Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex

Work began in spring 1940 on a concentration camp at Auschwitz (Oświęcim), on the site of Polish barracks by then under German occupation. By 1944, Auschwitz and district had over 50 smaller and three larger camps. Auschwitz 1 (as Stammlager or main camp for enlisted prisoners was the main distribution and work-placement camp. Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau) was the extermination camp. Auschwitz 3 (Auschwitz-Monowitz) was the camp for German IG-Farben chemical workers. Long or short transfers to the camps were spent by many Waffen SS officers: there is evidence of 32 officers in the 8th SS cavalry and 3 in the 22nd SS cavalry doing so, with far larger numbers of soldiers. Some outside workers at the camp from summer 1944 were elderly Hungarians recruited in Hungary for the German SS. Provincial Hungarian Jews, some 437,000 in the summer of 1944, were deported there initially. About 80 per cent were murdered. The death total in the Auschwitz camps was 1.1–1.5 million.

State Protection Authority (ÁVH)

The name covered the communist/Stalinist secret service and political police. Initially it operated as a political police force, then as a state protection department, and from 10 September 1948 to 17 July 1953 as the State Protection Authority, before finally merging into the Interior Ministry. It was officially wound up during the 1956 Revolution, but with its defeat re-emerged as a main directorate of the Interior Ministry.

Imperial Work Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst)

This compulsory system of six months’ stints was set up under German law in 1935. During the war it became compulsory for women as well.

Börgermoor Concentration Camp

Börgermoor, one of the first concentration camps, was set up in June 1933 in the Emsland marshes near the Dutch border. It held up to 1000 detainees, who had to perform compulsory work.

Siege of Budapest

The Budapest siege was among the major Second World War operations and sieges . The Soviet armed forces date it under this name from 28 October 1944 to 13 February 1945. The operation accounted for half the Soviet losses in Hungary. The Soviet and Romanian attackers reached today’s city borders on 3 November 1944 and the borders at the time on 24 December 1944 (on the Buda side) and 30 December (on the Pest side). The city was surrounded by 24 December 1944. Civilian victims of the military operation and the Arrow-Cross terror numbered 38,000.

Cyclone B (Zyklon-B)

From 1922 onwards, several countries made insecticides that were also used to kill people in 1942–1944. Cyclone B was stored in airtight boxes and solid host material that contained hydrogen cyanide. When a box was opened at 26–28C, the cyanide was released as a gas that caused fatal damage to the cells of cold and hot-blooded animals and of humans. Germany produced 300–400 tonnes of it a year. The cost of a 1 kg was 4.5 Reichsmark. About a million people were killed by it.


The term was applied to dictatorial removal of unwanted persons without a court verdict.


Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, German Red Cross.

Ernst Kaltenbrunner (4.10.1903-16.10.1946)

As SS Senior Group Leader and police superintendent, Kaltenbrunner ran the Head Reich Security Division under Heinrich Himmler, head of the German Nazi secret service. The main war criminals were condemned to death in the Nuremberg Trials and executed.

Gassing Vehicle

This murderous contraption was employed from January 1940. Mass usage followed in the autumn of 1941, with victims herded into a closed area and killed by exhaust carbon monoxide. Several dozen such vehicles killed over 100,000 people in the Second World War.


The Secret State Police or Gestapo was formed after the Nazi takeover. Its manpower at the end of the war reached 31,000. From 1939 it operated under the Reich Security Division.

Ghetto, ghettoization

Even the medieval Jewish population could settle only in specific areas, which became Jewish quarters. A further contribution to closing off the communities came from the Jews’ need to follow religious precepts. Seclusion of this type dwindled in the 19th century, when the progressive equality of rights accorded to Jews left them free to move where they liked. From 1939, Jews were forced back into ghettos in territory occupied by Nazi Germany. The Second World War ghettos, unlike the medieval ones, had a temporary, not a permanent character. Retaining them for any long period was never considered.

Fanni Gyarmati (08.08.1912-15.02.2014)

Fanni Gyarmati was the widow of the Hungarian writer Miklós Radnóti and a stenographer. She was also on the staff of Budapest’s College of Theatre and Film, where she taught French and Russian. She took on no further public work after her husband’s death in November 1944.

Heinrich Himmler (07.10.1900-23.05.1945)

Himmler was an agronomist, who turned ultra-right politician in 1919 and joined the NSDAP in 1923. He was a founder SS member and its head from 1929. From 1933 he received several official postings (interior minister, commander of the Reserve Army, Reich commissioner for reinforcing the German population, etc., and became the strongest Nazi leader after Hitler. Directly under him was the Reich Security High Commission (RSHA). At the end of the war he changed into the uniform of a camp gendarme, but was arrested and recognized. He then committed suicide with a cyanide capsule.

Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend)

This voluntary organization until 1933 then became the body for mandatory paramilitary training. Its Hungarian equivalent was the Levente movement.

Miklós Horthy (18.06.1868-09.02.1957)

Originally a naval officer, he acted in 1920–1944 as Hungary’s head of state with governing powers.


The country became officially in 1933 the German Reich, then from 1941 the Great German Reich and semi-officially the Third Reich, though Hitler banned the last in 1941. It intimated that after troubled Weimar Republic decades, it had come as a successor of the Holy Roman Empire and German Empire.

Internment camp

An internment camp imposed a form of official forced labour on those who had committed no specific crime, but were seen by the authorities as potential criminals. The camps were seen as applying a milder set of conditions than a concentration camp.

Concentration camp

This type of camp, found generally in dictatorships, was pioneered by the British authorities in South Africa against the Boer population during the Second Boer War of 1899–1902. Such camps came to operate under all 20th-century dictatorships. Officially they were to utilise the labour of captives, but priority was often not given to its effective utilisation or even to retention of labouring ability. Many concentration camps turned into annihilation camps instead, under Nazi Germany and under the Soviet Union alike. Some such were built expressly for this, for instance in the Nazi sphere at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Belzec.

Mass murder at Lidice

The British secret service in spring 1942 carried out an assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, by then deputy head of the Bohemian-Moravian Protectorate, the remnant of the Czech area of Czechoslovakia after the March 1939 German occupation, and head of the High Office of Reich Security (RSHA). As revenge, Hitler ordered that all adult males of the village of Lidice, a total of 199 men be executed. Some women and children were shut into concentration camps, from where children could be adopted by German families. The Lidice mass murder was just one of many acts of Nazi terror against the Czech population.

Hungary’s Germans

Hungary’s first German settlers arrived in the 13th century, mainly in South Transylvania, mountainous Szepesség (Spiš), and the city of Buda. The second wave came during the Ottoman occupation (of the 16th–17th centuries), mainly to the Bánság and Bácska regions. In 1941 a total of 303,419 inhabitants within the present-day borders of Hungary called themselves Hungarian Germans (“Swabians”), while 490,449 including a proportion of the Jews, who had begun to arrive in sizeable numbers in the 19th century, gave German as their native language. The difference points also to strong assimilation. A 1944 agreement between the German and Hungarian states rendered the Hungarian Germans liable for their military service in the Wehrmacht and SS, irrespective of their actual native language or personal view of their status. By the end of 1945, some two-thirds of the surviving Hungarian Germans had left the country many against their will.

Labour service

Hungary placed Jewish and some other men of military age considered politically unreliable into this category of non-military service. The armed-forces leadership expected labour service for Jewish men to involve violent losses, but they were not entitled to decorations or preferences. In Germany, the entire male population was liable for labour service (see the section on Reich labour service).

National Indictment Organization (Nemzeti Számonkérő Szervezet)

This political investigatory body was drawn from the Gendarmerie by the Arrow-Cross government that arose on 15 October 1944. At its head was the Gendarmerie General Norbert Orendy. A section was active in Budapest during the siege.

Nazi Party (NSDAP)

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was founded in the Munich Hofbrauhaus (brewery) on 24 February 1920, and headed from 1921 by Adolf Hitler. Its initial programme was to crush the Versailles Treaty system, along with hatred of Jews and of large-scale capitalism.

Arrow-Cross Movement

The Arrow-Cross, Hungary’s far-right political movement, was created largely by Ferenc Szálasi. Various attempts to ban it led to changes of name. On 15 October 1944, Szálasi took power with German aid and assumed the headship of state under the self-ordained title of National Leader.

Posen (Poznań) Conference

On 4 October 1943 in Posen Town Hall, Heinrich Himmler became chief of SS 92, and on 6 October ended a one-day conference with speeches to the several hundred political leaders present. In these he spoke openly of annihilating all Jews in the whole territory under German rule. The first Posen speech remains in sound, as does the original minute of the second authorized by Himmler.

Miklós Radnóti (05.05.1909-4-9.10.1944)

Among Hungary’s premier 20th-century poets, Radnóti was called several times for labour service at the Bor copper mine in Serbia. He was killed by guards during a retreat from there.


The national parliament building was opened in Berlin in 1894. It caught fire on 28 February 1933 under still uncertain conditions. The Nazis blamed the Communist Party. The damage was not restored until the end of the war. Up to 1944, the formal German parliament met in the nearby Krolloper building.


