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Holocaust Terms


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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. Auschwitz I: The main camp. Auschwitz II (Also known as Birkenau): The extermination center. Auschwitz III (Monowitz): The I.G. Farben labor camp, also known as Buna. In addition, there were numerous subsidiary camps.
A collective term for Romani and Sinti. A nomadic people believed to have come originally from northwest India. They became divided into five main groups stil extant today. By the sixteenth century, they had spread to every country of Europe. Alternately welcomed and persecuted since the fifteenth century, they were considered enemies of the state by the Nazis and persecuted relentlessly. Approximately 500,000 Gypsies are believed to have perished in the gas chambers.
Gerstein, Kurt
Cheif disinfection officer in the Office of the Hygenic Cheif of the Waffen SS, he purchased the gas needed in Auschwitz, officially for fumigation purposes, but actually used for the killing of Jews. Forwarded information about the killings to Swedish and Vatican representatives. Hanged himself in a French jail after the war. Author of a widely quoted description of the gassing procedure in Belzec, the protagonist of Rolf Hochhuth's play The Deputy, and the subject of Saul Friedlander's biography, The Ambiguity of Good.
The mobile units of the Security Police and SS Security Service that followed the German armies into the Soviet Union in June 1941. Their charge was to kill all Jews as well as Soviet commissars, the handicapped, institutionalized psychiatric patients, and Gypsies. 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 disguise all traces of what had occurred. At least one million Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen. There were four Einsatzgruppen (A,B,C, and D), which were subdivided into Einsatzkommandos.
Hitler, Adolf
(1889-1945) Nazi party leader, 1919-1945. German chancellor, 1933-1945. Fuhrer, or supreme leader. Commited suicide in a Berlin bunker as the Russinas were conquering the city.
Erez Israel
"Land of Israel" - whose borders for some Israelis often include parts of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria as well as the West Bank, Gaza, and present-day Israel.
Dreyfus Affair
The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal with anti-Semitic overtones which divided France from the 1890s to the early 1900s. It involved the wrongful conviction for treason of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a promising young artillery officer in the French Army. Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was the youngest son born to a wealthy Jewish family who owned a textile factory in the mostly German-speaking Alsace, before that province became a part of Germany in 1871. The political and judicial scandal that followed lasted until Alfred Dreyfus was fully vindicated, after which he actively served in World War I as a lieutenant-colonel and was raised to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor in July 1919.
Concentration Camp
Prison in which political and religious dissidents, ethnic and racial opponents are involuntarily held. Before the end of World War II, the Germans set up several thousand such camps.
Hatikvah or Hatikva (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה, "The Hope"), sometimes styled HaTikva(h), is the national anthem of Israel.
Nazi killing center located in eastern Poland. It opened in March 1942 and closed in December 1942. More than 600,000 persons, overwhelmingly Jews,, were murdered there, initially in gas vans and later in gas chambers.
Himmler, Heinrich
(1900-1945) A longtime Nazi, he built the SS into the elite Nazi party paramilitary organization. In 1933-34 Himmler assumed control of the German police. Early in World War II e presided over a vast empire, including all SS formations, the Waffen- SS, all police forces, all concentration and labor camps including the Death's Head units guarding them, the SS intelligence units (SD), and various offices for the resettlement of ethnic Germans. As Reichfuhrer SS, or senior SS leader, responsible for the implementation of the "Final Solution." In his 1943 Posen speech, discussed the killing of Jews and told senior SS officers that in implementing the "Final Solution," he was obeying Hitler's orders. In late 1944 ordered an end to the gassings. Early in 1945, with the war turning against Germany, attempted to negotiate with the Allies. Captured by British troops, he commited suicide.
League of Nations
Part of the Treaty of Versailles, this was an international organization that Wilson crusaded for during World War I, as part of his idealistic crusade to "make the world safe for democracy." This international organization was powerless, due in part to the United States' absence. America failed to join when Senator Henry Cabot Lodge objected to the United States relinquishing its sovereignty when it came to declaring war. Whenever a country came under attack within the League, it merely withdrew its membership.
Extermintation Camps
Place for assembly-line style killing of Jews as part of the Sonderbehandlung (special treatment) involved in the final solution. In German, Vernichtungslager. The six camps were Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor, Maidanek, Chelmno and Belzec. Jews arrived under the guise of "resettlement" or "deportation."
Grynszpan, Herschel
A Polish Jewish youth who had moved to Paris and worried about the fate of his parents. He shot and killed Third Secretary Enrst vom Rath at the German Embassy on November 7, 1938, providing an excuse for Kristallnacht.
