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Action:Euphemism from the Nazi lexicon, referring to an action of deportation or extermination.


Anschluss: Annexation of Austria by the Reich, March 12, 1938. Under Eichmann's authority, a series of anti-Jewish measures were to be tested there before extending their application to the "greater Reich".


Action Reinhardt:Nazi operation to systematically kill Jews present in General Government territory in the centers of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka II (and more marginally in Majdanek). The balance of this operation, which took place from March 1942 to the autumn of 1943, is estimated at between 1.5 and 1.6 million deaths.


Antisemitism:Hatred of Jews. Created by a former German socialist, Wilhem Marr, in 1873, use of the term was widespread in the 19th century by German anti-Semites. Contrary to what its etymology suggests, this expression never referred to "Semites" as a whole, but only to Jews.


Aryanization: The Aryanization Process was installed, initially, in Nazi Germany, then in several European countries including France. It consisted in the exclusion of Jews from the national economy, either through professional prohibitions or through the expropriation of their companies.


Aryan, Aryan:The Nazis used this term to designate the members of the "Germanic race", according to them, the purest and superior to the other "races".


Auschwitz:It is in the immense complex of concentration camps of Auschwitz, and more precisely in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, that the Nazis set up the deadliest of the “Final Solution” extermination centers (1.1 million Jews were deported to Auschwitz, having died there about of a million). Auschwitz-Birkenau became the symbol of the industrial murder of the Jews, a metaphor for the Shoah.



Bunker:Cellar of Block 11 in Auschwitz (camp prison). The word also designates the houses that served as the first gas chambers in Birkenau: Bunker I and Bunker II




Concentration camps:Detention structures, the Nazi concentration camps were created as soon as Hitler came to power, to "re-educate" individuals considered harmful to the German "community of the people".


Extermination Camps:Sites with immediate kill facilities. The expression normally designates the centers of Aktion Reinhardt, as well as Auschwitz and Chelmno. Places where Eastern European Jews were shot also belong to the same category (Babi Yar in Ukraine, Rumbula in Latvia, Maly Trostinets in Belarus, etc.).


Gas chambers:Compartments in which the murder was carried out by asphyxiation, with toxic gases in particular Zyklon B. To avoid revolt and panic upon entry, the gas chambers were shaped like showers.


Canada:It designates in the language of the field, the space where the goods confiscated from the victims were stored, upon arrival in the field. Due to the amount of goods, clothing, jewelry, money and food, the name comes up by comparison with the supposed abundance of the country Canada. The official name of "Canada" in Birkenau was Effektenlager, or Effektenkammer.


Command, Kommando:Work unit composed of detainees who are assigned a specific task.


coya:Word of Polish origin that designated in Aushwitz the three-story bunks, in each of which several prisoners were forced to share the same pallet.


Crematorium, Krematorium:Crematorium. In Birkenau, crematoriums were spaces for the extermination of human beings. They consisted of morgues, changing rooms, gas chambers with Zyclon B and crematorium ovens.


Crimes against Humanity:category of criminalization defined in 1945 in Nuremberg, integrating the general principles of international law, shared by most nations. At the time, it designated "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and any inhumane act inspired by political, philosophical, racial or religious motives and programmed to be carried out against a group of the civilian population". Since then, this definition has been extensively amended. and enlarged.



Einsatzgruppen:SS and police “intervention groups” created by the Nazis in 1939 and designed to liquidate all real or fictitious opposition in the territories between the front and the borders of the Reich. In the framework of Operation Barbarossa, in 1941, they were the main perpetrators of the genocide of Jews in the Baltic countries and in the USSR. 


Endlösung: Final solution


living space:A Germanic concept forged in the 19th century to justify German expansionist objectives at the time of colonization, especially towards the East. Assumed by the Nazis, the concept of Vital Space became one of the ideological foundations of their policies of military aggression, displacement and annihilation of populations.


spoliation:Legally authorized looting of Jews implemented in Germany and several occupied European countries between 1933 and 1945.



