The Language of the Camps

The concentration camps had their own language. On this site, you 'll find words like "kapo", kommando" , etc... These words are typical from the concentration camps. You'll find on this page a list of the main words used in the camps by the inmates and the SS. Some of these words are a mix between German, Polish or Russian. Many of these words are brutal or rude slang.

A - B - C - D - E - F- G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - V - W - Z


Abort - Latrines
Abrücken - To leave
Achtung - Stand at attention, attention!
Achtzehn - 18, means danger. "Grosse achtzehn" - great danger
Antreten - To fall into line (for the roll-call, a control, a punishment...)
Appelplatz - Appeal Place. Often, it was the place where punished inmates were beaten or executed.
Arbeitskommando - Work team.
Arschficker - Homosexual (litteraly "ass fucker")
Arschtonne - Barrel full of excrements.
Artzmeldung - To go to the infirmary. It was always very dangerous because the SS often sent the ill inmates directly to the gas chamber...
Auffangslager - Transit camp.
Auffenthaltslager - Waiting camp. Some inmates stayed in these camps for a very long time.
Aufseherin - Woman SS Guard
Aufstehen - To stand up.
Augen links, rechts, gerade aus - turn head to left, to right, etc...
Austreten - To go to the latrines.
Aussenkommando - Work team working outside the camp during the day and coming back in the evening.

Appeal in Buchenwald


Baukommando - Work team in charge of the construction of new installations in the camp.
Baum - Instrument of torture at wich the prisoners were hanged with their hands lied in the back.
Baumhangen - The punition itself (see Baum)

"Baumhangen" in Dachau. The SS officer is Martin Sommer

Bettenbau - A way to make the bed following very strict rules.
Bettruhe - To rest in the bed.
Blaue Dragonen - Punished SS soldier (Dachau)
Bibelforscher - Jehovah Witnesses
Block - Barrack
Blockältester - The eldery inmate of the barrack, most of the time a criminal.
Blockfürher - SS in charge of a barrack.
Blockowa - Idem but for a woman
Blocksperre - "Forbidden to leave the barrack".
Blöde Hund - Stupid dog (SS insult)
Blutstrasse - Blood Street - a street in the camp built by inmates (Buchenwald)
Bock - Scaffold
Bombenkommando - Work team in charge of finding and destroying non-exploded bombs.
Bonza - Bonze, an important man, who has a good work.
Breikost - Special food served in the infirmary. Supressed at the end of the war.
Brotzei - Bread distribution.
B.V. - Abbreviation for "Berufsverbrecher", criminal.


Caracho - Russian word which means "good". It was used in Buchenwald with different meanings: "caracho-hund" was an insult and "mit caracho!" meant "faster"!
Carachoweg - Part of the road between the station and the entrance of Buchenwald. The SS beated the inmates on this road "mit caracho"...


Dreck - Shit, dunghill. Was used by the SS in a lot of insults ("dreckhund", "dreckjude", etc...)
Durch Kamin - "Through the chimney" (of the crematory): expression used by the SS for inmates who were in terminal stade of weakness (see "musulmann" and "lunatik").


Effektenkammer - Room where the personal effects of the inmates were stored.
Ehrenhäftling - Special prisoner. They were often political personalities of occupied countries or members of very important families. They were always separated from the others inmates and had better conditions of life.
Entlausung - To delouse
Entlausungskommando - Work team in charge of delousing other inmates.


Flucht - Escape. The SS often used the expression "auf der flucht erschossen" (killed during an escape attempt) when they shooted an inmate during the work.
Fluchtpunkt - A mark placed just over the triangle on the chest of an inmate who had previously tried to escape.
Fluchtverdächtig - Prisoner suspected of escaping.
Fünf-und-zwanzig - 25 knoks with a club. One of the most common punishment in the camps.


Entrance of a gas chamber in Auschwitz (photo taken in 1945)

Gaskammer - Gas chamber
Grüne - Green. Prisoner wearing a green triangle meaning that he is a real criminal. They were often in charge of the most important functions in the camps. Most of the time, these prisoners were sadistics and perverts.
Gummi - Club


