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World War Two

Edited By:  Robert A. Guisepi

Date 2001

World War Two Casualties

Killed, wounded, prisoners, or missing.

 

The statistics on World War II casualties are inexact. Only for the United States and the British Commonwealth can official figures showing killed, wounded, prisoners or missing for the armed forces be cited with any degree of assurance. For most other nations, only estimates of varying reliability exist. Statistical accounting broke down in both Allied and Axis nations when whole armies were surrendered or dispersed. Guerrilla warfare, changes in international boundaries, and mass shifts in population vastly complicated postwar efforts to arrive at accurate figures even for the total dead from all causes.

Civilian deaths from land battles, aerial bombardment, political and racial executions, war-induced disease and famine, and the sinking of ships probably exceeded battle casualties. These civilian deaths are even more difficult to determine, yet they must be counted in any comparative evaluation of national losses. There are no reliable figures for the casualties of the Soviet Union and China, the two countries in which casualties were undoubtedly greatest. Mainly for this reason, estimates of total dead in World War II vary anywhere from 35,000,000 to 60,000,000--a statistical difference of no small import. Few have ventured even to try to calculate the total number of persons who were wounded or permanently disabled.

However inexact many of the figures, their main import is clear. The heaviest proportionate human losses occurred in eastern Europe where Poland lost perhaps 20 percent of its prewar population, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union around 10 percent. German losses, of which the greater proportion occurred on the Eastern Front, were only slightly less severe. The nations of western Europe, however great their suffering from occupation, escaped with manpower losses that were hardly comparable with those of World War I.  In East Asia, the victims of famine and pestilence in China are to be numbered in the millions, in addition to other millions of both soldiers and civilians who perished in battle and bombardment.

The Table contains what appear to be the best available statistics on armed forces casualties of all types resulting from battle, of civilian deaths from war-related causes, and estimated total deaths in each of the major nations involved in World War II. Figures rounded to thousands (and this device has been employed in all cases for total deaths) are estimates of varying reliability while omissions in any category indicate that any estimate would be the wildest of conjectures. Estimated casualties of resistance movements have been included in military figures, other victims of Nazi persecution in the civilian ones. In the latter category fall about 5,700,000 Jews, more than half of them from Poland, who died in Nazi concentration and death camps