Crematory Ovens:Furnace for the incineration of the dead. Used in particular in concentration camps for sanitary reasons (disposing of bodies as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of disease). It will later be integrated into installations for the killing of Jews in order to accelerate the genocidal process (in particular in the gas chambers and crematoriums II and III of Auschwitz).



Genocide:term coined in 1944 by jurist Raphael Lemkin to designate the “destruction of a nation or an ethnic group”. It was incorporated in 1948 into international law. Its legal definition includes a series of acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group". This definition serves as a reference for international texts that deal with the issue of the crime of genocide.


Gestapo:"Secret State Police". It is the political police of the Reich, controlled by the SS since 1936 and integrated into the RSHA in 1939. Its sector B4, directed by Adolf Eichmann, has as its object the surveillance of the Jews and will become section IV-B4 of the RSHA, responsible for the logistical organization of the "Final Solution.


Ghetto:"Jewish Residential Quarter" created from 1939 by the Nazis on the territory of Poland. The aim was to confine Jews to closed spaces within cities in anticipation of a "Final Solution". Isolated from the world, subject to overcrowding and poor sanitary and food conditions, many ended up dying there. The creation of the ghettos marked the beginning of the mass death of Jews in Europe, even before the "Final Solution" was decided.

The term “ghetto” appears for the first time in 1516, regarding the creation of the Venice ghetto in Italy.



Holocaust:A word commonly used to refer to the systematic destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War II. The term comes from the Greek holókauston, used in the Greek translation of the Bible from the Hebrew word hello, which designates a type of sacrifice to God wholly consumed by fire. Despite having become widespread in the Anglo-Saxon world and among us, it is a manifestly inappropriate term given the sacrificial religious connotation totally absent from the Nazi genocide.



Righteous/Righteous among the Nations:Title awarded by Yad Vashem to non-Jews who saved or contributed to the rescue of Jews from Nazi persecution. To award the title, a rigorous process of analysis and evaluation of evidence and testimonials is required. Portugal counts as “Righteous Among the Nations”, the diplomats Aristides de Sousa Mendes and Carlos Sampaio Garrido, Monsignor Joaquim Carreira and the Luso-French Joseph (José) Brito Mendes. 



Konzentrationslager:Concentration camp, KL or KZ.



Death Marches:Camp evacuation process implemented by the Nazis in the face of the Allied advance on the eastern front, and named after the prisoners who were evacuated from the camps. Tens of thousands of Jews "selected" provisionally for the work between the summer of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, and who took part in these death marches died of exhaustion or were slaughtered.


Mischling:"Mestizo" in German, this term designates in the Third Reich the "half-Jews" defined by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, as descendants of one or two Jewish grandparents. The fate of the Mischlings, part of the non-Jewish German population, will not fail to represent a problem for the Hitler regime, anxious to “purify” the German people of the “Jewish gangrene”.

Muslim, Muselmann: In the language of the camp, designates the detainee in an extreme state of physical and psychological exhaustion


pogrom:Violent attack or massacre, in Russian. Historically, the term refers to attacks perpetrated in Ukraine against Jews in the 19th century, but the term has become generalized and internationalized.



Quarantine:Isolation; between August 1943 and November 1944, there was a quarantine camp at Birkenau for those arrested on arrival. The aim was to detect possible contagious diseases and subject them to a period of « learning » to break them down psychologically. It was an effective selection tool between those “fit” to work and those whose fate was immediate death.



Ramp:Place of arrival of prisoners. In Auschwitz-Birkenau there were three ramps: the first to reach the Auschwitz camp; the second, the Judenrampe, between spring 1942 and May 1944; and the Bahnrampe which was located inside the Birkenau field itself, from May 1944 until the end.

