A-F - G-K - L-R - S-Z

AB-Aktion (German: Außerordentliche Befriedungsaktion; English: Extraordinary Pacification Operation) — German term for Nazi German campaign during the World War II aimed at the organized extermination of Polish intellectuals and members of the upper class. Its main goal was to deprive Poles of political, intellectual and spiritual leadership. Germans started the operation in June of 1940 on the Nazi-occupied territory of the General Government (see below). They spread the operation to Poland’s eastern voivodeships (provinces of Poland) after they had been annexed in 1941. Members of the Polish political and cultural elite were among at least 6,500 victims of the operation, including Maciej Rataj, Marshal of the Sejm (Lower House of Polish Parliament), and Janusz Kusociński, an athlete and Olympic champion. (See also: Sonderaktion Krakau.)

Anchor (Polish: kotwica) — symbol of the Polish Underground State commonly used in sabotage actions during the German occupation. It appeared for the first time in Warsaw in March of 1943. It was selected by a secret contest organized by the Information and Propaganda Office. Patriotic appeal and simplicity of the design were taken into account, among other criteria. The symbol that won the contest had been designed by Anna Smoleńska, who was a scouting instructor and a student of the underground University of Warsaw. She was arrested in November of 1942 and died in Auschwitz.

Anti Semitism — an attitude, ideology or prejudice justifying hostility against the Jews. It can manifest in verbal or physical aggression; the holding and spreading of negative stereotypes and generalizations; as well as an overall bias against Jewish people.

Aryan papers — forged documents used by people of Jewish origin, which enabled them to leave the Jewish Ghetto and cross over to the "Aryan side."  The term "Aryan" came from Nazi ideology regarding race—Aryan people, who originated from Indo-European nations (Poles were included in this group), were perceived as a better race than non-Indo-European nations like Semites (including the Jews).

Ausweis — German word for an ID card confirming employment. It was issued by employers during WWII.

Collaboration  — voluntary cooperation with the occupiers.

Concentration camps — a network of camps built by the Germans to imprison and exploit through slave labor large groups of people who were considered the enemies of the Third Reich. Life expectancy was very short in concentration camps due to inhumane conditions and starvation. Concentration camps often served as a place for systematic mass extermination. The biggest and best known camps were: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, Majdanek, Mauthausen-Gusen, Ravensbrück and Stutthof.

Conferences of the Big Three — meetings of the anti-Nazi coalition leaders: US Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt (in Tehran and Yalta) and Harry Truman (in Potsdam); Great Britain’s Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and the Soviet Union’s Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party, Joseph Stalin. Tehran Conference, held from November 28 until December 1, 1943. During the meeting, agreements were reached regarding Poland’s new eastern borders along the so-called “Curzon line” (along the River Bug).

Yalta Conference, held from February 4 through 11, 1945. Here, decisions regarding the division of German territory into four occupied zones were reached. Poland lost its eastern territories, the so-called Kresy, to the Soviet Union and was compensated by territories that had been part of pre-war Germany, including West Pomerania, East Prussia and Silesia. The Big Three agreed to form the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity. Polish representatives were not invited to participate, and had no say over the outcome.

Potsdam Conference, held from July 17 until August 2, 1945. Its key resolution focused on assigning all responsibility for World War II on Germany and on the country’s demilitarization, denazification, democratization, decentralization and decartelization. The countries that had fallen victim of the war were to be financially compensated. Decisions were made to try and punish Nazi war criminals. Polish representatives at the conference included Bolesław Bierut, Edward Osóbka-Morawski, Stanisław Grabski, Stanisław Mikołajczyk, Wincenty Rzymowski and Michał Rola-Żymierski.

Conspiracy — illegal secret activities aimed at fighting the occupants, commonly called Underground activities.

Courier — a messenger between the Polish government-in-exile in London and Underground authorities in German-occupied Poland, whose main task was to carry important messages and secret documents. A courier was acquainted with the content of the documents he or she was carrying (compare: emissary).

Diversion (Polish: dywersja) — military actions aimed at damaging or destroying the enemy’s forces. The most common forms of subversion were: blowing up trains, damaging rail tracks, and attacking army and police posts. Other forms of subversion included: defensive actions (rescuing prisoners and eliminating informers), retaliation (the assassination of high-ranked SS and Gestapo officials), and obtaining provisions. (See also: chart of the Polish Underground State.)

Emissary  — a messenger, whose task was to ensure communication between the Polish government-in-exile in London and the leadership of the Polish Underground State. An emissary had the necessary accreditation for performing tasks of utmost importance. His/her mission was the only possible form of communication in wartime conditions. Part of an emissary’s responsibilities was to meet with political and military leaders on Polish territories and abroad. An emissary had access to secret orders and instructions (compare: courier).

Extermination—planned and systematic genocide (mass killing) of a specific ethnic, racial, religious or political group of people.

Extermination camps — a special type of Nazi camps the purpose of which was mass extermination of their prisoners, mainly Jews and the Roma (commonly referred to as Gypsies). Camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bełżec, Chełmno, Sobibór and Treblinka are considered the biggest extermination camps.

Final solution to the Jewish question (German: Endlösung) — the climactic phase of the extermination of Jews initiated in January of 1942. It resulted in the systematic killing of the Jews in mass executions and in gas chambers at extermination camps.

False papers  — form of ID often used by insurgents who changed their identity to make it more difficult for Germans to track them down. Jan Karski’s birth name was Jan Kozielewski. His wartime pseudonym prevailed, and he used it for the rest of his life.

Food stamps — food rationing coupons distributed by German authorities during WWII. They allowed the citizens to buy a small amount of food covered by these stamps such as bread, marmalade, potatoes, salt, flour, grits and others. The imposed quota fell far below human daily requirements. In 1941, for example, the daily calorie intake requirement for Poles was 669 calories and for the Jews, 253 calories (source:  T. Szarota, "Okupowanej Warszawy dzień powszedni"). The purpose of such drastic deficiencies was to annihilate the population.

Forced labor — one of the ways in which Germans “recruited” free labor for German industry and farming. It was also a means of terrorizing citizens of the countries occupied by the Third Reich.