Extermination camp opened in late December 1941 in incorporated western Poland (the Wartheland), where the SS, using special mobile gas vans, killed Jews from Lodz and Poznan provinces as well as Austrian Gypsies who had been incarcerated in the Lodz ghetto
Greater German Reich
Designation of an expanded Germany that was intended to include all German speaking peoples. It was one of Hitler's most important aims. After the conquest of most of Western Europe during World War II, it became a reality for a short time.
Globocnik, Odilo
SS major general in Poland during World War II. Established the extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek (as well as San Sabba as head of the Adriatic zone). By 1941 head of all extermination camps in Poland. Arrested by Allied troops in Austria in May 1945, he commited suicide.
Eichmann, Adolf
(1906-1962) SS lieutenant colonel and head of IVB4, the Jewish department of the RSHA. Eichmann was instrumental in implementing the "Final Solution," organizing transports of Jews from all over Europe to killing centers. Participant at the Wannsee Conference. Arrested at the end of World War II in the American zone of Germany. Escaped, went underground, and disappeared. In 1960 members of the Israeli Secret Service discovered him in Argentina and covertly brought him to Israel fro trial. He was tried in Jerusalem (April-December 1961), convicted, sentenced to death, and executed.
a member of a Jewish sect that observes a form of strict Orthodox Judaism [syn: {Hassid}, {Chasid}, {Chassid}]
The Nazis revived the medieval term ghetto to describe their device of concentration and control, the compulsory "Jewish Quarter" (Wohnbezirk). A ghetto was usually established in a poor section of the 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 were murdered.
Scattering (Greek). The term originally referred to the Jewish community scattered after the Babylonian Exile (587 BCE) and later to the Christians dispersed across the Greco-Roman world in the first century CE. ...
Chuchill, Sir Winston
(1874-1965) British prime minister during most of World War II (May 1940-July 1945) and again after the war (1951-1955). Led his country in the fight against the Axis powers.
Final Solution
(In full, Endlosung der Judenfrage in Europa, or final solution of the Jewish problem in Europe) Nazi code name for the physical extermination of European Jewry.
Jewish socialist, non-Zionist organization founded in Vilna in 1897 and active mainly in Poland between the two world wars.
City in western Poland (incorporated territory), renamed Litzmannstadt, where the first major ghetto was created in April 1940. By September 1941 the ghetto's population faced severe overcrowding. In October 1941 twenty thousand Jews form Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate were sent to the Lodz ghetto. During 1942 and June-July 1944, there were massive deportations from Lodz to the killing center in Chelmno. In August- September 1944 the ghetto was dissolved, and the remaining sixty thousand Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
Leader of the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto killed in 1943.
The nations, including the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, as well as the Free French, that joined in the war against Germany and the other Axis nations.
Goring, Hermann
(1893-1946) World War I flying ace and early associate of Hitler. Responsible for the Nazi rearmament program and especially for the creation of the German air force (Luftwaffe). During World War II he was virtual dictator of the German economy and was responsible for Germany's total air war. On 31 July 1941 Goring wrote Heydrich directly ordering him to organize the "Final Solution." One of the cheif defendants before the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg (1945-1946). Convicted and sentenced to death, he commited suicide hours before his scheduled hanging.
Keitel, Wihelm
He was Chief of Staff of the High Command of the German Armed Forces and was Hitler's closest military adviser and highly submissive. He was responsible for orders such as the Night and Fog decree and signed the unconditional surrender in Berlin. He was hanged in Nuremberg.
Hazak V'Amatz
Be strong and of good courage
Eisenhower, Dwight D
As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General Eisenhower commanded all Allied forces in Europe beginning in 1942.
Christ Killers
Lehman, Herbert
In October of 1916, Felix Warburg, who had simultaneously held both the office of Chairman of the Joint Jewish Distribution Committee and Treasurer, resigned as Treasurer and was replaced by Herbert Lehman. Mr. Lehman is more famous as the Democratic governor of New York from 1933 to 1942. Franklin Roosevelt preceded him in that office from 1929 to 1933. Although Lehman served as treasurer for less than a year, he retained close connections with the 'Joint' and headed up the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), which was established in 1943 and existed until it was supplanted by the International Refugee Organization in 1947
Aryan Race
Originally, the peoples speaking Indo-European languages. The Nazis, perverting the term, proclaimed the Aryan "race" superior to all other racial groups and considered those of Teutonic-Germanic- background to be prime examples of Aryan stock. The typical Aryan, to Nazi eyes, was blond, blue-eyed, and tall.