RSHA: Reichssicherheitshauptamt, Reich Security Main Office, headed by Heydrich until May 1942, and then by Kaltenbrünner, under Himmler's control.



SA:Sturmabteilung, created in 1923, was a Nazi paramilitary force from which the SS will be created in 1925. It acted through terror practices against the enemies of Nazism, but its relative autonomy threatened Hitler's power. For this reason, the Nazi leader gradually replaced the SA with the SS, which would guarantee his authority.


Selection:Aussonderung, The "selection" was a peculiarity of Auschwitz. The dual function of this site (concentration camp and extermination center) is the only reason why a minority of Jews were temporarily removed from the extermination process to be used as a labor force. It was an action to select prisoners, considered by the Nazis as unfit, weak, useless, sick, old or too young, with a view to sending them directly to death. Upon arrival at the ramps, the selection of those condemned to immediate death and those “fit” to work was carried out exclusively among the Jewish deportees. The first selection took place in April 1942 on the Judenrampe. However, the selections were not only made upon arrival, but at any time, in the “hospitals”, in the barracks, or in the roll call square, from which any prisoner could be targeted.


Shoah:Hebrew term increasingly used to replace the word “Holocaust”, particularly in Israel and in the French-speaking world. It is also a biblical term present in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah, 47.11). Shoah means “catastrophe” and is the term preferred by the Jewish world. Indeed, after the catastrophe, the hecatomb or the cataclysm, only silence remains, the emptiness that follows the evidence of the irreparable.


Final solution:The “final solution to the Jewish question” was, in the coded language of the Nazis, the terminology used to designate the fate reserved for the Jews. Used since the beginning of the war, this expression will cover several stages (forced emigration, confinement in ghettos, etc.) before it means the systematic killing from the end of 1941.

Sonderbehandlung:SB, "special treatment", ie a euphemism in the Nazi lexicon referring to death sentences, namely in the gas chambers.

Sonderkommando:Special Kommando, made up essentially of Jewish detainees, tasked with helping the deportees in changing rooms, cutting the victims' hair or extracting the victims' gold teeth, evacuating the bodies from the gas chambers and burning the bodies in the crematory ovens or mass graves.


SS:Schutzstaffel (protection squad). Founded in 1925, the SS was initially Hitler's protection squad led by Heinrich Himmler, later taking responsibility for the police and concentration camps. Its Waffen-SS military version was present in Auschwitz, considered as a war front. It became a veritable state within a state, taking control of all the Reich security agencies.



Vernichtungslager:Extermination Camp



Wannsee (Conference):Interministerial meeting that took place in the suburbs of Berlin on January 20, 1942, under the leadership of Heydrich. The objective was to mobilize the entire Nazi state apparatus for the "Final Solution", already decided and whose implementation had begun.


WVHA  :SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt, SS Central Office for the Administration of the Economy, created in 1942. It was located in Oranienburg, and was directed by Oswald Pohl

GLOSSARY of Jewish Culture Terms

Elaborated based on the Dictionary of Portuguese Judaism, coord. Lúcia Liba Mucznik, José Alberto Tavim, Esther Mucznik and Elvira Mea, Editorial Presença, 2009

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adonai– Lit. “My Lord,” one of the terms used by the Jews to refer to God, in place of the ineffable name. It was the term used more specifically by the crypto-Jews of Belmonte


Anus, pl. Anussim– Lit. “Forced, constrained”. Term used by the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula to designate their brothers forced to convert.


Ashkenazi– Jews from central and eastern Europe, whose common language is Yiddish. The basis is German, integrating Hebrew words and words from local languages such as Polish. It is written with Hebrew characters.



Kabbalah– Lit. “Reception” and by extension “tradition, or “transmission”. It designates the esoteric doctrine of Judaism and the main school of Jewish mysticism, from the twelfth century onwards.


cache, or kosher– Appropriate for Jewish consumption, through food selection, preparation and separation rules; in Anglo-Saxon countries it is pronounced Kosher.


