WW2 Death Count


Someone involved with the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Indiana posted this to FB the other day.

I knew that it was high, but the numbers for Russia (thanks in part to Stalin) and China (their own people and the Japanese) are horrifying.

I have that link saved in my bookmarks because it’s so informative. it’s also moving – listen to it with the sound on, especially during the Soviet casualty count. Nothing but lonely wind.

You can’t attribute every death to the war. Many people would have died anyway in peacetime, of natural causes. In China, consider the population change during the six war years (39-45) with the six year blocks before and after the war.

1933-39 - 19-million increase
1939-45 - 20-million increase
1945-51 - 26-million increase

So, without a war, assume an increase of 22.5 million from 39-45. In fact the increase was only 20-million, so the war’s actual diminution of the population of China was only about 2.5 million. Any other deaths in those years can be assumed to have occurred anyway, through the normal death rates in non-war years. (I could have argued that the population of China increased at a faster rate during the war than it did in the years before the war, but that would ignore worldwide improvements in life expectancies and population growth rates.)


This comparison is all kinds of broken. First off, why are you using 1939-1945 for war dates when China and Japan were at war from 1937-1945? And why are you referring to 1933-1939 (or 1937 if you fix it) and 1945-1951 as ‘non war years’ when China was engaged in a major civil war during those years? It’s really bizarre to try to analyze China in that time period while ignoring the Chinese civil war and that Japan invaded two years before Hitler went into Poland.

I already knew WWII deaths were staggeringly high, but having it laid out so clinically, dispassionately… I think I’m going to be sick.

You can pick any “war years” you like and make a comparable comparison with equal blocks of years before and after the “war”, and come up with similar results. China’s “major civil wars” are not “WWII deaths” any more so than Korean War or Vietnam War.

You classified deaths due to the Chinese Civil War as people who died in peacetime, of natural causes, which is wrong. And you got the length of the war wrong, because you decided to start counting from when Germany invaded Poland instead of when Japan invaded China. So you weren’t comparing deaths in war years from war causes with deaths from natural causes in peacetime, you were comparing war years with other war years and including things that are decidedly not natural causes. I’m also not sure why you’re putting ‘major civil wars’ in quotes, the only civil war in the 20th century arguably more major than it was the Russian civil war.

I never claimed that Chinese Civil War deaths were WW2 deaths - but you did count two of the eight years that China and Japan were at war as peacetime for some reason.

Huh. I clicked on the link and got a clip from “Blackadder”.