Evian Conference
An ineffectual meeting of 32 countries called by FDR on July 6, 1938 to discuss the problem of refugees in Evian-les-Bains, France. No countries wanted to accept the emigrants.
Austro-Hungarian Empire
A former dual monarchy of central Europe consisting of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and parts of Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy. It was formed in 1867 after agitation by Hungarian nationalists within the Austrian empire and lasted until 1918.
Jehovah's Witnesses
A religious denomination founded in the United States in the 1880's, later spread to Europe and elsewhere. Believes in Jehovah, with Jesus as His agent. Preaches that God's kingdom, humanity's sole hope, will be established following a final battle between the forces of good and evil. For reasons of doctrine, Witnesses decline to salute the flag, bear arms, or participate in politics of government. Although a peaceful and small minority, they were considered "enemies of the state" by the Nazis and were relentlessly persecuted.
Frick, Wilhelm
Minister of the Interior in 1933 who enacted Nazi racial laws and was executed at Nuremburg.
Leo Baeck
Community leader in Berlin who denied opportunites to emigrate so that he could instead guide and represent his people.
Chamberlain, Neville
This British Prime Minister until 1940 felt that "peace in our time" could be achieved through the appeasement policies of the Munich Agreement in 1938, but instead Hitler was merely able to increase his power prior to war.
A traditional Hebrew prayer recited by Jewish mourners.
Russian: каза́ки, казаки́ Kazaki; Ukrainian: козаки́, Kozaky; also known as Polish: Kozacy, originally derived from Turkic Qazaqlar) are a traditional community of martial people living in the southern steppe regions of Eastern Europe (primarily southern Russia and historically Ukraine) and Asia (Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan). They are famous for their self-reliance and military skills, particularly horsemanship. "Cossack" has also traditionally referred to a member of a Cossack military unit.
Germany, Italy, and Japan, signatories to a pact signed in Berlin on 27 September 1940, to divide the world into their spheres of respective poliltical interest. They were later joined by Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.
Hostility, prejudice, or discrimination against Jewish people or Judaism. The term "Semitic" refers to the descendents of Shem, a common ancestor of Middle Eastern peoples, but is now used specifically to refer to Jews.
In a religious sense, the term refers to followers of Judaism. In an ethnic sense, it refers to the people, or "nation", that traces its ancestry from the Biblical patriarch Abraham through his son Isaac and in particular Jacob, Isaac's son, as well as to those who subsequently joined them over the course of history as "converts". Ethnic Jews include both "Observant Jews", meaning those who practice the Biblical and Rabbinic laws, known as the Mitzvot, and those who, while not practicing Judaism as a religion, still identify themselves as Jews in a cultural or ethnic sense.
Chrysostom, St. John
archbishop of Constantinople, was an important early father of the church. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death (or, according to some sources, during his life) he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning "golden mouthed", rendered in English as Chrysostom.
A Czech mining village (population 700). In reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazis "liquidated" the village in 1942. They shot the men and older boys, deported the women and children to concentration camps, razed the village to the ground, and struck its name from the map. After World War II, a new village was built near the site of the old Lidice, which is now a national park and memorial.
A term for widespread discussion that is capitalized when referred specifically to massive killings, especially that of the Jews.
(lit. "the Enlightenment"); (a) the movement founded in the late 18th century by Moses Mendelssohn to restudy the Torah in the light of modern secular knowledge; (b) later offshoots of this movement
German Empire
The German Empire is the name used in English to describe the first 47 years of the German Reich when it was a semi-constitutional monarchy: beginning with the unification of Germany and proclamation of William I of Prussia as German Emperor (January 18, 1871), effectively ending with the proclamation of the German republic by Philipp Scheidemann (November 9, 1918) and formally ending with the abdication of William II (November 28, 1918). The most important bordering states were the Russian Empire in the east, France in the west, and Austria-Hungary in the south.
General Government (Generalgouvernement)
The German name for the administrative unit comprising those parts of occupied Poland that were not incorporated into the Reich. It included five districts: Galicia, Cracow, Lublin, Radom, and Warsaw.
(Ukrainian: Белз, Polish: Bełz, Yiddish: בעלז), a small town in the Lviv Oblast (province) of western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, is located between the Solokiya river (affluent of the Bug river, called Western Bug) and the Rzeczyca stream.
Frank, Hans
(1940-1946) Nazi administrative head of the General Government, 1939-1945. Tried and executed as a war criminal in Nuremberg.
Hoss, Rudolf
(1900-1947) Camp commandant of Auschwitz, 1940-1943. Sentenced to death by the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, executed.

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