Glossary

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Appellplatz

A combination of the German words appell meaning “roll call” and platz meaning “place.” Prisoners in the concentration camps had to line up twice a day – in the heat of summer and freezing cold of winter – to be counted. If someone died between the morning and evening count, the other prisoners held up their corpse for the often hours-long process. Those who did not stand still were beaten and even killed.

Aryan

A made-up concept by the Nazis. The so-called “Aryan Master Race” system graded humans from pure Aryans – Germans and other Nordic blonde, blue eyed types – to non-Aryans, most of whom were viewed as sub-humans.

Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Sobibor, Bergen-Belsen

Nazi concentration and death camps.

Bialystok

The largest city in northeast Poland. In 1936, almost 43,000 Jews lived in Bialystok comprising about 43% of the population. By 1948 a little over 600 remained.

Eugenics

A white supremacist pseudoscience that held that white or “Nordic” people are superior to other races and ethnicities and should be dominant over them. America’s Eugenics movement was the political driver behind the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, which effectively put an end to the immigration of Italians, Slavic peoples and European Jews.

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Eisernes Kreuz Erste Klasse (Iron Cross First Class).

A German army medal awarded to soldiers for conspicuous bravery on the field of battle.

Falangists

The fascist movement in Spain that became the sole political party under Spanish dictator and Nazi ally, Francisco Franco.

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Glatt Kosher

Foods produced under the strictest Kosher standard of Jewish dietary laws.

Führerbunker

A heavily reinforced underground bunker in Berlin near the Reich Chancellery. It was part of a subterranean complex used by Adolf Hitler during World War II and also where he committed suicide in the final days of the war.

Jim Crow

Laws and customs used to oppress blacks including bans on interracial marriage and separation between races in 

public and places of business. There were also a number of laws meant to keep blacks from voting including the poll tax, which required that a tax be paid in order to register to vote. The tax, which was designed to impede the poor, especially poor people of color, was used by a number of states until 1965. Another voting restriction was the Grandfather Clause, which was enacted after 1890 mainly in southern states. The clause exempted white men from new literacy and property voting requirements if the they and their forefathers voted before 1867.

Jude

German word for “Jew.” (Pronounced Yoo-deh.)

Krankenbau

The concentration camp infirmary which provided little or no medical care.

Luger

A semi-automatic pistol produced between 1898 and 1948. The German model used during World War II was a Wehrmacht P08.

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Mischling(e)

A derogatory term used by the Nazis to characterize Germans of Jewish descent who had one or two Jewish grandparents.

Musselman

Concentration camp slang for the “walking dead,” humans who were barely alive; reduced to skin and bones.

Oath to Hitler

Beginning on August 2, 1934, when Hitler became Germany’s dictator, all members of the German military swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler instead of the German constitution as they had previously.

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German  Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience,  and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

Oberleutnant

German Army First Lieutenant.

The Treaty of Versailles

After the end of World War I (July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918), the victorious allies (mainly France, England and the United States) imposed extremely harsh peace terms on Germany. The treaty, signed in June 1919, held Germany responsible for 
starting the war and imposed severe penalties including loss of territory, onerous reparation payments and demilitarization. The treaty humiliated Germany and caused widespread economic hardship and resentment that played a significant role in fueling the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.