Häftling - Inmate
Hausel - Inmate in charge of taking care of the installations.
Haupttor - Entry
Himmelfahrtkommando - Litterally "Ascension commando". In Auschwitz, it was the team in charge of bringing the corpses to the crematory. In Dachau, it was the team in charge of the non-exploded bombs. Very few of them survived.
Himmelkreuz und Wolkenbruch - SS insult.
Hinleggen - To fall on the ground during the "exercises" invented by SS: the inmates had to fall on the ground, then stand up and jump, again and again during hours. The inmate who was to weak to continue was immediately executed.
Hitlerowiec - Nazi
Hocker - A small wooden stool used in the barracks. It was often used by the SS for the hangings.
Holzschube - A wooden shoe. These shoes were a real nightmare for the inmates: after a few days, the feet were damaged and bleeding. To be injured meant that you were not able to work so the risk was great to be executed or sent to the gas chamber...
Hundert-fünf-und-siebzig - 175: homosexual wearing a pink triangle. (175 was the number of the German law against homosexuality)
Hüpfen - To jump. This was another punishment "exercise" invented by the SS
Hure - A prostitute.
Hurra, hurra, ich bin wieder da! - "Hourra, hourra, I'm back again!". The inmates who tried to escape and who were retrieved by the SS had to wear a board with these words written on it. There were always tortured then hanged.

The "Himmelfahrtkommando" in Auschwitz - drawing made by a survivor.


Invalide - Invalid
Invalidentrasport - Convoy sent directly to the gas chamber.


Jourhaus - Guard tower located near the entry of the camp
Jude - Jew
Judebrut - SS insult
Judenschule - "Jewish School". The SS used this expression when something was not in order: "Was ist das hier für eine Judenschule?"


Kamerad - Comrade, companion. The inmates always used this word when they were talking together. The French speaking survivors always use the familiar word "tu" (means "you") when they meet. It is nearly an offense not to do so.
Kaninchen - Rabbit. It was also used for the inmates who were used as cobaye for medical experiments by the SS.

A victim of medical experiments.

Kapo - A inmate in charge of a work team. Most of the time, they were real criminals. They were sadistics and pervert and ready to do anything in order to keep their position in the hierarchy of the camp.
Kartoffeln - Potato
Kasztan - German - used by Russian and Polish inmates.
Kautabak - Chewing tobacco
Kesselkolonne - Inmates in charge of bringing the food.
Klauen - To steal food from an other inmate.This was the worst thing you could do in a camp and it was never forgiven.
Kommando - Work team
Kommandofürher - SS in charge of a work team.
Kommando X - In Dachau, the inmates working in the crematories.
Kommunist - Communist (SS insult).
Kost - Food
Kostträgger - Inmates in charge of bringing the food.
Krematorium - Crematory.
Krematoriumhund - "Crematory Dog" (SS insult)
Kretiner - Idiot (SS insult)
Kretze - Scabies, really common in the camps.
Kübel - Chamber pot.
Kübelträger - Inmate who had to change and to clean the chamber pots.
Küche - kitchen
K.Z. or K.L. - Abbreviation for "Konzentrationslager", concentration camp.

A kommando in Flossenburg.


Lager - Camp
Lagerältester - Inmate who was responsible of the discipline in the camp, most of the time a criminal.
Lagerarzt - SS doctor of the camp. They often executed inmates by lethal injections of phenol.
Lagerfürher - SS officer responsible of the discipline in the camp.
Lagerkommandant - SS officer, commander of the camp.
Lagerlaufer - Delivery boy.
Lagerpolizei - Police of the camp composed by inmates. They were hated by the other inmates.
Lagerprominent - An inmate who had a good job.
Lagerschreiber - Inmate working on administrative jobs in the camp.
Lagerstrasse - Main street of the camp.
Laufschritt - At the double (military order). Every moves or work were done "im laufschritt" in the camps...
Laus - Louse
Lauseweg - "Louse street". The Russian and Polish inmates had a large line shaved on their head, from forehead to nape. This "line" was called the "louse street"
Lauskontrolle - Louse inspection. In several camps, an inmate having lice was immediately executed: "Eine Laus, der Todt" (A louse - your death).
Lausstunde - The laps of time allowed to the inmates for delousing.
Leichenkommando - Work team in charge of the corpses
Lied - Order to sing
Lunatik - Lunatic. This expression was used for inmates who were in a terminal state of weakness. They were unable to recognize anybody and were walking like ghosts in the camp. Most of the time, they died after two or three days


Mädchen - Girl; used for the homosexuals.
Miska - Mess-tin
Mist - dunghill - used as an insult by the SS ("mistjude", ...)
Mittagstunde - Midday breaktime. Some bread was distributed during this break.
Moor-express - (Dachau) wagon used for the transport of corpses to the crematory.
Muselmann - Muslim.This expression was used for inmates who were too weak for work. The next state was to be "Lunatik". The "muslims" died very fast.
Mütze - Cap
Mütze ab/Mütze auf - Cap on/cap off: an order given by the SS. When an inmate had to talk to a SS (always dangerous), he had to remove his cap first.