The term covers state-run voluntary returns of a population or group to its native land.

Joachim von Ribbentrop (30.04.1893-16.10.1946)

A wine merchant, he had himself adopted in 1925 by a distant relation so that he could use his noble rank. In 1932, he joined the NSDAP and became Hitler’s foreign-policy adviser. He served as German ambassador in London in 1936–1938, then as Reich foreign minister.

Reich Main Security Office (RSHA)

The Reich or Imperial Main Security Office was top among the Nazi organizations of oppression – one of twelve main SS offices which arose by merging the security police (Sicherheitspolizei) with the SS Intelligence Service (Sicherheitsdienst, SD). The former consisted of the secret state police (Geheime Staatspolizei, Gestapo) and the contingents of the criminal police.


The Sturmabteilung (SA, shock troops) was a semi-military body of the NSDAP. It was important mainly before 1933 as a body preparing for the Nazi takeover.

Sátoraljaújhely prison revolt

On 22 March 1944, a prisoner group at Sátoraljaújhely Judicial Jail, consisting mainly of anti-fascist opposition and political prisoners, began a pre-arranged series of escapes that ended on 6 April when the last escapees were captured and a summary court was convened. During the revolt, 49 men lost their lives and another 11 were sentenced to death and executed.


The Defence Squad or SS was formed in 1925 as an internal defence body of the NSDAP. Headed by Himmler it gained its own uniform and system of ranks. In 1935 it split into three parts: SS-Verfügungstruppe (later Waffen-SS) as an armed military body, Allgemeine SS as a socially representative body, and the SS dead-hand groups (SS-Totenkopfverbände) as a socially representative body that gained guard tasks round the concentration camps.

Ferenc Szálasi (06.01.1897-12.03.1946)

A regular army officer and politician, Szálasi served from 1915 in the 3rd Tyrol Hornbill Regiment. Retiring on 1 March 1935, he then headed the Iron-Cross political movement. He was convicted several times and spent 1938–1940 in prison. He took power with German aid on 15 October 1944 as National Leader. The post-war People’s Court sentenced him death and had him executed.

Tiszalök internment camp

The camp was founded at the start of 1950 to intern Hungarian captives repatriated as Soviet prisoners of war. A similar camp opened at Kazincbarcika. These were abolished in summer 1953 by the post-Stalinist prime minister Imre Nagy.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Warsaw Ghetto was laid out in October 1940 with an initial input of 550,000 Jews. By the end of 1942, some 300,000 had left from there for death camps and several tens of thousands died there of hunger or lack of medical care. The uprising began at the end of 1943 by blocking deportations and rose to an armed uprising between 16 April and 16 May. About 700 scarcely armed Jews fought over 2000 SS men and police. SS commander Jürgen Stroop, who put down the uprising, blew up Warsaw’s great synagogue on 16 May to mark an “official” defeat. In fact, scattered acts continued to cause losses to the local Warsaw German guard for more than another six months.

Versailles Treaty system

The Versailles peace treaties ended the First World War in a legal sense. Treaties were signed by Germany on 28 June 1919, Austria on 10 September 1919, Bulgaria on 27 November 1919 and Hungary on 4 June 1920. Though a winning power, the US refused to sign the Versailles treaties and reached separate agreements with the losing powers. The Soviet Union refused to sign the agreements or recognize their validity.

Righteous Among the Nations

Israel since 1963 has awarded over 27,000 awards to those who assisted Jews in the danger period at their own risk. Up to 2018, 861 recipients were Hungarian citizens.


The Volksbund (in full: Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn) was a body representing the interests of Hungary’s Germans. Its leader was elected by the membership subject to Hungarian Interior Ministry approval. Almost a third of Hungary’s Germans were Volksbund members for a shorter or longer period. It suffered internal divisions from the outset. The Germans of Transylvania and the South Country followed wholly Nazi methods in attaching themselves to the reduced Hungary’s Volksbund and trying to cooperate with it in the country’s reduced area. From 1941, the Volksbund increasingly served German interests and played a big part in conscripting Hungary’s Germans.


This body took over from the armed SS and SS-Verfügungstruppe (Dispositional Troops) in 1939, drawing on Hitler’s personal guard, the thousand-strong Verfügungstruppe and the Death’s Head formations (SS-Totenkopfverbände). It steadily grew during the war to a strength of 900,000. By the end of the war, most were not volunteers or originally German citizens. Altogether 37 divisions were formed, with Hungarian citizens serving mainly in Nos 8, 18, 22, 25, 26, 33 and 37.


This was the official name of the German Reich Army from 1933 to 1945.