N.B. because so much of this mortality was criminal, this thread should stay here and not in the Eastern Front forum.
N.B. also, the total of excess deaths is a demographic constant - the only way to un-kill these people is to point to significant emigration or population displacement. Since there are both Nazi and Soviet crimes included here, scepticism about one has to be met with sourced explanation as to why the missing mortality belongs in another category. This is for once ultimately a zero-sum game.
The best demographic study indicates a total of 26.6 million excess deaths in the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945
A Population as of 22.6.41 196.7 million
B Population as of 31.12.45 170.5 million
C Population of A alive as of 31.12.45 159.5 million
D Population decline 37.2 million
E Normal deaths at 1940 rates 11.9 million
F Excess deaths 25.3 million
G Excess deaths of children born in war 1.3 million
H Total 26.6 million
known as the ADK study to Wheatcroft, Ellman, Maksudov and other experts cited above and elsewhere.
The 31.12.45 borders were not precisely identical with those of 22.6.41. Noticeable depopulations occurred from the flight of Finns and Japanese (720,000), as well as Germans from Koenigsberg (Kaliningrad oblast) = 1.157 million. Some territory which was Soviet on 22.6.41 was transferred to Poland (Bialystok district). I don't have the figures so let us assume they more or less cancel each other out. There were other population displacements (which I refer to at the end) which may have reduced the demographic death toll
of the 26.6. million deaths, about 10 million appear to be military losses and 16.6 million civilian losses.
the following are recognised as military deaths including POWs, also including NKVD frontier forces:
8.668 million minimum.
- 5.227 million killed in action
- 1.103 million died of wounds
- 0.556 million nonbattle deaths of which 267,000 disease, 289,000 accidents and executions
= 6.886 million
- 3.396 million missing in action
- 1.163 million unaccounted losses in first six months
= 11.444 million
- 0.940 million reconscripted from liberated territories, escaped from encirclement (okruzhentsy)
- 1.836 million POWs returned at end of war
= 2.776 million missing in action refound
= 8.668 million absolute fatal losses
This figure of 8.668 million is an underestimate of mortality among POWs by about 1 million, since adding the missing in action plus 'unrecorded losses in 1941', subtracting those returning from captivity, one ends up with 1.7 million, but the real figure for POW deaths based on German statistics is closer to 3 million.
Not included in the Soviet military registry statistics are 500,000 conscripts who simply vanished before reaching their units. Most likely the conscripts were taken prisoner on top of a further 500,000 civilians of military age.
Christian Streit, Keine Kameraden, calculates that 3.3 million of a total 5.7 million captured by the Germans died in captivity.
The number of 5.7 million stems from Gehlen's Fremde Heere Ost. The OKW POW Department spoke of 5.6 million Soviet POWs in December 1944. While the Germans inflated their prisoner claims to some degree, the figure of 5.7 million captured is not incompatible:
- 3.396 million missing in action
- 1.163 million unaccounted losses in first six months, presume most taken prisoner
- 0.5 million conscripts never arriving with units
- 0.5 million military age males never conscripted taken prisoner
= 5.559 million, less unknown number killed in action from unaccounted losses.
Alfred Streim calculates 2.53 million deaths among Soviet POWs out of 5.2 million, without explaining why he rejects the FHO and OKW POW Department figures.
All these things considered, one can point to a certain German inflation of POW numbers and possibly also to a Soviet massaging down of missing in action, but neither side's figures are wholly incompatible with each other, especially when one adds in the reservists and military-age men captured before being registered in their units during 1941. These latter phenomena are amply documented in the German files, BTW.
I split the difference between Streim and Streit, tending towards Streim to account for 'ghost' prisoners claimed in the Monty Haul encirclements, to come to a figure of 2.7 million Soviet POWs and civilian military-age men treated as prisoners of war, dying in German captivity.
Other Military Deaths
Not included are auxiliary organisations (railways, militia). Let us estimate at least 100,000 losses among paramilitaries from combined battle casualties and imprisonment, neither included in the above figures.
One must also add losses of those Soviet civilians who joined German military service as Hiwis, Schumas, Osttruppen, Baltic and Galician SS divisions, not all of whom were former prisoners of war. I would estimate at least 200,000 such deaths.
Thus I proceed with a rounded 10 million military and POW death toll. This is also the death toll advanced by Dmitri Volkogonov, and other historians.
It's dimly possible that some of the RKKA casualty data has been massaged for political reasons, but not to a vast extent, the ebb and flow of casualties recorded in Krivosheev's work fits the known operational history of the Eastern Front very well, with the exception of the early 1941 battles, for which Krivosheev's team has however highlighted the extra 1.103 million, which seems right.
Naturally, those wishing to claim higher military losses have to lower their estimates for civilian losses.
