Helping educators develop sensitive, effective lessons about the Holocaust.   
Home .|. Dr. Fisch's Bio .|. The Book .|. Video Clips .|. How to Order .|. Teacher Resources .|. 
Yellow Star Foundation .|. Links .|. Contact Us


Allies: A group of 26 nations led by Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union that opposed Germany, Italy, and Japan (known as the Axis partners) in World War II.

Antisemitism: Opposition to and discrimination against Jews.

Aryan: A term for peoples speaking the languages 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.

Auschwitz - Birkenau: A complex consisting of concentration, extermination, and labor camps in Upper Silesia. It was established in 1940 as a concentration camp and included a killing center in 1942. 

Belzec: Nazi extermination camp in eastern Poland. Erected in 1942. Approximately 550,000 Jews were murdered there in 1942 and 1943. The Nazis dismantled the camp in the fall of 1943.

Bergen-Belsen: Nazi concentration camp in northwestern Germany. Erected in 1943. Thousands of Jews, political prisoners, and POWs were killed there. Liberated by British troops in April 1945, although many of the remaining prisoners died of typhus after liberation.

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.

Buchenwald: Concentration camp in North Central Germany.

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

Chancellor: Chief (prime) minister of Germany.

Chelmno: Nazi death camp in western Poland where more than 150,000 documented Jews, about 5,000 Gypsies, and several hundred Poles and Soviet prisoners of war were killed between December 1941 and March 1943 and between April and August of 1944.

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

Concentration camp: 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.

Crematorium: A furnace installed and used in the death camps to cremate and dispose of bodies after death by gassing, starvation, disease, or torture.

Dachau: 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.

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 were 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.

Degenerate art: Art which did not fit the Nazi ideal.

Dehumanization: The Nazi policy of denying Jews basic civil rights such as practicing religion , education, and adequate housing.

Deportation: Forced removal of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries from their homes.

Eichmann, Adolf (1906 - 1962): SS Lieutenant Colonel and head of the Gestapo department dealing with Jewish affairs.

Einsatzgruppen: 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.

Eisenhower, Dwight D.: As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General Eisenhower commanded all Allied forces in Europe beginning in 1942.

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.

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

Frank, Anne (1929-1945): Born in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1933, she moved with her family to Amsterdam, Holland. On July 6, 1942, they went into hiding and, helped by Miep Gies, remained in hiding until their arrest by Gestapo on August 4, 1944. They were held at the Westerbrook transit camp from August 8, 1944, until September 3, 1944, when they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Anne's mother, Edith Frank, perished there on January 6, 1945. Anne and her sister Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen in late October, 1944, and they both died there of typhus in March, 1945. Anne's father, Otto, survived and oversaw the publication of Anne's diary.

Führer: Leader. Adolf Hitler's title in Nazi Germany.

Gas chambers: Large chambers in which people were executed by poison gas. These were built and used in Nazi death camps.

Genocide: The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, cultural, or religious group.

Gentile: A person who is not Jewish.

German Workers' Party: As the precursor to the Nazi Party, Hitler joined the right-wing party in 1919. The party espoused national pride, militarism, a commitment to the superiority of Germans, and a racially "pure" Germany.

Gestapo: Acronym for Geheime Staatspolizei, meaning Secret State Police. Before 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., Lodz, 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): Reich Propaganda Director of the NSDAP and Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Goering, Hermann (1893-1945): Leading Nazi promoted to Reichsmarshal in 1940.

Gypsies: Popular term for Roma and Sinti, nomadic people believed to have come from northwest India. Traveling mostly in small caravans, Gypsies first appeared in western Europe in the 1400s and eventually spread to every country of Europe. Prejudices toward Gypsies were and continue to be widespread. Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 Gypsies are believed to have perished in the Nazi concentration camps, killing centers, and in Einsatzgruppen and other shootings. As with the Jews, many were also killed by local, native populations of many eastern European countries.

Hess, Rudolf (1894-1987): The mentally unstable number three man in Hitler's Germany. He is best known for a surprise flight to Scotland in 1941. He was sentenced to life in prison at Nuremberg. He died in jail in 1987.

