Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

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A

Adolf Hitler
Leader of the Nazi Party and German chancellor from 1933 to 1945 who led Germany into WWII and the Holocaust.
African-American Civil Rights Movement
A movement from 1955 - 1968 that worked towards abolishing discrimination and securing racial equality in the US.
Air Raid Sirens
Extremely loud signals that warn people to enter shelters during bombing attacks.
Aliya
A Hebrew term meaning, “going up,” used to refer to the act of immigrating to the Land of Israel.
Allies
Also known as the Allied Powers, the nations which joined to fight the Axis Powers (primarily: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan) in World War II. The Allies were primarily: Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.
Amon Goeth
(1908 - 1946): The ruthless Nazi officer in charge of the prisoners at the Plaszow concentration camp.
Anti-Semitism
Hatred of Jews.
Aryan
Term used by the Nazis to describe what they considered the “superior race,” (people of northern European descent).
Auschwitz
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest and deadliest of the Nazi killing centers. At least 1.3 million Jews were systematically murdered there, the majority in gas chambers.
Axis Powers
The nations who fought against the Allies (primarily: Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States) in World War II. The Axis were primarily: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan.

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B

Baptism
A ceremony in which one is admitted into Christianity, through a ritual of purification with water.
Bar Mitzvah
When a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13, he is required to observe all the religious obligations that Jewish men observe. This new status is often celebrated in a ceremony, which is also called “a bar mitzvah” or a “bar mitzvah ceremony.”
Barracks
A building or group of buildings usually used to house military personnel. The Nazis built very simple barracks to house the many prisoners in their camps. These barracks had very crowded and unsanitary conditions.
Bat Mitzvah
When a Jewish girl reaches the age of 12 (in some communities, 13) she is required to observe the religious obligations of Jewish women. This new status is often celebrated in a ceremony called a “bat mitzvah” or a “bat mitzvah ceremony.”
Beis Yaakov
System of religious schools for Jewish girls, founded in 1917 by Sarah Schenirer in Krakow, Poland.
Benito Mussolini
(1883 - 1945): The Fascist leader of Italy from 1922 - 1943.
Beret
A type of French hat.

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C

Cattle Cars
Train wagons normally used to transport animals. During the Holocaust, the Nazis packed these cattle cars with Jews, to transport them to the ghettos, concentration camps, and killing centers. Many Jews perished en route in these cattle cars.
Chanukah
Jewish holiday that commemorates the victory of the Jewish forces of the Syrian-Green armies in 166 BCE.
Chaplain
A member of the clergy who serves in the armed forces in order to provide religious services to soldiers.
Chassid
A member of a devout Jewish religious group that focuses on spirituality and deep worship of God. The Baal Shem Tov founded the Chassidic movement in the 1700’s and emphasized the ability of all Jews to grow closer to God in everything that they do, say, and think. The movement was prominent in Poland before the war. Many of its devotees and leading rabbis were killed during the Holocaust.
Collaboration
Cooperation with an enemy force occupying a country. There were individuals who collaborated with the Nazis in all occupied countries.
Collaborator
A person who cooperates with an enemy force that occupies a country. There were individuals who collaborated with the Nazis in all occupied countries.
Communist
A member of the Communist Party, an organization, based on the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, which sought to create a classless society in which most property was owned by the state.
Concentration Camp
Prison camps created by the Nazis. During the war, millions of Jews and others were forcibly sent to these camps, where many were killed or died of starvation, overwork, and disease.
Convent
A religious community of Catholic women, joined together by holy vows.

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D

David Ben Gurion
(1886 - 1973): Zionist leader and first prime minister of the State of Israel.
Death Camp
Camp set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland for the mass murder of Jews and other “undesirables,” primarily by poison gas. The six Nazi death camps were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka.
Death March
The Nazis marched concentration camp inmates on long treks during the final months of the war, towards the heart of Germany. Most of the prisoners died of hunger and exhaustion along the way, or were shot if they walked too slow or fell down.
Deception
Intentional distortion of the truth.
Deportation
The forced relocation of Jews during the Holocaust.
Displaced Persons
Individuals taken far from their families and homes during the course of war, or whose families and homes were destroyed by war. After World War II, hundreds of camps were created to help such refugees who could not return to their homes with temporary shelter and other services as they struggled to rebuild their lives.
Dror
A Zionist youth movement

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E

Eastern Front
The area of fighting in central and eastern Europe during World War II.

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F

Fascism
Italian political movement from 1922 - 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Fascism is an anti-democratic, authoritarian form of government led by a dictator who places the nation above the freedom of the individual.
Forced labor
Various types of difficult manual work that Nazis forced upon Jews and other captive populations, without compensation and under appalling, life threatening conditions.
Foster family
A family in which a child is raised by someone other than his or her natural or adoptive parents.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1882 - 1945): 32nd President of the US, serving from 1933 to 1945. He led the country through the Great Depression and World War II.

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G

Gas Chambers
Specially constructed facilities in the six Nazi killing centers designed for mass murder using deadly carbon monoxide or Zyklon B gas.
Ghettos
During World War II, a segregated, sealed area where Nazis confined Jews in cities or towns. Jews confined to these areas suffered and often died from overcrowding, starvation, poor sanitation, and disease.
Goyim
A Hebrew term meaning “nations,” used to describe people who are not Jewish.

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H

Ha’apala
Hebrew term for the secret immigration of Jews to the Mandate for Palestine in violation of British restrictions against such immigration.
Haganah
Underground Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate for Palestine from 1920 to 1948.
Halutz
Hebrew word for “pioneer.”
Harry S. Truman
President of the United States from 1945 to 1953. Brought World War II to a conclusion. Also established Displaced Persons camps specifically for Jews. Recognized the State of Israel after it was declared.
Hebrew School
Afterschool or weekend classes for children in Hebrew and Jewish subjects.
Heil, Hitler
Literally, “Hail Hitler.” Greeting and salute initiated by Nazi party members.
HIAS
HIAS, or the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is an American Jewish organization established in 1909 to help facilitate immigration from countries that persecuted Jews.

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I

IDF
IDF, or Israel Defense Forces, is the name of Israel’s military forces, founded in May 1948 after the establishment of the State of Israel.
Internment Camp
A detention center, usually created during a time of war. After World War II, British efforts to prevent Jewish immigration to the Mandate for Palestine led to the creation of internment camps on the island of Cyprus.
Israel
The Jewish State, established in 1948.

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J

Janusz Korczak
Jewish pediatrician and famous author of children’s books, Dr. Janusz Korczak (1878 or 1879 to 1942), and his colleague, Stefania(Stefa) Wilczynska (1886 - 1942). Together, Korczak and Wilczynska ran a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw, and eventually accompanied the children of the orphanage to their death in Treblinka on August 5, 1942.
Josef Mengele
(1911 - 1979): A doctor and SS officer posted to Auschwitz, sometimes called the Angel of Death. He took part in the selection of Jews, deciding who was to live and who was immediately sent to death. Mengele is infamous today for performing gruesome medical experiments on Auschwitz prisoners, both Jews and non-Jews.
Judenrat
A group of Jewish leaders forced to administer life in the ghetto. Many ghetto residents felt they tried to do their best for the imprisoned Jews, while others accused the Judenrat of corruption and cooperation with the Nazis.

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K

Kibbutz
Hebrew for collective farm settlement in Israel.
Kiddush
Special prayer over wine acknowledging Shabbat or a holiday. Also, refreshments served after Shabbat morning prayers.
Killing Center
Camp set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland for the mass murder of Jews and other “undesirables,” primarily by poison gas. The six Nazi killing centers were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka
Kolkhoz
A Soviet collective farm.
Kristallnacht
Commonly translated from the German as “Night of Broken Glass,” a series of organized anti-Semitic riots that occurred during the night of November 9 - 10, 1938 across Germany and Austria. Mobs looted and destroyed Jewish homes and businesses, attacked 1,400 synagogues, and arrested approximately 30,000 Jews.

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L

Labor Camp
A concentration camp that took advantage of the slave labor of inmates.
Leo Baeck
(1873 - 1956): A distinguished Berlin rabbi, communal leader, and theologian who became president of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Reich Representation of German Jews). At the beginning of 1943 Rabbi Baeck was deported to the Terezin Ghetto. He survived the war and later settled in London.
Liberal Judaism
A stream within Judaism that seeks to reconcile Jewish belief and practice with Western culture. Liberal Judaism tends to emphasize the importance of ethical behavior over the performance of religious ritual.
Liberation
Term used to describe the events of the end of World War II, when the Allies freed the occupied countries and the victims of the Nazis.
Liberators
The Allied soldiers who freed the occupied countries and the victims of the Nazis at the end of World War II.
Lice
Small parasitic insects that cause an itchy infestation and transmit diseases, such as typhus.
Liquidate
Term used to describe the evacuation of ghettos and camps. In the ghettos, the Nazis deceptively referred to this process as “resettlement.”

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M

Mandate for Palestine
An area in the Middle East described in the Bible as the Land of Israel. The area was administered by Great Britain for the League of Nations from 1920 to 1948. In 1947, the United Nations voted to divide the Mandate for Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. An Arab state was never created. The Jewish State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948, but Israel’s Arab neighbors attacked it immediately. An armistice in 1949 ended this first period of hostilities.
Marshal Philippe Pétain
(1856 - 1951): France’s greatest hero in World War I (1914 - 1918), and head of the pro-German Vichy regime after France’s defeat in World War II.
Matzah
Unleavened bread (a kind of flatbread) that is eaten by Jews to celebrate the holiday of Passover, which commemorates the liberation of the Jews from Egypt.
Minyan
A group of ten or more Jewish adults gathered for the purpose of communal prayer.
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Also known as the Nazi- Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, this treaty was signed on August 23, 1939 and was in effect until Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The treaty stipulated the division of countries occupied by the two nations and allowed for the German invasion of Poland.
Monastery
In Christianity, a secluded residence and place of study set aside for religious purposes for monks or nuns.
Monk
A man who has withdrawn from the world for religious reasons, living according to a particular rule and under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Monseigneur Jean-Gerard Saliège
The Archbishop of Toulouse, who was an active and vigorous supporter of the Jews of France. Saliège instructed the clergymen and nuns under his authority to hide Jews, particularly children.
Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski
(1877 - 1944): Head of the Judenrat in the Lodz Ghetto. He was deported and murdered in Auschwitz on August 28, 1944.

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N

Nationalization
The act by which a state takes possession of assets (such as businesses) without paying compensation.
Nazi
A member of the Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party, which was led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazis gained control of Germany in 1933. They believed in the supremacy of the “Aryan race,” and violently persecuted “non-Aryan” groups.
Nun
A Christian woman who has taken special vows to commit herself to a religious life.
Nuremberg Laws
Laws issued in 1935, which, among other things, banned marriage between “Aryans” and “non-Aryans” and took away German citizenship from German “non-Aryans.” [“Aryan” was the term used by the Nazis to describe what they considered the “superior race.” Jews and other ethnic groups were considered “inferior” in all characteristics, including physical, intellectual, and moral qualities.]

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O

Orphan
A child whose parent or parents have died.
Orthodoxy
A type of Judaism that emphasizes maintaining Jewish tradition and practice.

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P

Pact of Steel
Also known as the Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy, this agreement further united Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The pact was signed on May 22, 1939.
Palmach
Established in May 1941, the elite striking force of the Haganah, which was the underground army of the Jewish community in the Mandate for Palestine.
Paralyzed
Having complete loss of function of one or more muscle groups.
Partisan
A member of an organized fighting group that attacks the enemy within occupied territory. During World War II, partisans fought Nazi occupying forces, harassing and killing Nazis and sabotaging their war efforts. Some Jews formed their own partisan groups; others fought the Nazis as members of local resistance organizations.
Partition Plan
United Nations plan of November 29, 1947 to divide the Mandate for Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. See also Mandate for Palestine.
Passover
Jewish holiday celebrating the biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
Propaganda
Material disseminated to sway public opinion or to spread false information.

