the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – RSHA). Organized the Einsatzgruppen, which, together with their auxiliaries, systematically murdered over a million Jews, principally in occupied Russia during 1941-42.  Presided over the Wannsee Conference to implement and coordinate the “Final Solution”.  On 29 May1942 he was assassinated by Czech partisans.

Himmler, Heinrich

Reichsführer-SS (Commander-in-Chief) of the SS, who was responsible for carrying out Hitler's orders to exterminate the Jews.

Hitler, Adolf

Leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiter Partei: NSDAP – Nazi Party) after World War I. He was unsuccessful in his November 1923 attempt to forcibly bring Germany under Nazi control, in the "Beer Hall Putsch."  Arrested and jailed for a five-year term, he wrote "Mein Kampf," describing his plan to create a greater Germany.  Released after eight months, he reentered politics and, by intimidating his enemies, eventually was allotted the chancellorship.  He set up a dictatorship, brutally eliminating all his rivals, enemies and opposition.  In September 1939, after annexing Austria, the Sudetenland and finally the remnant of what is today the Czech Republic, he invaded Poland.   After an initial series of stunning victories, Hitler had overtaken much of Europe.  However, following the defeat of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad in February 1943, the Germans began suffering defeats on all fronts.  Although the war was obviously lost, he encouraged Germans to fight to their deaths - but committed suicide on 30th April 1945 rather than be captured alive.

Höss, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand

(See also Hess, Rudolf Walter Richard.) Commandant at Auschwitz, responsible for gassing hundreds of thousands of Jews. He was tried in Warsaw, sentenced to death, and executed by hanging at Auschwitz.


Literally, "a completely burned sacrifice."  It is one of the terms used to describe the destruction of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators in Europe and North Africa between the years 1933-1945.

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A southern European country. A member of the Tripartite Treaty. Ruled by Mussolini, Italy entered World War II in 1940 as an ally of Germany. In 1943, Italy surrendered to the Allies.

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Literally, “Jew Hunt”. A search for Jews who had hidden or fled, which usually took place after a pogrom or massacre.


A committee of Jewish representatives in Jewish locations set up by the Nazis, to assist them in the administration of their policies.


A term used to describe an area which has been "cleansed" or "purified" of all Jews by deportation and/or murder.


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Camp prisoners appointed to supervise and intimidate, often violently, their fellow prisoners into complying with the supervisor's demands.


German for "Night of Broken Glass."  A mass pogrom of Nazi violence against Jews, their stores and synagogues on 9-10 November 1938. Aside from the looting and destruction of property, about 35,000 Jewish men were sent to labour or concentration camps.  Most were subsequently released. 35 people were killed.

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Labour camp

Camp where Jews and other prisoners were subjected to forced labour for either military or government purposes.


One of Hitler's principles, in which he stated that Germany's Third Reich and its “Aryan” citizens needed living space (Lebensraum), which could only be obtained by invading neighbouring states.


A city in Western Poland containing the first major ghetto, established in April 1940. The ghetto originally held about 164,000 people in 1.6 square miles. An additional 38,500 deported Jews from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Luxemburg were subsequently sent there.  Most Jews were deported and exterminated at Chelmno, until the ghetto was liquidated in September 1944, by which time the 67,000 surviving Jews had been sent to Auschwitz.

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Originally a POW camp for Russians and a labour camp for Poles and Jews, it became a combined concentration and extermination camp. The most recent research indicates that the total number of people deported to the camp was in the region of 100,000 - 120,000, although a definitive figure is yet to be established, and the overall death toll is uncertain. The Red Army liberated the camp in July 1944.

Master Race

The ideal to create a Herrenvolk - a unified superior race of strictly “Aryan” descent - by eliminating Untermenschen - subhumans, such as Jews, Gypsies, enemies of the state, and handicapped or unproductive people.


A concentration camp for men in northern Austria established in August, 1938, where almost 100,000 Jews and prisoners of other nationalities were forced to work under the most brutal conditions, and were tortured to death or executed by other means. The camp was liberated by the U.S. Army in May 1945.

Mein Kampf

German for "My Struggle," Hitler's autobiography which he wrote while in prison after the November 1923 failed "Beer Hall Putsch."  In it, Hitler explains his beliefs and plans for the future of the German nation.  He describes the domination by an "Aryan" race through the elimination of all inferior and undesirable peoples, of which he focuses in particular on the "source of all evil" - the Jews.

Mengele, Josef (1911-1979)

SS officer at Auschwitz in charge of "selections" of the new deportees.   His pointing to the right or the left would determine either immediate gassing and death or being sent to forced labour.  Known as the "Angel of Death," he was notorious for his "medical" experiments, especially on twins and Gypsies.   Escaped after the war from a British Internment Hospital, and was hunted until his body was found in Brazil in 1986. In 1992 DNA tests on the exhumed corpse confirmed his identity.

