World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history in absolute terms of total casualties. Over 60 million people were killed, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion). The tables below give a detailed country-by-country count of human losses. World War II fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total deaths ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million. The higher figure of over 80 million includes deaths from war-related disease and famine. Civilians killed totalled 50 to 55 million, including 19 to 28 million from war-related disease and famine. Total combat deaths: from 21 to 25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war.
- Classification of casualties
- Total deaths
- Nazi Germany
- Holocaust deaths
- Jewish deaths
- Non Jews persecuted and killed by Nazi and Nazi affiliated forces
- Japanese war crimes
- Oppression in the Soviet Union
- Military casualties by branch of service
- Commonwealth military casualties
Recent historical scholarship has shed new light on the topic of Second World War casualties. Research in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union has caused a revision of estimates of Soviet WW2 fatalities. According to Russian government figures, USSR losses within postwar borders now stand at 26.6 million. In August 2009 the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) researchers estimated Poland's dead at between 5.6 and 5.8 million. Historian Rüdiger Overmans of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office published a study in 2000 that estimated the German military dead and missing at 5.3 million, including 900,000 men conscripted from outside of Germany's 1937 borders, in Austria, and in east-central Europe. The People's Republic of China puts its war dead at 20 million, while the Japanese government puts its casualties due to the war at 3.1 million
Classification of casualties
Compiling or estimating the numbers of deaths caused during wars and other violent conflicts is a controversial subject. Historians often put forward many different estimates of the numbers killed during World War II. The authors of the Oxford Companion to World War II maintain that "casualty statistics are notoriously unreliable." The table below gives data on the number of dead for each country, along with population information to show the relative impact of losses. When scholarly sources differ on the number of deaths in a country, a range of war losses is given, in order to inform readers that the death toll is disputed. Since casualty statistics are sometimes disputed the footnotes to this article present the different estimates by official governmental sources as well as historians. Military figures include battle deaths (KIA) and personnel missing in action (MIA), as well as fatalities due to accidents, disease and deaths of prisoners of war in captivity. Civilian casualties include deaths caused by strategic bombing, Holocaust victims, German war crimes, Japanese war crimes, population transfers in the Soviet Union, Allied war crimes, and deaths due to war related famine and disease.
The sources for the casualties of the individual nations do not use the same methodologies, and civilian deaths due to starvation and disease are not given for Japan, Germany and several other highly stressed populations. The losses listed here are actual deaths; hypothetical losses due to a decline in births are not included with the total dead. The distinction between military and civilian casualties caused directly by warfare and collateral damage is not always clear-cut. For nations that suffered huge losses such as the Soviet Union, China, Poland, Germany, and Yugoslavia, sources can give only the total estimated population loss caused by the war and a rough estimate of the breakdown of deaths caused by military activity, crimes against humanity and war-related famine. The casualties listed here include 19 to 25 million war-related famine deaths in the USSR, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, India that are often omitted from other compilations of World War II casualties. The footnotes give a detailed breakdown of the casualties and their sources, including data on the number of wounded where reliable sources are available.
The estimated breakdown for each Soviet Republic of total war dead ^AY4
The source of the figures is Vadim Erlikman. Poteri narodonaseleniia v XX veke: spravochnik. Moscow, 2004. ISBN 5-93165-107-1. pp 21–35. Erlikman, a Russian historian, notes that these figures are his estimates.
Included in the figures of total war dead for each nation are victims of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is the term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II. Martin Gilbert estimates 5.7 million (78%) of the 7.3 million Jews in German occupied Europe were Holocaust victims. Estimates of Holocaust deaths range between 4.9 and 5.9 million Jews.
Statistical breakdown of Jewish dead:
The figures for the pre-war Jewish population and deaths in the table below are from The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. The low, high and average percentage figures for deaths of the pre-war population have been added.
Non-Jews persecuted and killed by Nazi and Nazi-affiliated forces
Some scholars maintain that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the other victims persecuted and killed by the Nazis.
The following figures are from The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, the authors maintain that "statistics on Gypsy losses are especially unreliable and controversial. These figures (cited below) are based on necessarily rough estimates".
Japanese war crimes
Included with total war dead are victims of Japanese war crimes.
