How many people died as a result of the war

Documentation of the numbers of victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution

introduction

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-supported persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that the Germans were "racially superior" and wanted to create a "racially pure" state. Jews who were classified as "inferior" were seen as a threat to the so-called German racial community.

During the time of the Holocaust, German authorities also persecuted and killed other groups, including sometimes children for their racial and biological inferiority, including Sinti and Roma, Germans with disabilities, and some Slavic peoples (especially Poles and Russians). Other groups were persecuted for political, ideological, and behavioral reasons, including communists, socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.

Because the Nazis advocated the killing of children of “undesirable” groups, children — especially Jewish and Roma children — were particularly at risk during the Holocaust.

Calculating the number of people killed as a result of Nazi policies is a major challenge. There is not a single document drawn up by the Nazi authorities showing how many people were killed in the Holocaust or World War II.

Since the 1940s, scientists, Jewish organizations and government agencies have used various records to compile statistics in order to be able to more accurately estimate the extent of human loss. This included German archives and archives of the Axis powers as well as documents from post-war investigations. The number of human casualties estimated can change at any time as more documents come to light or as scientists come to a better understanding of the Holocaust.

When trying to document the number of victims of the Holocaust, one thing above all must not be forgotten: nowhere in the world does an all-encompassing list of those who perished in it exist.

Below are the current most accurate estimates of the number of civilians and disarmed soldiers killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.

The estimates are based on war reports from those who implemented Nazi population policy, as well as demographic studies of population loss during World War II that were carried out after the war.

Number of deaths

groupNumber of deaths
Jews6 million
Soviet civiliansapprox. 7 million (including 1.3 Soviet-Jewish civilians who are included in the 6 million Jews)
Soviet prisoners of warapprox. 3 million (including around 50,000 Jewish soldiers)
Gentile Polish civiliansapprox. 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elite)
Serbian civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina)312.000
People with disabilities who were housed in institutionsup to 250,000
Sinti and Romaup to 250,000
Jehovah's Witnessesapprox. 1,900
Repeat offenders and so-called antisocialsat least 70,000
German political opponents and resistance fighters in areas occupied by the Axis powersindefinite
HomosexualsHundreds, probably thousands (possibly partly included in the above-mentioned 70,000 repeat offenders and so-called antisocials)

Jewish losses by place of death

With regard to the number of Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust, the following are the most accurate estimates by place of death:

Place of deathJewish losses
Auschwitz complex (including Birkenau, Monowitz, and subcamps)about 1 million
Treblinka 2approx. 925,000
Belzec434.508
Sobiborat least 167,000
Chelmno156,000 to 172,000
Shootings at various locations in central and southern Germany-occupied Poland (Generalgouvernement)at least 200,000
Shootings in western Poland annexed by the Germans (Wartheland district)at least 20,000
Deaths in other facilities called concentration camps by the Germansat least 150,000
Shootings and gas vans at hundreds of locations in the German-occupied Soviet Unionat least 1.3 million
Shootings in the Soviet Union (German, Austrian and Czech Jews who were deported to the Soviet Union)approx. 55,000
Shootings and gas vans in Serbiaat least 15,088
Shot or tortured to death in Croatia under the Ustaša regime23,000 to 25,000
Deaths in ghettosat least 800,000
Others1at least 500,000

Notes on documentation

No war document

There is not a single war document containing the estimates of Jewish deaths quoted above.

There are three main reasons for this, which are related to one another:

  1. The compilation of comprehensive statistics of the killed Jews by German authorities and authorities of other Axis Powers began between 1942 and 1943. The work was stopped again in the last year and a half of the war.
  2. When it became clear in early 1943 that they would lose the war, the Germans and their Axis allies destroyed much of the existing documentation. They also destroyed physical evidence of mass murder.
  3. Until the end of World War II and the Nazi regime, there was no one who was concerned with recording the number of Jewish deaths. The overall estimates were only calculated after the end of the war and are based on data on demographic losses and documents from the perpetrators. Although only available in fragments, these sources provide important figures from which calculations can be derived.

A single centrally controlled statistical survey of the number of Jews killed by German authorities survived the war. A copy of it was in the records that were secured by the US Army in 1945. In addition, several regionally collected data collections on Nazi atrocities after the Second World War were seized by US, British and Soviet armed forces. The USA, Great Britain and the Soviet Union sooner or later used most of these documents as evidence in criminal or civil proceedings against Nazi perpetrators.

Figures on Polish and Soviet civilians

As for the numbers of Polish and Soviet civilians, there are currently insufficient demographic tools that would allow historians to distinguish between:

  1. racial target persons
  2. People who were actually or supposedly active in the resistance
  3. People killed in retaliation for an act of resistance actually carried out or suspected by another person
  4. Losses due to so-called collateral damage during military operations

However, almost all deaths of Soviet, Polish and Serbian civilians in the course of military and anti-partisan operations had a racist background. German units carried out these operations with an ideologically motivated and deliberate disregard for civil life.

conclusion

For research and to understand the extent of the crimes, it is important to determine the number of victims. The order of magnitude is clear. And behind every number are individuals whose hopes and dreams have been shattered. It is important to name the victims in order to restore their individuality and dignity stolen by their murderers.

Note (1)
“Other” includes people who were killed in the following events: mass shootings in Poland in 1939-1940; as partisans in Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, France or Belgium; in Hungarian work detachments; in the context of anti-Semitic measures in Germany and Austria before the war; by the Iron Guard in Romania in 1940-1941; during evacuation marches from concentration camps and labor camps in the last six months of World War II. This also includes people who were tracked down and killed in hiding in Poland, Serbia and other parts of Germany-occupied Europe.

Last edited: May 17, 2019