Himmler, Heinrich (1900-1945): As head of the SS and the secret police, Himmler had control over the vast network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps, the Einsatzgruppen, and the Gestapo. Himmler committed suicide in 1945, after his arrest.

Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945): Nazi party leader, 1919-1945. German Chancellor, 1933-1945. Called Führer, or supreme leader, by the Nazis.

Hitler Youth: A Nazi youth auxiliary group established in 1926. It expanded during the Third Reich. Membership was compulsory after 1939.

Holocaust: Derived from the Greek holokauston, which 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.

IG Farben: A German company that made Zyklon-B gas used in the gas chambers. The company also used slave laborers (83,000 at the height of production) at Auschwitz.

International Military Tribunal: The United States, Great Britain, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics charted this court to prosecute Nazi war criminals.

Jehovah's Witnesses: Religious sect that originated in the United States and had about 20,000 members in Germany in 1933. Witnesses, whose religious beliefs did not allow them to swear allegiance to any worldly power, were persecuted as "enemies of the state." About 10,000 Witnesses from Germany and other countries were imprisoned in concentration camps. Of these about 2,500 died.

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.

Judenfrei: "Free of Jews."

Judenrat: Council of Jewish "elders" established on Nazi orders in an occupied area.

Judenrein: "Cleansed of Jews," denoting areas where all Jews had been either murdered or deported.

Kapo: A concentration camp inmate appointed by the SS to be in charge of a work gang.

Kristallnacht: 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.

Madagascar Plan: In 1940, before the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Nazis seriously considered moving all Jews under their authority to the island of Madagascar, a French possession off the east coast of Africa.

Majdanek: Nazi camp and killing center opened for men and women near Lublin in eastern Poland in late 1941. At first a labor camp for Poles and a POW camp for Russians, it was classified as a concentration camp in April 1943. Like Auschwitz, it was also a major killing center. Majdanek was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944, and a memorial was opened there in November of that year.

Mauthausen: A camp for men, opened in August 1938, near Linz in northern Austria, Mauthausen was classified by the SS as a camp of utmost severity. Conditions there were brutal, even by concentration camp standards. Nearly 125,000 prisoners of various nationalities were either worked or tortured to death at the camp before liberating American troops arrived in May 1945.

Mein Kampf: 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.

Mengele, Josef (1911-1979): Senior SS physician at Auschwitz-Birkenau from 1943-44. One of the physicians who carried out the "selections" of prisoners upon arrival at camp. He also carried out cruel experiments on prisoners.

Nazi (National Socialist German Workers') Party: 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.

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.

Nuremberg Trials: Trials of twenty-two major Nazi figures in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945 and 1946 before the International Military Tribunal.

Perpetrators: Those who do something that is morally wrong or criminal.

Pink Triangle: The Nazi concentration camps developed a system of badges to be worn by inmates depending on why they were imprisoned. Those convicted of sexual deviance, primarily homosexuality, were required to wear a pink triangle. Jews were required to wear the yellow Star of David. Purple designated Jehovah's Witnesses, red for political criminals, black for asocials, including the Roma, and green for criminals.

Plaszow: Concentration camp near Kracow, Poland opened in 1942.

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.

Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A major piece of anti-Semitic propaganda, compiled at the turn of the century by members of the Russian Secret Police. Essentially adapted from a nineteenth century French polemical satire directed against Emperor Napoleon III, substituting Jewish leaders, the Protocols maintained that Jews were plotting world dominion by setting Christian against Christian, corrupting Christian morals and attempting to destroy the economic and political viability of the West. It gained great popularity after World War I and was translated into many languages, encouraging antisemitism in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Long repudiated as an absurd and hateful lie, the book currently has been reprinted and is widely distributed by Neo-Nazis and others who are committed to the destruction of the State of Israel.

Racism: Prejudice or discrimination based on the belief that race is the primary factor determining human traits and abilities. Racism includes the belief that genetic or inherited differences produce the inherent superiority or inferiority of one race over another. In the name of protecting their race from "contamination," some racists justify the domination and destruction of races they consider to be either superior or inferior. Institutional racism is racial prejudice supported by institutional power and authority used to the advantage of one race over others.

Reich: German word for empire.

Religious bigotry: Prejudice or discrimination against one or all members of a particular religious group based on negative perceptions of their religious beliefs and practices or on negative group stereotypes.

