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Terms of the Holocaust

image of holocaust exhibit


Fear or hatred of Jewish people, religion, culture, and more. It is often displayed through a hostility towards Jews as a religious or ethnic group, and is traditionally accompanied by economic, political, civic or social discrimination.


Annexation of Austria by Germany on March 13, 1938.


“Aryan” is a term that was originally used to describe people who spoke a variety of languages, many with an Indo-European connection. The term has been changed and manipulated throughout history, and the Nazis appropriate the term to refer to a mythical “race” of people with a Northern European racial background who are supposedly superior to others.


The largest Nazi camp complex located 37 miles west of Krakow. Auschwitz consisted of three main camps and over 40 subcamps. The three main camps were: Auschwitz I, the concentration camp; Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau), the killing center; and Auschwitz III (Buna or Monowitz), the forced-labor camp. Around 1.1 million people lost their lives at Auschwitz, nine out of ten of them Jewish.


One of six killing centers in Poland, and the first killing center implemented as a result of Operation Reinhard. Originally established in 1940 as a temporary forced labor camp, construction to make it a killing center began in November 1941. By March 1942, killing operations had begun and by the time the camp ceased operations in June 1943, around 600,000 people were murdered there.


The first killing center established under the Nazi regime as part of the Final Solution. It began operations in late 1941, 47 miles west of Lodz. Though it closed in March of 1943, it was reopened in June/July of 1944 to murder the residents of the Lodz ghetto. More than 150,000 people were killed there.


Facilities containing a furnace for reducing dead bodies to ash by burning.


The first concentration camp established by the National Socialist (Nazi) government. It was opened in March of 1933 as a camp for political prisoners. As time passed, the camp’s prisoners expanded to include Jewish people and those from other persecuted groups. It remained open throughout the entirety of the Holocaust. The total number of deaths at the camp will never be known.


Camps established primarily or exclusively for the murder of large numbers of people immediately upon arrival to the site. These included: Chelmo, Belzec, Sobibor, Teblinka (II), Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Majdanek.  All were located in occupied Poland.


Locations across Europe where victims of the Holocaust were murdered by mass shooting. Mass murder did not occur strictly within the confines of Nazi Camps or ghettos. Groups such as the Einsatzgruppen, SS, and local support forces murdered millions through mass shootings at a scale that is still relatively unknown. Many of these killing sites were deliberately left unmarked by the perpetrators, and many have yet to be located.


Forced evacuations of Nazi camps occurring near the end of the war, in part to keep prisoners out of Allied hands. This term was most likely created by prisoners in the camps, as they were forced to march over long distances, under guard, in extremely harsh conditions. They experienced various forms of mistreatment, and many were killed during the march.


Mobile killing units of the Security Police and SS Security Service that followed the German army as it invaded and occupied countries across Europe. Their victims, primarily Jews, were executed by shooting and were often buried in mass graves referred to as Killing Sites. Some were later exhumed and burned.


A term meaning “an easy and painless death for the terminally ill.” The Nazis appropriated the term and applied it to the taking of measures to improve the quality of the German “race.” Forcing “mercy” deaths on people with physical and mental disabilities, as well as those from groups the Nazis deemed inferior or harmful to the “Aryan” race.


The title for the deliberate and systematic mass murder of European Jews. It took place from 1941 to 1945. Though many Jewish people were killed prior to the implementation of the “Final Solution”, most Jewish victims were murdered during this period. The program was deceptively disguised to its victims as “resettlement in the East.”


The German Secret State Police, which was under SS control. It was responsible for investigating political crimes and opposition activities.


A crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part.


The Nazi term for a section of a city where all Jews from surrounding areas were forced to relocate and reside. Established mostly in Eastern Europe (e.g. Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, starvation, disease, and forced labor. However, various forms of resistance took place in ghettos as well, including armed and community-building. Ghettos were eventually destroyed when the inhabitants were deported to killing centers.


The systemic, state sponsored murder of six million European Jews by Nazi Germany and their collaborators between 1933-1945. The Nazis targeted European Jewry as part of a larger system of racial persecution and war. Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered millions more, including their political opponents, persons with disabilities, Roma and Sinti, Poles and Slavs, Soviet prisoners of the war, gay men, Afro-Germans, and others.


To persecute someone means to subject them to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of one’s affiliation or beliefs. The Nazis persecuted many groups for political, racial, religious, and social reasons. These groups included, but are not limited to: Jews, Political Opponents, Persons with Disabilities, Afro-Germans, Gay Men, Roma and Sinti, Poles and Slaves, Prisoners of War, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and more.


