The meaning of the German word Volk is of great consequence. Sometimes the interpretation of this single word makes all the difference between whether a particular statement from somebody like Heinrich Himmler does or does not appear to represent an intention to kill all Jews.
In English, people has two meanings. It can serve as the plural of person, or it can mean a nation or ethnic group. Volk in German also has these two meanings.
If Himmler says that dieses Volk (rendered in English as these people) must be killed, referring to a group of Jewish guerrillas who have been murdering German soldiers or civilians on the Eastern Front, that is very different from saying that dieses Volk, understood to mean this people, the entire Jewish people, must be killed.
Ultimately context must determine what exactly the word means, but quite often the Defenders of the Holocaust Faith choose to ignore context, reading poorly so that they may continue to claim that their story is true.
The Muret-Sanders Encyclopædic German-English Dictionary, an unabridged translating dictionary that is a little more than 100 years old, gives not just two but six possible meanings of Volk from which to choose.
1. The first meaning is “people” in the sense of an aggregation of persons, with a tendency to connote the common people or the masses. You see this meaning also reflected in the adjective volksarm — sparsely populated.
2. The second definition of Volk includes the word “nation.” This is the meaning that we customarily assume. But this particular use of the word cannot have been common before German nationalism was awakened in the early 19th century.
3. In the third definition we are told that Volk can designate a class of persons, like children (das kleine Volk) or women (ein wunderlich[es] Volk). Sometimes Volk in this sense is even applied to non-human species, as if birds, for example, were a class of humans.
4. Volk used in the plural Völker can refer collectively to a feudal lord’s servants.
5. Like the Latin word populus, it can mean all the men of appropriate age to serve in the country’s army, or it can mean the army itself. The plural Völker also can be used like the English word troops.
6. In reference to beasts and birds, Volk can mean troop, flock, swarm, covey, or bevy.