Resettlement: German euphemism for the deportation of prisoners to killing centers in Poland.

Revisionists: Those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.

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.

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano: Thirty-second president of the U.S., serving from 1933-1945.

SA: 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.

Sachsenhausen: Concentration camp outside of Berlin opened in 1936.

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

Sennesh, Hannah: 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.

Shoah: The Hebrew word meaning "catastrophe," denoting the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry during World War II. The term is used in Israel, and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) has designated an official day, called Yom ha-Shoah, as a day of commemorating the Shoah or Holocaust.

Sonderkommando: Jewish slave labor units in extermination camps that removed the bodies of those gassed for cremation or burial.

SS: 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.

Stutthof: Concentration camp founded in 1939 in what is now northern Poland.

Survivor: Refers to a person who has survived the Holocaust.

Swastika: An ancient symbol appropriated by the Nazis as their emblem.

Synagogue: Jewish house of worship, similar to a church.

Theresienstadt: Nazi ghetto located in Czechoslovakia. Created in late 1941 as a "model Jewish settlement" to deceive the outside world, including International Red Cross investigators, as to the treatment of the Jews. However, conditions in Terezín were difficult, and most Jews held there were later killed in death camps. Theresienstadt is the German name for the town; Terezín is the Czech name.

Third Reich: 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.

Treaty of Versailles: Germany and the Allies signed a peace treaty at the end of World War I. The United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy negotiated the treaty at the Peace Conference held in Versaille beginning on January 18, 1919. The German Republic government which replaced the imperial administration was excluded from the deliberations. The treaty created the Covenant of the League of Nations, outlined Germany's disarmament, exacted massive reparation payments from Germany, and forced Germany to cede large tracts of territory to various European nation-states.

Treblinka: Extermination camp on the Bug River in northeast Poland. Opened in July 1942, it was the largest of the three Operation Reinhard killing centers. Between 700,000 and 900,000 persons were killed there. A revolt by the inmates on August 2, 1943, destroyed most of the camp, and it was closed in November 1943.

Umschlagplatz: Place in Warsaw where freight trains were loaded and unloaded. During the deportation from the Warsaw ghetto, it was used as an assembly point where Jews were loaded onto cattle cars to be taken to Treblinka. It literally means "transfer point."

Underground: Organized group acting in secrecy to oppose government, or, during war, to resist occupying enemy forces.

Volk: 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.

Vught: Concentration and transit camp in the Netherlands opened in January 1943.

Waffen-SS: Militarized units of the SS.

Wallenberg, Raoul: A Swedish diplomat who deliberately stationed himself in Hungary during the war to save Hungarian Jews from their deaths.

Wannsee Conference: On January 20, 1942 on a lake near Berlin the SS official, Reinhard Heydrich, helped present and coordinate the Final Solution.

Warsaw ghetto: Established in November 1940, it was surrounded by wall and contained nearly 500,000 Jews. About 45,000 Jews died there in 1941 alone, as a result of overcrowding, hard labor, lack of sanitation, insufficient food, starvation, and disease. During 1942, most of the ghetto residents were deported to Treblinka, leaving about 60,000 Jews in the ghetto. A revolt took place in April 1943 when the Germans, commanded by General Jürgen Stroop, attempted to raze the ghetto and deport the remaining inhabitants to Treblinka. The defense forces, commanded by Mordecai Anielewicz, included all Jewish political parties. The bitter fighting lasted twenty-eight days and ended with the destruction of the ghetto.

Yellow Star: The six-pointed Star of David was the Jewish symbol that the Nazis forced Jews above the age of six to wear as a mark of shame and to make Jews visible. In the Netherlands the star carried the word Jood, meaning "Jew," in the middle. From May 1942 until she went into hiding, Anne Frank wore a yellow star, separating her from the rest of the Dutch population.

Yiddish: A language that combines elements of German and Hebrew.

Zionism: Political and cultural movement calling for the return of the Jewish people to their Biblical home.

Zyklon-B: (Hydrogen cyanide) Pesticide used in some of the gas chambers at the death camps.

Material from A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust, Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida. (


Click here for a printable version of this glossary.