Glossary of Terms from Night

Aden: former Middle Eastern British colony, now part of Yemen

Aryan: in Nazi ideology, the pure, superior Germanic race

Austerlitz: Parisian railroad station for eastbound trains. Austerlitz was the name of a Czech city.

Babylonian captivity: Babylonians destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem in 86 B.C.E. and exiled the Jews to Babylonia.

Boche or bosche: WWI derogatory French slang for a German, usually a soldier

Cabbala: Jewish mysticism, including numerology

Charnel house: a building used to house corpses and bones

Concentration camp: camps that were primarily used for slave labor, holding camps or transit camps

Death camp: camps dedicated to the efficient murder of Jews and other victims; e.g. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmo, Madjanek, Sobibor, Treblinka. The term was also used for concentration camps where thousands died of starvation and disease.

Death’s head: skull insignia for S.S. brigades working in concentration camps

Fascism: a system of government with centralized authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship and usually a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism

Gestapo: German acronym for the German Secret State Police, part of the SS notorious for terrorism against enemies of the state

Ghetto: the confinement of Jews in a set-apart area of a city. The first exclusively Jewish ghetto was in Venice in 1516.

Gypsy: pejorative term for Roma or Romany, an ethnic group with roots in India that suffered large losses in the Holocaust

Hasidism: movement of Orthodox Judaism with strong mystical and emotional elements.

Himmler, Heinrich (1900–1945): head of SS and principal planner of Jews’ total extermination

Hitler, Adolf (1889–1945): dictator of Germany, 1933–1945

Horthy, Admiral Miklos (1868–1957): regent of Hungary, 1920–1944, who was forced by the Nazis to relinquish power to the Nylias Hungarian Fascist party after Nazi invasion

Job: Biblical figure who has come to symbolize suffering

Kaddish: a prayer in Aramaic praising God. The mourner’s Kaddish is said for the dead.

Kapo: camp prisoner forced to oversee other prisoners

Lazarus: a man described in the Books of John and Luke as having been raised from the dead by Jesus

Los: German for “Go on!”

Maimonides (1135–1204): Jewish rabbi, physician and philosopher

Mengele, Dr. Josef (1911–1978): Auschwitz physician notorious for so-called medical experiments performed on inmates, especially twins and dwarves

Messiah: Greek translation of Hebrew Mashiach, the anointed one

Musulman: German for Muslim. Camp slang for a prisoner who is too weak to walk, work or stand, and therefore marked for death. Believed to derive from prisoner’s resemblance to a Muslim in prayer.

Nyilas party: Hungarian for Arrow Cross, a fascist anti-Semitic party that assumed power in late 1944 and assisted the SS in deportations of Jews

Passover: in Hebrew, Pesach. Greek word for the celebration of the exodus of Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

Pentecost: in Hebrew, Shavuot, the celebration of the giving of the Torah

Phylacteries: in Hebrew, tefillin. Greek word for two black leather cubes worn during daily morning prayer that contain verses from the Torah.

Rosh Hashana: Jewish New Year

SS: abbreviation of Schutzstaffel (Defense Protective Units). Notorious for implementing European Jews’ extermination.

Spanish Inquisition: brutal campaign by Roman Catholic church to punish nonbelievers including Jews and Muslims

Synagogue: a Jewish house of worship and study

Talmud: the most important compilation of Jewish oral tradition

Temple: holiest place in Judaism, located in Jerusalem. Biblically ordained sacrifices were performed here. Built and destroyed twice.

Yellow star: Nazis forced Jews to wear a cloth badge with Jew written in the center of a yellow six-pointed star.

Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement. Holiest day of Jewish year when Jews fast and pray for forgiveness for their sins.

Zionism: political movement advocating the establishment of a Jewish state

Zohar: from the Hebrew meaning light or splendor. One of the major works of the Cabbala.

Content last updated: April 30, 2002

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