Oppression in the Soviet Union
The total war dead in the USSR includes victims of Soviet oppression. The number of deaths in the Gulag labor camps increased as a result of wartime overcrowding and food shortages. The Stalin regime deported the entire populations of ethnic minorities considered to be potentially disloyal. Since 1990 Russian scholars have been given access to the Soviet-era archives and have published data on the numbers of people executed and those who died in Gulag labor camps and prisons. The Russian scholar Viktor Zemskov puts the death toll from 1941–1945 at about 1 million based on data from the Soviet archives. The Soviet-era archive figures on the Gulag labor camps has been the subject of a vigorous academic debate outside Russia since their publication in 1991. J. Arch Getty and Stephen G. Wheatcroft maintain that Soviet-era figures more accurately detail the victims of the Gulag labor camp system in the Stalin era. Robert Conquest and Steven Rosefielde have disputed the accuracy of the data from the Soviet archives, maintaining that the demographic data and testimonials by survivors of the Gulag labor camps indicate a higher death toll. Rosefielde posits that the release of the Soviet Archive figures is disinformation generated by the modern KGB. Rosefielde maintains that the data from the Soviet archives is incomplete; for example, he pointed out that the figures do not include the 22,000 victims of the Katyn massacre. Rosefielde's demographic analysis puts the number of excess deaths due to Soviet repression at 2,183,000 in 1939–40 and 5,458,000 from 1941–1945. Michael Haynes and Rumy Husun accept the figures from the Soviet archives as being an accurate tally of Stalin's victims, they maintain that the demographic data depicts an underdeveloped Soviet economy and the losses in World War Two rather than indicating a higher death toll in the Gulag labor camps.
In August 2009 the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) researchers estimated 150,000 Polish citizens were killed due to Soviet repression. Since the collapse of the USSR, Polish scholars have been able to do research in the Soviet archives on Polish losses during the Soviet occupation. Andrzej Paczkowski puts the number of Polish deaths at 90,000–100,000 of the 1.0 million persons deported and 30,000 executed by the Soviets. In 2005 Tadeusz Piotrowski estimated the death toll in Soviet hands at 350,000.
The Estonian State Commission for the Examination of Repressive Policies Carried out During the Occupations put civilian deaths due to the Soviet occupation in 1940–1941 at 33,900 including (7,800 deaths) of arrested people, (6,000) deportee deaths, (5,000) evacuee deaths, (1,100) people gone missing and (14,000) conscripted for forced labor. After the reoccupation by the U.S.S.R., 5,000 Estonians died in Soviet prisons during 1944–45.
The following is a summary of the data from the Soviet archives:
Reported deaths for the years 1939–1945 1,187,783, including: judicial executions 46,350; deaths in Gulag labor camps 718,804; deaths in labor colonies and prisons 422,629.
Deported to special settlements: (figures are for deportations to Special Settlements only, not including those executed, sent to Gulag labor camps or conscripted into the Soviet Army. Nor do the figures include additional deportations after the war).
Deported from annexed territories 1940–41 380,000 to 390,000 persons, including: Poland 309–312,000; Lithuania 17,500; Latvia 17,000; Estonia 6,000; Moldova 22,842. In August 1941, 243,106 Poles living in the Special Settlements were amnestied and released by the Soviets.
Deported during the War 1941–1945 about 2.3 million persons of Soviet ethnic minorities including: Soviet Germans 1,209,000; Finns 9,000; Karachays 69,000; Kalmyks 92,000;Chechens and Ingush 479,000; Balkars 37,000; Crimean Tatars 191,014; Meskhetian Turks 91,000; Greeks, Bulgarians and Armenians from Crimea 42,000; Ukrainian OUN members 100,000; Poles 30,000.
A total of 2,230,500 persons were living in the settlements in October 1945 and 309,100 deaths were reported in special settlements for the years 1941–1948.
Russian sources list Axis prisoner of war deaths of 580,589 in Soviet captivity based on data in the Soviet archives (Germany 381,067; Hungary 54,755; Romania 54,612; Italy 27,683; Finland 403, and Japan 62,069). However some western scholars estimate the total at between 1.7 and 2.3 million.