Logically, these should equal 16.6 million.
Not all were caused by the Germans, nor can all be blamed on one side or another exclusively.
The single largest and best documented proportion of this figure are those Soviet citizens shot, gassed, hung or burnt to death by German and Romanian occupation forces. 6 million is the figure given by the Soviet Extraordinary Commission investigations, >2.8 million of whom were Jews, 3.2+ million non-Jews. My earlier figures in another thread abstracted out Jewish deaths and placed them under the Holocaust rubric. (Sources: Polian, Liudskie poteri SSSR v VOV)
A second well documented group are the victims of the siege of Leningrad - 800 to 900,000 depending on source used.
On the Soviet side of the front, 622,000 deaths in the GULag system can be documented precisely.
Also on the Soviet side of the front, hundreds of thousands died from among deportees. Combined number of deportations (Poles, Chechens, Volga Germans etc) from 1940-1945 is 2.725 million, most but not all survived. (Polian) Let us assume for the moment at least 400,000 to take the combined GULag-deportation death toll during the war to over 1 million. This figure is already included in the above totals for GULag/deportation mortality; the greatest mortality within the GULag and places of exile occurred during the war.
Executions: 42,149 executions for political offenses between 1941 and 1945, plus 22,572 for criminal offences = 64,721 executions, excluding those of military personnel which are buried in 'nonbattle losses' included above.
- 9.8 million Red Army men and POWs killed or died in captivity (incl executions, nonbattle accidents etc)
- 200,000 Soviet civilian volunteers for German service killed
- 622,000 GULag inmates died
- 64,721 civil executions for political and criminal offences
- 900,000 victims of the siege of Leningrad
- 6 million victims of shootings, gassings, hangings (Jews and non-Jews) under occupation
plus at least 400,000 deaths among deportees (could be higher)
= 18 million
The Difficult Areas
Deaths among Soviet civilian Ostarbeiter as well as Soviet civilians deported to KZs remain unknown precisely. Of 3 million deported, up to 40% did not return to some provinces. Some Ostarbeiter were able to relabel themselves Poles, especially Ukrainians, but note that many were evacuated by the Germans and thus do not appear in the 3 million Ostarbeiter figure. Ditto from the Baltic states. There was noticeable mortality among Ostarbeiter, but for example only 15,000 were recorded as dying by the Germans in 1943. This was significantly better than in 1942 (for which no figures as yet), and would have worsened drastically in 1944 and especially in 1945. Arrests among Ostarbeiter which could lead to being sent to a KZ were considerable, but no sense of a reliable breakdown has yet come forth. There were a great many deportations to KZs direct from the occupied territories. An average of 100 Ostarbeiter a month were killed in air-raids, thus at least 4,000 died in this way.
Taken together, we are definitely talking several 100,000 deaths among Ostarbeiter and Soviet civilian KZ victims, but how many is unknown. The high non-returning rate is the most significant feature, these people either died or remained behind.
Best estimate (Shevyakov, Polian) is that no more than 500,000 succeeded in emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1945, this includes Balts, Ukrainians, Poles from western Belorussia etc. Repatriation was vigorously enforced for all those who came from the pre-1939 borders, for others it was possible to claim Polish etc citizenship. Note that the majority of this half a million were not necessarily included in the 3 million Ostarbeiter number for deportations, they included e.g. privileged collaborators evacuated by the Germans, not counted by Soviet deportation figures.
So let us assume 800,000:
- 500,000 not returning to Soviet Union (collaborators, Ostarbeiter, Poles, Balts, Ukrainians emigrating, KZ inmate-DPs)
- up to 300,000 Ostarbeiter and Soviet inmates of German KZs died
= compatible with known repatriation data.
Deaths under German occupation from starvation and disease has been estimated by one Russian historian as either
6.5 or 8.5 million (Shevyakov 1991, 1992). The logic of these figures, which came from glasnost era, is that they of course preclude the possibility of any deaths on the Soviet side of the front. This is obviously flawed. Equally, to place 6 or 8 million deaths from disease and starvation exclusively onto Soviet controlled territory is implausible. This would imply a famine on the scale of 1933 with very little confirmation or even a picture of where in the Soviet Union it occurred.
There was, however, considerable mortality among evacuees in 1941-2, resulting from the hasty transfer of workforces and populations to the east. About this we still know exceedingly little.
An unknown number of deaths must be ascribed to so-called collateral damage - bombs, shells, stray bullets, unintended military action which killed civilians. Though both sides tried to evacuate the frontline areas they also both used extensive civilian labour forces within artillery range, never mind that of airpower. Refugee columns were machine-gunned, Moscow bombed, Minsk set afire by the Luftwaffe, while civilians remained in Stalingrad throughout the siege. Given this was the largest land war in human history, one would expect massive civilian casualties from collateral damage.