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Q

Quarantine
Enforced isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, such as a highly contagious disease.
Quota Number
During the Holocaust, immigration to many Western countries was restricted by quotas. In the United States, for example, quotas had been established in 1921 and 1924 to limit immigration. A high quota number would mean a long wait before immigration.

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R

Rabbi
Spiritual leader of a Jewish community
Rations
Fixed amount of food, generally well below the amount necessary to sustain life, allotted to ghetto residents and concentration camp inmates.
Rebbe
Yiddish term for a teacher of children or the head of a Chassidic court.
Reconciliation
Interactions between Jews and Germans after the Holocaust, towards the goal reestablishing positive relations.
Red Cross
International humanitarian organization whose mission is to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for the human being, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering of victims of international and internal armed conflicts.
Refugee
One who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution.
Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden
Central Organization of German Jews, established in September 1933. It represented the full spectrum of German Jews to the Nazi authorities.
Resistance
Defying the Nazi regime, either with arms (physical resistance), or by refusing to comply with or frustrating Nazi orders and objectives (spiritual resistance).
Righteous Among the Nations
A title bestowed by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial, in the name of the State of Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to provide Jews with food, hiding places, medical care, help in crossing borders into countries not occupied by the Nazis, or other assistance during the Holocaust.
Room and Board
Providing lodging and meals.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year, one of the Jewish High Holidays.

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S

Sabbath/Shabbat
The Jewish Sabbath, beginning at sunset of Friday night and continuing until nightfall on Saturday. Traditionally, work is prohibited on Shabbat while prayer and visiting friends and family is encouraged.
Sabotage
Deliberate obstruction or destruction, aimed at weakening an enemy, often conducted secretively.
Segregation
The practice of separating people of different races, classes, religions, or ethnic groups within a society, particularly as a form of discrimination.
Selection
During the Holocaust, a process in which those who were deemed unfit for work were sent to be killed.
Shtibl
A place used as a synagogue for communal Jewish prayer, often in a small room or private home.
Simchat Torah
A Jewish holiday celebrating the completing of the annual Torah reading cycle.
Sponsor
A person who promises to give financial support to an immigrant.
Statuts des Juifs
Laws of the French pro-Nazi Vichy government that discriminated against the Jews (October 1940 and June 1941). These laws were written by the French government and not forced on them by the Nazis. The laws excluded Jews from many professions and public life, strictly defining who was considered by them to be a Jew.
Stefania Wilczynska
(1886 - 1942): Also referred to as "Stefa." Together, Wilczynska and Dr. Janusz Korczak ran a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw, and eventually accompanied the children of the orphanage to their death in Treblinka on August 5, 1942.

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T

Temple
A Jewish house of worship.
Terezin
Also called Theresienstadt, Terezin was a ghetto established in 1941, planned for Nazi propaganda. The Nazis made it appear to be a safe and comfortable place, but the ghetto was actually an overcrowded and brutal prison.
Theodore Herzl
(1860 - 1904): A famous Zionist leader who believed that the only solution to anti-Semitism was the establishment of a Jewish state.
Transit Camp
Collection centers for prisoners bound for concentration camps or killing centers.
Transport
During World War II, a group deported to concentration camps or killing centers.
Tripartite Pact
Also known as the Axis Pact, this agreement officially formed the alliance of the three Axis Powers. Germany, Italy, and Japan signed this pact on September 27, 1940.
Typhus
Serious and highly contagious disease that comes with very high fever.

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U

United Nations
An international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress and human rights issues. The United Nations was founded in 1945 to replace the League of Nations, in the hope that it would intervene in conflicts between nations and thereby avoid war.

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V

Veteran
Former member of the military.
Vichy
The French government of 1940 - 1944 during the Nazi occupation of World War II.

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Y

Yellow Star
A badge Jews were ordered to wear in Germany and Nazi occupied countries in order to distinguish and isolate them from surrounding populations.
Yom Kippur
Jewish day of Atonement (forgiveness from God), marked by prayer and fasting.

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Z

Zemlyanka
An underground bunker in the forest, used for hiding and shelter.
Zionist
A person who believes in the right of Jews to a state in the Land of Israel.


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