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Member of  the "NSDAP" - fascist Nationalist Socialist German Workers' Party, which was founded after World War I and eventually taken over by Hitler in 1921.

Night of the Long Knives

A night of internal conflict between the SA "Brownshirts" and the SS "Blackshirts" in June 1934, as a result of which the SS eventually became Hitler's elite unit. Of the 85 known murdered victims, only 50 were members of the SA. Some sources put the actual number killed at 150-200.

Nürnberg Laws

Two anti-Semitic statutes enacted at the Nazi party national convention at Nürnberg in 1935, that basically deprived Jews of German citizenship, removed Jews from all spheres of German political, social and economic life, and established definitions of Jewishness, creating severe discrimination against people who had even a single Jewish grandparent.

 Nürnberg Trials

War Crimes Trials that took place in Nürnberg, Germany in 1946, where certain major Nazis were tried for war crimes and other crimes against humanity. Most were sentenced to terms of  imprisonment or to death.

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A military takeover of a country by a foreign power with the subsequent controlling of its political, economic, and even legal systems.

Camp Orchestra

Jewish prisoners ordered to play music while other Jews were being led to forced labour or to the gas chambers.


Polish name of a city in southern Poland near Cracow. This site became the largest Nazi concentration camp, known as Auschwitz (the name of the town when part of the Habsburg Empire.)


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Member of a group of irregular troops or resistance fighters carrying out guerilla warfare behind enemy lines.


Spontaneous or pre-arranged and organized attacks by non-Jewish citizens or military against Jews.  Although occurring throughout the diaspora, they weren't as systematic as those occurring during the Nazi era, such as Reichkristallnacht.


Continuous forceful advertising to press a particular point of view through various means of communication.  The Nazis were experts in accomplishing the acceptance of even the most blatant falsehoods amongst their opponents as well as their admirers.


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An alkali chemical also known as calcium oxide or caustic lime. A white powder which burns human skin on contact. Several inches of this powder were sometimes placed in the bottom of cattle cars prior to loading in Jews and other victims of Nazi roundups. It has also traditionally been used in the burial of bodies in open graves, to hide the smell of decomposition.

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Rath, Ernst vom (1909-1938)

Third Secretary at the German Embassy in Paris, who was assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan on 7 November1938.  His murder was the excuse for Reichkristallnacht.


A concentration camp for female prisoners in Germany.

Red Army

The Soviet Army which, after Germany's defeat at Stalingrad eventually reconquered Soviet and other territories lost to the Germans and continued on to Berlin.


One who, as a result of a war or another disaster, is forced to leave their place of residence and becomes homeless.


Empire or kingdom; Hitler planned that Germany and its “Aryan” citizens would rule the world in its Third Reich.


German parliament which, under Hitler, enacted various anti-Semitic political and economic laws.


A buffer area between Germany and western Europe designated after World War I, where no troops were permitted.

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano

U.S. president elected for four terms from 1933 until his death in 1945; initiator of the "New Deal" economic and political program designed to recover from the effects of the Depression.   Responsible for U.S. war policy, as well as the inaction by the U.S. government in attempting to save hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews during World War II.

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Sturmabteilung, the Nazi party's original stormtroopers, called "Brownshirts" from the colour of their uniform. Organized in 1921, they were led by Ernest Röhm, until the SS took over following the “Night of the Long Knives.”


A district rich in resources in western Germany that became re-incorporated as an integral part of Hitler's Germany on 1 March1935 by a popular vote under the auspices of the League of Nations.


A term describing the process of separating out those Jewish victims deemed suitable for hard labour from the remainder, who would then be sent to their deaths.  This usually took place either at a ghetto roundup or at the entrance to the death camp.


A Yiddish word describing a small town or rural village whose population was predominantly Jewish.


An extermination camp in eastern Poland not far from Lublin, where approximately 250,000 Jews were killed from its opening in May 1942, until it was closed after the prisoners revolted on 14 October 1943. Most of the escapees were subsequently captured and killed.

Social Darwinism

The perverted adaptation of Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest" concept of evolution - in which the belief that "superior humans" will eventually overcome "subhuman" species.


"Special command" - the term given to prisoners who were forced to work in the gas chambers, undressing rooms and crematoria. It was also used to designate a section of an Einsatzgruppe, and could have a variety of other connotations, i.e Sonderkommando 1005 was responsible for exhuming and cremating the corpses of victims.


Abbreviation for Schutzstaffel – “Protective Squadron”, also called "Blackshirts" from the colour of their uniform. Under the leadership of Himmler, the SS evolved from what was originally intended to be Hitler's personal bodyguard units into the infamous terror-striking force that was essentially instrumental in destroying European Jewry.

Stalin, Josef

Leader of the U.S.S.R. from 1924 until the 1953 who, by signing a peace treaty with the Nazis, permitted the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.  After the Nazis attacked the U.S.S.R. in June 1941, Stalin joined the Allies. The Red Army became the principal contributor to Hitler's defeat.