Military casualties by branch of service
- The number killed in action was 2,303,320; died of wounds, disease or accidents 500,165; 11,000 sentenced to death by court martial; 2,007,571 missing in action or unaccounted for after the war; 25,000 suicides; 12,000 unknown; 459,475 confirmed POW deaths, of whom 77,000 were in the custody of the U.S., UK and France; and 363,000 in Soviet custody. POW deaths includes 266,000 in the post-war period after June 1945, primarily in Soviet captivity.
- Rüdiger Overmans writes "It seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that one half of the 1.5 million missing on the eastern front were killed in action, the other half (700,000) however in fact died in Soviet custody".
- Soviet sources list the deaths of 474,967 of the 2,652,672 German Armed Forces POW taken in the war.
- Estimated total Soviet military war dead from 1941–45 on the Eastern Front (World War II) including missing in action, POWs and Soviet partisans range from 8.6 to 10.6 million. There were an additional 127,000 war dead in 1939–40 during the Winter War with Finland.
- The official figures for military war dead and missing from 1941–45 are 8,668,400 comprising 6,329,600 combat related deaths, 555,500 non-combat deaths. 500,000 missing in action and 1,103,300 POW dead and another 180,000 liberated POWs who most likely emigrated to other countries. Figures include Navy losses of 154,771. Non-combat deaths include 157,000 sentenced to death by court martial.
- Casualties in 1939–40 include the following dead and missing, Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939 (8,931); Invasion of Poland of 1939 (1,139); Winter War with Finland (1939–40) (126,875).
- The number of wounded includes 2,576,000 permanently disabled.
- The official Russian figure for total POW held by the Germans is 4,059,000; the number of Soviet POW who survived the war was 2,016,000, including 180,000 who most likely emigrated to other countries, and an additional 939,700 POW and MIA who were redrafted as territory was liberated. This leaves 1,103,000 POW dead. However, western historians put the number of POW held by the Germans at 5.7 million and about 3 million as dead in captivity (in the official Russian figures 1.1 million are military POW and remaining balance of about 2 million are included with civilian war dead).
- Conscripted reservists is an estimate of men called up, primarily in 1941, who were killed in battle or died as POWs before being listed on active strength. Soviet and Russian sources classify these losses as civilian deaths.
- Number served: UK and Crown Colonies (5,896,000); India-(British colonial administration) (2,582,000), Australia (993,000); Canada (1,100,000); New Zealand (295,000); South Africa (250,000).
- Total war related deaths reported by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: UK and Crown Colonies (383,786); India-(British colonial administration) (87,032), Australia (40,464); Canada (45,383); New Zealand (11,929); South Africa (11,903).
- Total military dead for the United Kingdom alone(according to preliminary 1945 figures): 264,443. Royal Navy (50,758); British Army (144,079); Royal Air Force (69,606).
- Wounded: UK and Crown Colonies (284,049); India-(British colonial administration) (64,354), Australia (39,803); Canada (53,174); New Zealand (19,314); South Africa (14,363).
- Prisoner of war: UK and Crown Colonies (180,488); India-(British colonial administration) (79,481); Australia (26,358); South Africa (14,750); Canada (9,334); New Zealand (8,415).
- The Debt of Honour Register from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists the 1.7m men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars.
- Battle deaths (including POWs who died in captivity, does not include those who died of disease and accidents) were 292,131: Army 234,874 (including Army Air Forces 52,173); Navy 36,950; Marine Corps 19,733; and Coast Guard 574 (185,924 deaths occurred in the European/Atlantic theater of operations and 106,207 deaths occurred in Asia/Pacific theater of operations).
- During World War II, 14,059 American POWs died in enemy captivity throughout the war (12,935 held by Japan and 1,124 held by Germany).
- During World War II, 1.2 million African Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces and 708 were killed in action. 350,000 American women served in the Armed Forces during World War II and 16 were killed in action. During World War II, 26,000 Japanese-Americans served in the Armed Forces and over 800 were killed in action.
Commonwealth military casualties
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Annual Report 2014–2015 is the source of the military dead for the British Empire. The war dead totals listed in the report are based on the research by the CWGC to identify and commemorate Commonwealth war dead. The statistics tabulated by the CWGC are representative of the number of names commemorated for all servicemen/women of the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth and former UK Dependencies, whose death was attributable to their war service. Some auxiliary and civilian organizations are also accorded war grave status if death occurred under certain specified conditions. For the purposes of CWGC the dates of inclusion for Commonwealth War Dead are 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947.