Glossary of Terms Related to the Holocaust

Antisemitismhatred and prejudice towards Jewish people as a religious or ethnic group. Antisemitism takes many different forms and has developed over time. Its roots lie in anti-Judaism. Judaism is the faith of the Jewish people and the oldest monotheistic religion. For much of their history, Jews lived on territories governed by other religious groups, such as Christians. Jews were often treated as ‘the Others’ in those territories. They did not accept Christianity and became scapegoats for the misfortunes of the societies in which they lived. Continual and growing rumors, myths and misinformation about the Jews have existed throughout history; many of them persist to this day. This hatred has frequently led to discrimination and violence. Modern, racist antisemitism is based on hatred against Jews on the basis of their ‘biological’ difference; of their belonging to an ‘inferior’ race. Antisemitism is closely connected to conspiracy theories. Another term used is eliminationist antisemitism—a reference to Nazi antisemitism and their aim to exterminate all Jews. Anti-Zionism describes hatred against the Jewish state of Israel.
See the IHRA definition of antisemitism

Antisemitic conspiracy theories—antisemitic myths and lies that Jews use their power and influence to manipulate and control world governments. The conspiracy theories are rooted in old anti-Jewish hostility and modern antisemitism. An important element of conspiracy theories is blood libel: false allegations that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish, usually Christian, children for ritual purposes. Blood libel rumours were propagated widely by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Examples of such myths can also be found in the contemporary world

Auschwitz–Birkenau extermination camp—the largest death and concentration camp used during the Second World War (now a museum). Over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives here. It has since become a prominent symbol of the Holocaust.

Axis powers—a coalition led by Germany, Italy and Japan that opposed the Allies during the Second World War. Other members included Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Finland.

Bystanders—those who remained passive and indifferent towards the persecution of Jews during the Second World War for various reasons. It is said that bystanders constituted the largest section of society. Individuals and groups need not belong only to one category; during the Holocaust, they had a variety of choices available to them. Learn more:

CollaboratorsEuropean countries belonging to the Axis powers cooperated with the German Nazi regime by enforcing anti-Jewish legislation. Vichy France was the name given to the officially-independent French state headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during the Second World War. It adopted a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany, which occupied its northern and western parts. Within nations occupied by the Axis powers, some individuals and organisations—primarily motivated by nationalism, antisemitism and anticommunism—collaborated with the Nazis.

Death camps—the Nazis built five camps in occupied Poland in late 1941 and early 1942 whose purpose was to kill humans on an industrial scale. Belzec, Chełmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Maidanek, and Auschwitz–Birkenau were constructed to murder hundreds of thousands of people using carbon monoxide gas. They were located in heavily wooded areas, isolated from the outside world, but connected by railway.

Fascisma political ideology and mass movement that was prevalent in several European states between 1919 and 1945. It espoused extreme militaristic nationalism, cultural homogeneity and hostility to democracy.

Genocide—lawyer Rafael Lemkin introduced the concept, ‘genocide’ in 1943. The term was chiefly based on the politics of the Nazis toward the Jews during the Second World War. The concept is utilised in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948). It entails a broader meaning than the concept of ‘the Holocaust’, and reaches more widely than the crime of murder. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, national, socially constructed or cultural group. It is the gravest of all crimes against humanity.

The Holocaust—the state-sponsored and systematic persecution and extermination of European Jews between 1933 and 1945 by the Nazi regime and its allies in occupied Europe. Some define the term, ‘Holocaust’ more broadly to include other victims: Roma people, homosexuals, disabled people and other groups. The term was used by Romanian Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel at the beginning of 1960s as a metaphor that symbolises the burning of whole peoples in the crematories of the Nazi death camps. Shoah is the Hebrew name for the Holocaust, and refers exclusively to the extermination of the Jewish people.

Holocaust Denial—a set of false claims that the Holocaust never occurred and is a wholly fabricated story. See the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion.

Holocaust Distortion—the distortion and manipulation of historical facts about the Holocaust. It incroporates various types, including Holocaust trivialisation and banalisation, and diminishing the importance of the Holocaust.

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)—known as the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (the ITF) until January 2013, this is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1998, which unites governments and experts to strengthen, advance and promote Holocaust education, research and remembrance worldwide, and to uphold the commitments of the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust.

Nazism/Nazi—National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus), the ideology and practices associated with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany (1933–1945). It is a form of fascism; one that opposes liberal democracy and the parliamentary system. It incorporates racist antisemitism, anticommunism and scientific racism.

Neo-Nazi movements—postwar militant, social and political movements that admire Hitler and seek to revive Nazism. Neo-Nazism promotes hatred and white supremacy. Its advocates attack racial and ethnic minorities, including Jews, Roma and Muslims. They can be found in all regions of the world.

The Nuremberg Trial—held between 1945 and 1946, persecuted twenty-four high-profile Nazi perpetrators for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was the first international tribunal conducted by the Allied countries and representatives of Nazi-occupied countries to be used as a postwar mechanism for bringing national leaders to justice via imprisonment or capital punishment.

Porajamos—the Romani name for the Nazi genocide of the Romani and Sinti people. It is a neologism translated as ‘devouring’ or ‘destruction’. The Nazis considered the Roma and the Sinti to be racially inferior and antisocial. Learn more:

Operation Reinhard—a Nazi plan to exterminate all of Poland’s Jewish population. Learn more:

Swastika—once an ancient symbol used in Buddhism and Hinduism, the Nazis adopted it as their own symbol. In Europe, it is associated with Nazism and the Holocaust.

The Righteous Among the Nations—non-Jews who helped Jews being persecuted by the Nazis during the Second World War. Rescuers of Jews can be granted the status of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel.

Upstanders—those who resisted the actions of the perpetrators and/or rescued victims during the Second World War. The term is also applicable to other situations, including in the contemporary world.

WeRemember Campaign—The United Nations designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the day when Auschwitz–Birkenau, the largest death and concentration camp, was liberated. The World Jewish Congress launched the annual WeRemember campaign to commemorate that day. Millions commemorate the victims by holding signs that read ‘#WeRemember’ and posting images of them on social media.