World War II total death estimates vary significantly from source to source. This civilian and miltary deaths data is from the National WWII Museum located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Other estimates differ significantly based upon their methodology. Contributing factors to varying counts are as simple as when did WW2 start. Most western historians cite September 1, 1939, as the start of WW2. However, many others cite the Second Sino-Japanese War July 7, 1937, as the actual WW2 start date. Civilian deaths due to sickness or starvation may or may not be counted. Consensus for civilian deaths attributable to war versus other causes is less accurate than for military deaths. However, even the military death counts vary.
In all forty countries with a civilian and military death total of between 72 and 81 million. Twenty-two Allied countries sustained over 61 million civilian and military deaths. The Axis nations recorded almost 16 million and the neutral nations 1.2 million. The Soviet Union and China recorded 24 and 20 million deaths respectively. Germany recorded the third highest total at 8.8 million more than 5.5 million more than the next highest Axis nation, Japan.
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World War II Deaths
Civilians in WW2 died at a much higher rate than military personnel 55.6 million to 25.7 million respectively, or a 2.2 to one ratio. Civilian deaths in twenty-five nations represented more than fifty percent of all their WW2 deaths. Seven nations; China, the Soviet Union, Poland, Dutch East Indies, Germany, India, and French Indochina all logged more than one million civilian deaths with both Japan and the Philippines falling just short of that mark.
Germany systematically killed civilians by the millions. Exact numbers are unknown here are the estimates;
- six million Jews in the holocaust by massed shootings, forced labor, concentration camps, starvation, and disease,
- 7.4 million Soviet civilians mainly as retaliation to partisan attacks,
- another six million Soviet civilians due to forced labor, starvation, and disease in occupied regions,
- 250,000 Roma (Gypsies) via similar methods used on Jews
- homosexuals, disabled, and political opponents also targeted
Two theaters saw the most military deaths. Germany’s Eastern Front logged 10.7 million Soviet deaths and 5.5 million German deaths, and The Second Sino-Japanese War in China logged four million Chinese deaths and 2.1 million Japanese deaths. Most western observers thought that the Soviet Union would be quickly rolled over by the German Army. One reason that it was not is that Soviet citizens eventually saw German occupation as far worse than the Soviet status quo. Ousting the invader became a reason worth dying for and die they did. Military, partisans, and regular citizens fought in many ways to defeat the German invader.
Although major combatants, the United Kingdom and the United States suffered relatively low death counts. This reflected their strategic approach utilizing technology versus direct engagements. German infantry accused Americans of overusing using reconnaissance by fire and artillery versus traditional tactical maneuvers.
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World War 2 Total Civilian and Military Deaths Data
Source: The National WWII Museum, “Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II”, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war, Date accessed June 25, 2022.
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