Losses in World War II

UNESCO Courier, May 1985 | Go to article overview

Losses in World War II


Losses in World War II

Estimates of total losses during the Second World War, vary between 40 and 50 million dead. Whereas the dead of the War of 1914-1918 (in which 68 million men were mobilized) were for the most part members of the armed forces, the dead of the 1939-1945 War consisted of almost equal numbers of civilians and military personnel (92 million men mobilized). This high proportion of civilian victims was due to a number of special characteristics of the last War, including the widespread introduction of aerial bombardment but, above all, the physical liquidation (in gas chambers, massacres, etc.) by the Nazis of several million Jews (about 6 million?) and of Soviet prisoners of war, famine, partisan struggles, reprisals, etc. Among countries which suffered most from such atrocities, on the basis of estimates which clearly can only be approximate, Poland comes first with 5.8 million dead (of whom only 300,000 were military personnel), or 15 per cent of total population, followed by the USSR with about 20 million dead (including 7 million? …

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