A distinctive badge or marking that Jewish people were forced to wear to designate them as Jewish. This was not unique to Nazi Germany. There is a long history of Jewish people being forced to wear badges, patches, medals, or IDs of some fashion due to antisemitic laws or social conditions. Under the Nazi regime, these badges usually took the form of a yellow Star of David or an armband with a Star of David on it.

JUDENRAT (pl. Judenraete)

Council of Jewish representatives in communities and ghettos set up by the Nazis to carry out their instructions. Forced to make choiceless choices and decide in many ways whether to comply with or refuse Nazi initiatives, the Judenraete remain a controversial and delicate subject.


Jewish prisoners who were forced to serve as “stand-in” guards in charge of other inmates in Nazi camps. They are controversial figures who blurred the lines between collaborator, perpetrator, and victim.


German for “living space,’ it stands for the territory a state or nation believes is needed for its natural development or self-sufficiency. It became a strategic component and justification tactic for imperial visions and invasions under the Nazi regime.


One of the six killing centers established in Poland under the Nazi regime. First a forced-labor camp for Polish and Soviet POWs, it transitioned into a transit camp for a period of time, but as Belzec killing center closed, Majdanek became a killing center. Majdanek was liberated by the Soviet Army in July 1944.


During the Holocaust, the Nazis and their allies established more than 44,000 camps and incarceration sites. There were various types of camps, and they were not all the same: concentration camps were for the imprisonment of people seen as real or believed “enemies of the Reich,”; forced-labor camps exploited prison labor to meet labor shortages and increase economic resources; transit camps served as temporary holding facilities for Jews/prisoners awaiting deportation; prisoner-of-war camps held Allied POWs; and killing centers were established primarily or exclusively for the murder of large numbers of people immediately upon arrival to the site.


Traditionally means “irregular troops engaged in guerrilla warfare, often behind enemy lines.” During World War II, this term was applied to resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied countries.


Euphemism for the process of choosing victims for the gas chambers in the Nazi camps by separating them from those considered fit to work.


One of the six killing centers under the Nazi regime, and the second one established as part of Operation Reinhard.  Sobibor opened in the spring of 1942 and closed one day after an uprising of the Jewish prisoners in October 1943. During this time, approximately 167,000 people were murdered.


Jewish prisoners selected to assist the SS and other Nazi officials in the camps. Working mostly in the killing areas, Sonderkommando took on many roles in the gas chamber and crematoria areas. They instructed victims to disrobe and enter the chambers, and afterward, they would untangle and remove the bodies of victims. In the crematoria, they shaved victims’ hair, searched for valuables, burned the bodies, or removed them to mass graves. Near the end of the war, they also were forced to assist the Nazis in hiding the evidence of mass murder. Controversial figures of the Holocaust, were often forced to partake in the mistreatment, abuse, and murder of other victims, often becoming victims themselves later on.


(Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads) was originally organized as Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit. The SS was transformed into an elite paramilitary organization by Heinrich Himmler. Although various SS units were assigned to the battlefield, the organization is best known for controlling the German police forces, overseeing the camp system, and coordinating the Final Solution.


The steamship St. Louis was a refugee ship that left Hamburg in the spring of 1939, bound for Cuba. Cuba refused entry to most of its Jewish passengers. No country, including the United States, was willing to accept them. The ship finally returned to Europe where most of the refugees were finally granted entry into England, Holland, France and Belgium. Many of its passengers died in Nazi concentration camps after occupation of Holland, France and Belgium.

DER STURMER (The Assailant)

An antisemitic German newspaper, founded and edited by Julius Streicher, and published in Nuremberg between 1923 and 1945.


Established in early 1942 outside Prague as a “model” Jewish ghetto, governed and guarded by the SS. The Nazis used Terezin to deceive public opinion. They tolerated a lively cultural life of theater, music, lectures, and art in order to have it shown to officials of the International Red Cross. About 88,000 Jewish inmates of Terezin were deported to their deaths in the East. In April 1945, only 17,000 Jews remained in Terezin, where they were joined by 14,000 Jewish concentration camp prisoners, evacuated from camps threatened by the Allied armies. On May 8, 1945, Terezin was liberated by the Soviet Army.


A camp complex that consisted of a concentration camp (I) and a killing center (II), which was one of the six killing centers established under the Nazi regime and the third under Operation Reinhard. It was opened in July of 1942 and closed in the fall of 1943. Despite its short existence, over 925,000 were murdered there, included Jews (many from the nearby Warsaw ghetto) and an unknown number of Poles, Roma and Sinti, and Soviet POWs.