Circumcision– Brit milah, in Hebrew, lit. Covenant of Circumcision. Jewish religious obligation to remove the foreskin of a male child on the eighth day after birth. Biblical roots are found in Genesis 17.

with Ashkenazi pronunciation.



contempt– Popular term that means longing or pain of absence in Djudezmo, or Judezmo, language of the Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire.



slug- In old Portuguese it designated the synagogue of the Jews, a term still used today by the Sephardic Jews of Portugal



Hazan - Singer, officiant. Conducts the liturgical service in the synagogue


Huppah – Nuptial canopy under which the Jewish wedding takes place and which symbolizes the future home of the spouses.



Yiddish– See Ashkenazi

Israel– Surname given to Jacob – one of the three patriarchs of Judaism – after having defeated the angel in a dream (Gen.32,29). Jacob had twelve sons who represent the twelve tribes of the Hebrew people, the children of Israel. In the broadest sense, the entire Jewish people.



Jewish-Spanish – see Ladino



Kaddish- Prayer of sanctification of the name of God, uttered by the bereaved



rogue– Language of the Iberian Jews, based on Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew. In the countries of the diaspora to which they took refuge, elements of Arabic or Turkish were integrated depending on the destination. The distance from the countries of origin and the passage of time led to the permanence of forms that had fallen into disuse in Spanish and Portuguese vocabulary and phonetics. Essentially a literary and liturgical language that was initially written only in Hebrew characters. Not to be confused with Judeo-Spanish or Djudezmo, the more colloquial vernacular, although the term ladino is often used generically for both forms.



Mahamad- term used in Spanish-Portuguese diaspora communities to designate the board of directors of the congregation


Marranos– New Christians, practitioners of Judaism. Pejorative term – which in Spanish means “pig” – imported from Spain to qualify Jewish converts to Christianity who secretly maintained Jewish practices. Today the term has become generalized, losing its negative characteristics.



unleavened bread– Matzah, in Hebrew. Unleavened bread that the Jews eat during the eight days of the Jewish Passover in memory of the hasty escape of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, not letting the bread rise.

Pogrom - Violent attack or massacre, in Russian. Historically the term refers to attacks perpetrated notably in Ukraine against Jews in the 19th century.



Sephardic– Jew originally from the Iberian Peninsula. Today it also covers Jews from North Africa and the Middle East, as well as their descendants.


Sefer Torah– “Book of Torah”, scroll of parchment on which the Pentateuch is written. It occupies a place of honor in the synagogue and at religious services, as the weekly portion of the Pentateuch is read there.


Shabbat– Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Holy day for the Jews, according to the 4th divine commandment, dedicated to prayer, study and family life. In the synagogue a portion of the Torah is read weekly.


Shtetl: In Yiddish, a small village or town with a mostly Jewish population, in central and eastern Europe, in Galicia, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, before the Second World War.



tallit- Ritual shawl, or prayer mantle, with which Jews wrap themselves during the morning religious service in whose four corners are placed long fringes that are intended to remember the Commandments


talmud– Lit. "Study". One of the greatest Jewish works, containing explanations and interpretations of the Torah. It is the foundation of Jewish laws and traditions accumulated over seven centuries, from the year 200 (bce) to the fifth century (ec).


Tefillin- Phylacteries. They are two small black boxes that are placed on the forehead and on the left arm, usually during morning prayers. They contain small scrolls of parchment with biblical passages.


Log– Lit. “Instruction”, “Guidance”, “Law”. The holiest scripture in Judaism. According to Jewish tradition, it was given by God to Moses. Also known as the Pentateuch – the five books, called the Law of Moses. In a broad sense, the whole of Jewish religious teaching.



Yom Kippur – Day of Forgiveness and Atonement. Central day of the Jewish calendar dedicated to penance, introspective balance, forgiveness and repentance. For this purpose, a total fast of 25 hours is practiced.

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