St. Louis

A refugee steamship that departed from Hamburg for Cuba in spring 1939.   Only 28 of the 937 passengers were allowed to disembark in Cuba, 22 of whom were Jewish.  Although eventually the remainder of the passengers were taken in by Great Britain, Holland, France and Belgium, their initial rejection by every country, including the U.S., gave support to Hitler's theory that the nations of the world were unconcerned with the plight of Jewish refugees.

S S Struma

A boat that left Rumania in late 1941 heading towards Palestine; it was refused entry by the British.  Eventually tugged into the Black Sea, it was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine the following February leaving only one survivor from the 769 Jewish refugees on board.


An area populated mostly by German-speakers that became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I.  Hitler annexed it on 10 October 1938, after British, French and Italian leaders bowed to Hitler's demands backed by military threats.


A Nazi symbol, the Hakenkreuz, (hook-cross), based on an ancient good luck symbol from India, which looked like a cross with equal-sized right-angled arms.

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Theresienstadt (Terezin)

Originally an Austrian garrison town.  In early 1942 it became a ghetto governed by the SS, although used as a model Jewish community for the purpose of duping Red Cross inspectors.  Eventually, 88,000 of the invalids, prominent Jews and other special cases who were sent there were deported to death or to labour camps in the east.  When the Red Army liberated the town on 8 May 1945, 16,832 of the original Jewish prisoners remained, plus  another 12,488 evacuated from other camps threatened by the Allies.

Third Reich

The "Third Empire" of Germany, declared by Hitler, came after the First Reich, the "Holy Roman Empire" (800 - 1806 C.E.). The Second Reich was Hohenzollern Germany, from the unification of Germany following the Franco-Prussian War (1870 - 1871) and crowning of Wilhelm I as German Emperor at the Palace of Versailles, with Otto von Bismarck as the first Reichskanzler, to the abdication of Wilhelm II in 1919 following the German defeat in the First World War.

 Treaty of Versailles

The peace treaty that ended World War I, placing all the blame on Germany.   Burdened with heavy reparations, loss of land and serious financial difficulties in general, the Nazi party found an easy scapegoat for their problems in the Jews.


An extermination camp in northeast Poland, situated between Warsaw and Bialystok, which commenced operations in July 1942.  It was destroyed by the Nazis in autumn1943 in order to conceal their crimes in the face of the advancing Red Army, but not until at least 700,000 -800,000 Jews were had been killed.


An infectious disease carried by lice or fleas that resulted in many deaths in the labour and concentration camps and ghettos.

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Literally a “distribution centre.” The place in the Warsaw ghetto where Jews were gathered for deportation to Treblinka.

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Hitler's attempt to make a car available which German families could afford.

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Wannsee Conference

A conference attended by high ranking Nazis, such as Heydrich and Eichmann, which took place on 20 January 1942, at a lake near Berlin.  It was arranged to discuss the "Final Solution" and the means to be used to annihilate the remaining 11,000,000 European and North African Jews.

War Crimes

Violations of basic standards for treatment of Prisoners Of War and civilians during war time, which were codified in the Geneva Convention.  

War Refugee Board

The agency finally established in 1944 after the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, and others convinced President Roosevelt of the need for it.  This agency negotiated the rescue and relief of Jewish and other war refugees.

Warsaw Ghetto

The predominantly Jewish area of the capital of Poland that was enclosed within walls in November 1940, eventually confining nearly 500,000 Jews.  Starvation, disease, lack of sanitary conditions, and shootings led to the deaths of 45,000 individuals in 1941 alone.  Hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to Treblinka from July 1942. When SS General Stroop attempted to liquidate the ghetto in April 1943, the remaining residents revolted and fought with their pitifully inferior weapons against German troops until, finally on 16 May 1943, the last survivors were killed or captured.  The uprising was led by Mordechai Anielewicz and sanctioned by major Rabbis.

Weimar Republic

The German state established in 1919, after World War I.  Although economic conditions improved at a slow pace over the following years, Hitler was able to use rampant inflation and unemployment to bring about a demise of the Republic, which occurred when Hitler became chancellor and President in 1933.


German for "world view"; an ideology, for example, “Aryan” superiority, or the concept that Jews were the world's enemies.

Wiesenthal, Simon

A Holocaust survivor who was dedicated to gathering evidence to for the prosecution of German and other war criminals.

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X-rays were used in medical experiments in the women's camp in Birkenau. Dr. Horst Schumann used X-rays to sterilize his innocent victims, young men and women, who usually died very painful deaths shortly thereafter.

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Yellow Star (Jewish Badge)

A Jewish ID badge worn on the arm or chest that Germans demanded Jews of occupied countries to wear at the risk of being shot.  Ultimately, these Jews were discriminated against, maltreated, or worse.

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A cyanide gas made of prussic (hydrocyanic) acid, produced by a German company as a disinfectant, and which was used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz I and II (Birkenau) and other places.

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