A "muselmann"


N.N. - Abreviation for "Nacht und Nebel" (Night and Fog). This was a special status for political prisoners. Nobody could know where they were jailed and their families had no news from them. They just vanished in the "night and fog".


Ochsenschwanzsuppe - Oxtail. This was ironicaly used to designate the "soup" served to the inmates (most of the time just warm water with some rotten vegetable floating...).
Organisieren - To steal the SS. Sentenced to death.


Parkouri - To smoke a cigarette
Pfahl - Torture: the prisoners were hanged with their hands lied in the back (see also "Baum")
Pfahlhangen - The punishment itself
Pfarrer - Priest (all religions)
Pfleger - Male nurse
Polak - Polish. SS insult
Polnischer Urlaub - "In holydays without his boss agreement" - SS expression used for a inmate who escaped.
Postenkette - The guard towers placed all around the camp
Politische Abteilung - SS Political Department. To be called to the Political department often meant torture and execution.
Politischer Häftling - Political prisoner
Premiënschein - "Good for a prime". Each time a SS killed an inmate, he was receiving a prime or some days off.
Prügel - Knocks
Puff - A barrack in the camp where the inmates had the possibility to meet prostitutes. Of course, the inmates were too weak to go to the "puff". It was only used by the SS and the "green triangle" (real criminals).


Quarantaine - Quarantine. In most of the camps, the new inmates were placed in quarantine during some weeks.


Rabota - To work
Revier - Infirmary. The infirmary was always a very dangerous place because the SS often sent the ill inmates directly to the gas chamber....
Rot - Red: political prisoner wearing a red triangle (communist).
Rollen - To roll on the ground (SS "exercise").
Rollwagen - Wagon.
Rühet euch! - Still!
Russe - Russian (SS insult)


Sago - A kind of food in the camps.
Sakrament, sakramenthund - Insult
Sau - idem.
Scheisserei - Diarrhea, common in the camps, was one of the common cause of death.
Scheissfransoze - Insult
Scheisskommando - Work team in charge of the cleaning of closets. It was a punishment.
Schmuckstück - Literally "Jewel". Expression used in Ravensbruck for the women in terminal state of weakness (see "Muslim" and "Lunatik" for men)
Schnupftabak - "snuff" tobacco also could be placed on one's mouth.
Schonung - Inmates who don't have to work.
Schreiber - Secretary. Most of the time a "green triangle".
Sicherheitsdienst SS - SS special security unit (S.D.).
Singen! - Sing! Order given by the SS during the work.
Sonderkost - Special food for the ill inmates. Everybody was talking about but nobody has ever seen it...
Sprengkommando - The work team in charge of the destruction of non-exploded bombs.
SS-kost - The food cooked for the SS. In Dachau, the inmates in charge of cooking this food often pissed in it...
Stillstehen - To stay still. It was a punishment and it was during hours and hours until the inmate fell on the ground. He was then immediatly shooted
Stink - To stink. Often used in insults by the SS.
Strafkompagnie - Punishment company.
Strasse - Street (see also "Lauseweg")
Station Z - In Sachsenhausen, the crematories and the gas chamber.
Stube - Chamber.
Stube-ältester - Inmate in charge of a chamber
Stube-dienst - Inmate in charge of the cleaning of the chamber.
Sztuba - Polish translation of "Stube"
Szkop, Szwab - Polish insults for "German".


Transport - Convoy, also RR train filled with people being sent to camps.

A "transport" arriving in Chelmno extermination camp.


Verbrecher - Criminal (green triangle)
Versuchskaninchen - Prisoner used for medical experiments.
Vorarbeiter - Foreman


Wachmann - SS guard
Walzkommando - Work team who had to pull a huge roller as a punishment.
Wäscherei - Laundry
Wasserkopf - SS insult
W.B. - Abreviation de "Wirtschafts Betriebe" (SS commercial company)

The "Walzkommando" in Ravensbrück: This is the roller the prisoners had to pull...


Zielonka - Soup made with grass. In several camps, the lack of food was so terrible that inmates often tried to eat grass...
Zimmerdienst - Inmates in charge of the chambers
Zivilkriegsgefangenenlager - Camps for civilians arrested during the war.
Zugangblock - Barrack where the new prisoners had to wait until they were assigned in a work team .