Allies: The nations – Canada, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States – that joined together in the war against Germany and its partners – Italy and Japan (known as the Axis powers). Later, the Axis was joined by Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Anschluss: The annexation of Austria by Germany on March 13, 1938.
Antisemitism: Prejudice against or hatred of Jews; a particular form of racism.
Aryan: The Nazis took a term used to describe an ancient tribe and applied it to themselves, falsely claiming that their own “Aryan race” was superior to all other racial groups. The term “non-Aryan” was used to designate Jews, part-Jews and others of supposedly inferior race.
Concentration camps: Any internment camp for holding “enemies of the Third Reich”. The construction of concentration camps began almost immediately after Hitler came to power. Thousands of camps were established during the war.
Death Camps or Killing Centres : Extermination centres established in occupied Poland for the mass murder of Jews and other victims, primarily by poison gas. These were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.
Death Marches: Trapped between the Soviets in the East and the Allies in the West, the Nazis emptied concentration camps, forcing inmates to march long distances toward camps in Germany. Thousands died on route as a result of intolerable conditions, mistreatment, starvation and shootings.
Deportation: The removal of people from their homes for purposes of “resettlement”. The Jews of Europe were deported by the Nazis to ghettos, concentration camps and killing centres.
Displaced Persons (DP) Camps: Camps established after World War II for those who had been liberated but could not return to their former homes. Tens of thousands of Jews remained in the camps for a number of years until they were able to immigrate to other countries.
Einsatzgruppen (German, literally “operational squads”): Mobile killing units of the Nazi SS.
Enemy Aliens: Citizens of a country living in another that is at war with their country of origin. For example, citizens of states officially at war with Canada were interned in camps across the country as enemy aliens. Starting in 1940, close to 2,300 refugees of Nazism (most of them Jews) were interned.
Fifth Columnists: People who secretly supported and helped the enemies of the country they were in. They engaged in espionage or sabotage within defense lines or national borders.
Final Solution: Nazi euphemism for the extermination of European Jewry.
Führer: Leader in German.
Genocide: Act committed with the intention to exterminate a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (in whole or in part). Members of the group are murdered or systematically persecuted through various means, such as “measures intended to prevent births within the group”, “the transfer of children of the group to another group”, etc. Genocide is committed by those in power, in their name or with their open or implied consent. Genocide is considered a crime against humanity.
Gestapo (German): Secret State Police of Nazi Germany, created in 1933.
Ghetto: The Nazis revived the medieval term to describe their device of concentration and control, the compulsory “Jewish Quarter”. Established in poor areas, Jews were forced to live in overcrowded and desperate conditions.
Holocaust: Systematic, state-sponsored murder of approximately six million Jews between 1933 and 1945, committed by the Nazis and their collaborators. Beside the Jews, the Nazis persecuted other victims, too: the Roma and Sinti (their genocide is named Samudaripen), the disabled (T4 program), the homosexuals, the Slavs, the political opponents, etc.
Jewish Council (Judenrat in German): Jewish municipal administrations established by the Germans during the World War II. The Jewish Councils had to ensure that Nazi policies and orders were implemented. They also provided basic community services to the population of the ghettos.
Judenfrei (German, literally “free of Jews”): Nazi term to designate an area “cleansed” of Jews during the Holocaust.
Kindertransport (German, literally “children’s transport”): Program developed in Great Britain to rescue Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland between 1938 and 1940. About 10,000 unaccompanied children (mostly Jews) were sent to live with host families in England.
Kristallnacht: (German, literally “Night of Crystal”): Name given to violent attacks (pogrom) against the businesses, places of worship and homes of the Jews throughout Germany and in the annexed countries (Austria and Sudetenland) on November 9 and 10, 1938. The violence was implemented by Nazi leaders. The sound of broken glass explains the name given to the event.
Nazism (National Socialism): German political movement led by Adolf Hitler. In 1933, the Nazi Party took political power in Germany in a democratic election. The Nazis were violently antisemitic, and believed in the supremacy of the “Aryan race.” Nazi ideology includes discrimination on grounds such as origin, ethnicity, skin colour, disability, religion, language, sexual orientation or political convictions. It is characterised by strong authoritarianism and “cult of the leader” (Führerkult). Nazi objectives included racial purity and territorial expansion (Lebensraum) needed for the German race, which was to be achieved by murdering the Jews of Europe and invading neighbouring countries.
Nuremberg Laws: A series of laws promulgated in 1935, which defined who was Jewish and which introduced their systematic discrimination and persecution.
ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training): ORT is a non-profit global Jewish organization that promotes education and training in communities worldwide. After World War II, ORT offered vocational training to Jews living in displaced persons camps.
Partisans: Groups operating in enemy-occupied territory using guerrilla tactics. Some partisan groups were Jewish or included Jewish members, while others were made up entirely of non-Jewish resistance fighters.
Pogrom: Derived from Russian, literally meaning “devastation”. An organised, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of Jews.
Propaganda: Propaganda consists of using various means of communication (media, speeches, advertisements), to convince people to adopt an idea, doctrine, or ideology. The Nazis used every means of communication (radio, newspapers, children’s books, political speeches, films, etc.) at their disposal, in order to propagate their ideology, including antisemitism and the idea of the superiority of the “Aryan race”.
Resistance: Resistance can be individual or collective, and is a revolt against perpetrators. There are different forms of resistance such as organized military resistance, like sabotage and espionage. Humanitarian resistance can involve anonymously saving people or providing medical aid. Another method of defiance is spiritual resistance. Resistors are personally engaged in a political, humanitarian or spiritual cause, often at the risk of their own lives.
Righteous or Rescuers: Name given to individuals who often risked their own lives to save Jews by hiding them, giving them identity papers, helping them flee, etc.
Round-up: Mass arrest of Jews by local police or Nazi forces.
Shema: Jewish prayer recited every morning and night. It is the daily declaration of faith in one God. The first verse of Shema is recited traditionally as the last words before death.
Shoah: The Hebrew word for Holocaust, a biblical term meaning “catastrophe”, “destruction”, “disaster”.
Shtetl (Yiddish): A small Jewish town or village in Eastern Europe.
SS (Schutzstaffel; German, literally “Protection Squad”): Guard detachments originally formed in 1925 as Hitler’s personal guard. From 1929, under Himmler, the SS became the most powerful affiliated organisation of the Nazi Party. By mid-1934, they had 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 in occupied Europe.
Third Reich: The Nazi designation of Germany and its regime from 1933 to 1945. Historically, the First Reich was the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806. The Second Reich referred to the German Empire from 1871 to 1918.
UNRRA: The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was an international relief agency founded in 1943. Its mission was to provide economic aid to European nations after World War II. UNRRA distributed relief supplies, such as food, clothing, fuel, shelter, and medicines while helping with agricultural and economic rehabilitation. It assisted in the repatriation of millions of refugees in 1945, and managed hundreds of displaced persons (DP) camps in Germany, Italy, and Austria. It provided health and welfare assistance in the DP camps, as well as vocational training and entertainment.
TIMELINES AND MAPS
Check out the Montreal Holocaust Museum’s interactive timelines and maps.