Glossary of Terms

A B C D E F G L M N O P R S T U W Y

A

Allies

Twenty-six nations led by Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union that fought against the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Italy, Japan, and their allies) during World War II.

antisemitism

Hostility towards or prejudice against Jews. Many Jewish partisans faced antisemitism from the local population and fellow partisans.

Armia Krajowa (AK)

Polish words for Home Army. A nationalist partisan group that fought the Nazis. Many intentionally hunted down and killed Jewish partisans because of their fierce antisemitic beliefs.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

The largest Nazi death camp, located 37 miles west of Krakow, Poland. Initially intended as a concentration camp when it opened in 1940 it included a killing center and a slave labor camp.

B

Bielski Brigade

An all Jewish partisan unit and family camp begun by the Tuvia Bielski and his brothers from Stankiewicze, in western Belorussia. Unlike most partisan groups, they were not focused on fighting the Nazis, but freeing as many Jews as possible. Their group eventually saved grew to 1,200 Jews.

C

camps

Nazi camps built for the mass killing of Jews and others (e.g. Gypsies, Russian prisoners-of-war, ill Allied prisoners). These included Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka. All were located in occupied Poland.

chuppah

A canopy under which a Jewish couple stands during the marriage ceremony, symbolizing the home they will build together.

chutzpah

Yiddish word meaning gall, brazenness, audacity, daring. An example often given is: "A boy is on trial for murdering his parents, and he begs of the judge leniency because he is an orphan."

collaborators

To aid or cooperate with the enemy. During WWII, Nazi-sympathizers aided in the arrest, deportation and murder of Jews.

concentration camps

Prison camps for Jews and other “enemies of the state”, constructed by the Germans in occupied Europe during World War II. Over 100 camps were in operation during the war.

courier

A messenger and smuggler used by partisans and other resistors. Carrying false identity papers, couriers traveled between Jews isolated in ghettos and partisan units, bringing information, money, and arms, and creating a vital communications network.

D

death camp

A prison camp where thousands of Jews died, either from systematic extermination, as at Auschwitz-Berkenau, or from starvation and disease, as at Dachau.

deportation

Hitler’s plan to methodically rid Germany and Nazi occupied Europe of its Jews. Deportation consisted of forcing Jews from their homes, consolidating them in ghettos and transporting them to concentration and death camps.

E

extermination camps

Same as death camps. Nazi prison camps designed with the express purpose of the systematic, mass murder of Jews through the use of lethal gas. Jews died at six camps, all located in occupied Poland, as did tens of thousands of Poles, Gypsies, Russians and others.

F

falsified papers

Forged or altered identification documents which Jews and other racial minorities used to avoid arrest and/or deportation by passing as Christians. Couriers also used falsified papers to travel freely within Nazi occupied Europe.

family camp

Please see family group

family group

Informal and formal groups comprised of Jewish men, women, and children who fled to the forests of Eastern Europe to escape Nazi persecution. Many in these groups could not join partisan groups because they were too young, old or weak to fight. The main purpose of these groups was to provide refuge to persecuted Jews.

final solution

The Nazi plan for systematic annihilation of all European Jews. As a result, approximately six million Jews were murdered – two thirds of all Jews living in Europe in 1939.

French militia

The collaborationist French army forces that implemented antisemitic policies in occupied France.

French sympathizers

French antisemites who shared the beliefs of the Nazis and fought with them.

G

Gentile

A term used to describe a non-Jewish person.

German occupation

The invasion and forced rule by Nazi Germany of countries during World War II. These countries included: Czechoslovakia, Poland, Northern France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemborg, and the Soviet Union.

gestapo

The secret state police of Hitler’s Third Reich. Their tyrannical methods included mass arrests, executions and torture.

L

liquidation

The sudden forced removal of Jews from the ghettos, by Nazi troops and their collaborators. The liquidation of a ghetto meant the final, deportation of its remaining Jews to Nazi camps.

M

Majdanek concentration camp

A concentration and extermination camp located near Lublin, Poland. Originally built as a detention center for prisoners of war, it was converted to a death camp in 1942. At Majdanek, approximately 125,000 Jews were murdered in gas chambers, of which 100,000 are thought to have been Polish.

Maquis

Member of the French resistance movement located mostly in the mountains of southern France. This group played a major role in the Allied invasion of Normandy by delaying the German mobilization. They were also credited for finding safe havens in many homes for Jewish children and are known to have had considerable Jewish participation.

N

Nazi

The common name of the National Socialist German Workers Party, NSDAP a right-wing, nationalistic, antisemitic political party that believed in the natural superiority of the German “race”. Aryans were the master race. Headed by Adolf Hitler, the Nazis came into power in Germany in 1933 and sought to strengthen their empire, known as the Third Reich, by enslaving and annihilating racially "inferior" peoples including Slavs, Gypsies and especially Jews.

non-Jewish partisans

Resistance fighters of any country who were not Jewish. Non-Jewish partisan groups did not always welcome Jews because of antisemitic attitudes.

O

Operation Barbarossa

Code name for Germany's invasion of Soviet territories in the summer of 1941.

P

physical resistance

Partisan and resister activity, such as hit and run guerilla attacks, sabotage, and armed revolts in the camps and ghettos.

R

resistance

Any act of disobedience towards the Nazis, including armed ghetto uprisings, acts of sabotage, or maintaining life and dignity by smuggling food into the ghettos, praying, and lighting Sabbath candles.

Russian partisan

Soviet soldiers separated from the Red army, escaped Soviet POWs and Communist party officials who formed partisan units. (See Russian partisan group)

Russian partisan group

Comprised of more than one million individuals, the Soviets had the largest number of partisans in Europe. Many units were located in the dense forests of Eastern Europe.

S

Socialist

An ideology that places importance on general welfare rather than on individualism, on co-operation rather than on competition, and on laborers rather than on industrial or political leaders and structures.

Star of David armband

In Poland on November 23, 1939, the Nazis ordered all Jewish men and women aged ten and over to wear a white band displaying a blue Star of David that was at least ten centimeters wide. It was to be worn on the right sleeve of their inner and outer garments.

T

typhus

An often fatal infectious disease carried by lice. Symptoms are headache, fever, chills, exhaustion, and rash. Many partisans died from outbreaks of typhus.

U

Ukrainian nationalists

During the 1930s, most Ukrainian nationalists came to support the Nazis as the force most likely to "liberate" the Ukraine from the USSR. When Nazi Germany conquered Poland in September 1939, they set up training camps for Ukrainian nationalists to prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union. These Nazi supporters were often fiercely antisemitic.

unoccupied France

The area of France under the control of the Vichy government after France’s surrender to Germany in 1940.

W

work camps

Slave labor camps where Jews, under extreme and horrible conditions, were forced to work for the German war effort.

Y

yellow stars

In September 1941, German Jews, six and older were required to wear a yellow patch depicting the Star of David on the left side of their chest. The patches were required to be “fist-sized” and to bear the inscription, “Jude”.

Yiddish

A language combining elements of German and Hebrew, spoken by Jews and written in Hebrew characters. Speakers are mostly in Eastern Europe and areas to which Eastern European Jews have emigrated.

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