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Glossary  >   Supplementary Reading (for Middle School)
Children of the Holocaust Discussion Guide

The following is intended to provide a frame of reference for discussion.

Anti-Semitism is prejudice or discrimination against Jews, based on negative perceptions of their religious beliefs and/or on negative group stereotypes. Anti-Semitism can also be a form of racism, as when Nazis and others consider Jews an inferior "race."

Notorious death camp in Poland. Opened by the Nazis in 1940, it soon became the largest death camp run by a staff which had acquired experience from other camps. Supervised by SS Captain Rudolf Hoess, the camp eventually took the lives of over 2 million people by means of gassing, starvation, overwork, and disease. At its peak, with the gas chambers and crematoria operating full time, as many as 24,000 people were put to death each day.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Religious rite whereby a Jewish child enters adulthood.

Concentration Camps
A group of labor and death camps located in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe for the incarceration of Nazi opponents, other "undesirables," political dissidents, Gypsies, Russian POWs and Jews. Conditions were so terrible that most inmates died after about four months. The death camps in Poland were Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

A furnace installed and used in the death camps to cremate and dispose of bodies after death by gassing, starvation, disease, or torture.

The transportation or "resettlement" of Jews from Nazi-occupied countries to labor or death camps.

Discrimination is the restrictive treatment of a person or group based on prejudiced assumptions of group characteristics, rather than on individual judgment. It is the denial of justice prompted by prejudice.

Acronym in German for Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police). The Nazis established the Gestapo in order to monitor and stamp out any political opposition to the Hitler regime. Under Heinrich Himmler, the Gestapo's powers became brutal and far-reaching in ferreting out Jews, Marxists, and even moderate critics of the regime.

Heterosexism is prejudice against people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Homophobia (fear of such persons) can lead to discrimination and violence against homosexuals or people perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Hitler, Adolf
Fuehrer (leader) and Chancellor of the Third Reich, from 1933 until his death in 1945. He built a German regime unparalleled as an instrument of tyranny, oppression, and ruin. Waging war in Europe and a campaign to annihilate the Jewish people, he brought Western civilization itself to the brink of destruction.

Term devised in the late 1950's to describe the Nazi program of the wholesale physical annihilation of European Jewry. Connotes an unprecedented phenomenon of human destruction. By the end of World War II, it was estimated that some 6 million Jews had perished as a result of the systematic killing program of the Nazis.

Prejudice is a negative or hostile attitude toward a person or group formed without just or sufficient knowledge and based on negative stereotypes. Prejudice is the result of "prejudgment" and can lead to discrimination.

Racism is prejudice or discrimination based on the belief that race is the primary factor determining human traits and abilities. Racism includes the belief that genetic or inherited differences produce the inherent superiority or inferiority of one race over another. In the name of protecting their race from "contamination," some racists justify the domination and destruction of races they consider to be either superior or inferior. Institutional racism is racial prejudice supported by institutional power and authority used to the advantage of one race over others.

Religious Bigotry
Religious bigotry is prejudice or discrimination against one or all members of a particular religious group based on negative perceptions of their religious beliefs and practices or on negative group stereotypes.

Scapegoating refers to the deliberate policy of blaming an individual or group when in reality there is no one person or group responsible for the problem. It means blaming another group or individual for things they did not really do. Those whom we scapegoat become objects of our aggression in word and deed. Prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory acts lead to scapegoating. Members of the disliked groups might be denied employment, housing, political rights or social privileges. Scapegoating can lead to verbal and physical violence, including death.

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on gender. Like the other "isms," sexism can be both personal and institutional.

SS (Schutzstaffel)
This elite guard was originally organized to serve as Hitler's personal protection service. Under Himmler, the organization expanded enormously, from 280 men in 1929 to 40,000 members in 1939. Their activities and powers grew to administer the concentration camps. It was the SS that eventually suppressed the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto.

A stereotype is a preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for individual differences. Even when stereotypes are positive, they always have a negative impact and can lead to discrimination.

Refers to a person who has survived the Holocaust.

Called Hakenkreuz in German. An ancient symbol used in India, Persia, Greece, and elsewhere as a religious emblem to ward off evil spirits. Using it as the official symbol of the Nazis, Hitler corrupted the meaning of the holy insignia to denote Aryan racial superiority.

Third Reich
The Third Empire. This was the official name of Hitler's regime, which ruled from 1933 to 1945. The Nazis regarded their rule as the successor to two previous empires: the Holy Roman Empire (962 AD-1806) and the Second Reich founded by Otto von Bismarck (1871-1918).

Poison gas used in the gas chambers of death camps.
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