So the remaining 7.8 million is a set of three estimates and split-the-difference:
- 1-2 million civilians killed by military action
- around 3 million civilians dying of starvation and disease under German occupation
- up to 3 million civilians dying of disease, hunger and exhaustion on Soviet territory (especially evacuees)
Finally, one must add in victims of Soviet underground and partisan movements as well as victims of the Polish-Ukrainian mutual ethnic cleansings especially in Volhynia. These will account for much of the balance remaining after the figures above. The latter is in the hundreds of thousands, the former in the tens of thousands of civilian collaborators and bystanders killed. Further to be added to this category would be NKVD repressions in western Belorussia, western Ukraine and the Baltic States in 1944 and 1945. This would be AFAIK in the tens of thousands killed in anti-nationalist partisan actions (again factored into the figure for Stalinist executions).
Of the above, 'Soviet crimes' caused over 1 million deaths (already factored onto the Stalin side above), Soviet warfare killed 200,000 of its own citizens in enemy uniform, Soviet wartime chaos may have caused up to 3 million more civilian deaths, plus military nonbattle deaths (556,000) plus a certain number of the deaths from collateral damage by bombing their own population on the German side of the front. Total, under 5 million, of whom only 20% can be deemed deliberate.
The Germans inflicted 9.2 million military deaths and caused directly or indirectly around 12 million civilian deaths, incorporating killings, indirect methods, and collateral damage. Total, more than 21 million.
Poles and Ukrainians succeeded in killing thousands of each other in an almost entirely separate war.
Finally, some reduction of the overall death toll arrived at through demographic means may be adduced from population movements, e.g. resettlement of Poles from western Belorussia and Ukraine in 1944-45, the aforementioned expulsions of Finns, Japanese and Germans, plus the non-returning Ostarbeiter, KZ inmates and also a number of Jewish refugees from eastern Poland who went west before the end of 1945. This reduction, which is difficult to estimate offhand, would of course be taken directly from the numbers deemed to have died of disease and starvation on either side of the front.
Hard Data, Estimates and Guesstimates
- 9.244 million Soviet military deaths incl POWs*
- 556,000 Soviet military nonbattle deaths*
- 200,000 Soviet civilian volunteers for German service killed
- 622,000 GULag inmates died*
- 64,721 civil executions for political and criminal offences*
- estimated 400,000 deaths among 2.75 million deportees
- > 3 million deaths in Soviet controlled territory from disease, hunger, exhaustion (esp. evacuees)
- estimated 100,000 killed in Polish-Ukrainian conflicts, by NKVD in 1944-45 in reannexed territories, etc.
- 900,000 victims of the siege of Leningrad*
- 6 million victims of shootings, gassings, hangings (Jews and non-Jews) under Axis occupation*
- > 3 million deaths in Axis occupied territory from disease, hunger, exhaustion
- 300,000 deaths among Ostarbeiter and Soviet inmates of German KZs
- 500,000 not returning to Soviet Union (collaborators, Poles, Balts, Ukrainians emigrating, KZ inmate-DPs)
total 25.472 million
- 1.128 million or more deaths from collateral damage
total 26.6 million
- unknown number displaced out of Soviet territory during population exchange programs in 1944-45
* = hard data with chronological/regional breakdowns from source below.
Polyan, Pavel, Ne po svoei vole – istoriia i geografiia prinuditel’nykh migratsii v SSR. Moscow, OGI-Memorial, 2001
English edition as Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR. Budapest/New York, 2004
Polyan, Pavel, Zhertvy dvuch diktatur. Zhizhn’, trud, unizhenie i smert’ sovetskikh voennoplennykh i ostarbeiterov na chuzhbine i na rodine. Moscow, 2002
Rossiia i SSSR v voinakh XX Veka. Poteri vooruzhenykh sil. Statistcheskoe issledovanie. G.F. Krivosheev (ed). Moscow, 2001. Earlier edition in English as Krivosheev, G.F (ed), Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. London, 1997
Streit, Christian, Keine Kameraden. Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941-1945. Bonn, 1991
Liudskie poteri SSR v Velikoi Otechestvennnoi voine. Sankt-Petersburg 1995
Berkhoff, Karel C., Harvest of Despair. Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule. London, 2004
Further Reading Online
most of the 1990s journal exchanges between Wheatcroft, Getty et al vs Conquest, Keep and Rosefielde on GULag and repression deaths can be found here;
Russian readers can find more from Memorial website, online books, esp. Polian and book on repression of Poles:
More unpublished papers at
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/econo ... ive/persa/
Russian-language academic history works via pdf
http://www.auditorium.ru/p/index.php?a= ... pline_id=2
Pavel Polian, Against Their Will
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASI ... 41-0259058
Russian version on-line: