Source List and Detailed Death Tolls for the Primary Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century

Alphabetical Index

Site Index

Elsewhere, I defined the Hemoclysm as that string of interconnected barbarities which made the Twentieth Century so fascinating for historians and so miserable for real people. Here, I have listed the sources for determing the body count for the biggest of these, the events that probably killed more than 5 million apiece.

Congo Free State (1886-1908): 8,000,000 [make link]
  • Roger Casement's original 1904 report estimated that as many as 3 million Congolese had died of disease, torture or shooting since 1888 (cited in Gilbert's History of the Twentieth Century; also in Colin Legum, Congo Disaster (1972)).
  • E.D. Morel estimated that the Congo’s population began with an original 20 or 30 million, and bottomed out at a mere 8 million. Morel, The Black Man's Burden, 1920, Chapter 9 ("[W]hen the country had been explored in every direction by travellers of divers nationalities, estimates varied between twenty and thirty millions. No estimate fell below twenty millions. In 1911 an official census was taken. It was not published in Belgium, but was reported in one of the British Consular dispatches. It revealed that only eight and a half million people were left."). This estimate also appears in
    • Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, "Congo Free State," v.3, p.535
    • Bertrand Russell, Freedom and organization 1814-1914 (first published, George Allen & 1934) p.453 in the 2001 Routledge ed., citing Sir H. H. Johnston, The Colonization of Africa (Cambridge Historical Series) p. 352
    • Fredric Wertham A Sign For Cain : A Exploration of Human Violence (1966): the population of the Congo dropped dropped from 30M to 8.5M, a loss of 21.5 million
  • Peter Forbath, The River Congo (1977) p.375: "at least 5 million people were killed in the Congo."
  • John Gunther (Inside Africa (1953)): 5-8 million deaths.
  • Adam Hochschild (Leopold's Ghost, (1998)): 10 million, or half the original population.
  • Rummel:
    • 2,150,000 democides, 19th Century (based on 10% of Wertham)
    • 25,000 democides, 1900-1910.
  • AVERAGE:
    • Median: ca. 8M
    • Mean: ca. 8.5M
  • NOTE: Because this event began in 1886, it tend to get relegated to the 19th Century; however, 40% of it occured in the 20th Century, so we need to keep this in mind when splitting the death toll into century-based subtotals. Also, it took awhile for the atrocities to get up to speed, so the dying probably intensified as more time passed.
First World War (1914-18): 15,000,000 [make link]
WW1 Soldiers
  • This is the only major bloodletting which has pretty much the same body count no matter which source I check: 8,500,000 military deaths. It all goes back to a report issued by the U.S. War Dept. in Feb. 1924, amended by the Statistical Services Center, Office of the Secretary of Defense on 7 Nov. 1957, which everyone ("everyone" = Brzezinski, Britannica, Norman Davies, Encarta, Gilbert, Hammond, Small & Singer, Wallechinsky) more or less agrees with. Among my major sources, only Eckhardt and Urlanis diverge from the mainstream. In The Defeat of Imperial Germany 1917-1918, Rod Paschall cites a study by Arthur Banks. I've also consulted John Ellis & Michael Cox, The World War I Databook ("E&C"):
    • Austria-Hungary: 1,100,000 (Urlanis); 1,200,000 (everyone, Paschall); 2,300,000 (Eckhardt)
      • E&C cite two different tables in the Austrian Official History, giving total killed as either 1,016,200 k. or 539,630 k. Neither includes 478,000 who died as POWs.
    • Belgium: 13,716 (Britannica, Compton's, Daivies, Hammond, Tucker); 38,000 (Urlanis); 87,500 (S&S -- although it seems to me that they have confused "Belg." with "Bulg."; see 2 lines down.); 88,000 (Eckhardt)
    • Britain & Empire: 908,371 (everyone); 997,000 (Paschall)
      • Africans: 38,723 laborers and porters died in hospital in East Africa 1917-18 (E&C)
      • Australia: 53,560 KIA + 6,300 other deaths = 59,860 (E&C); 60,000 (Eckhardt; Urlanis); 61,720 (AWM)
      • Canada: 55,000 (Eckhardt); 61,000 (Urlanis); 58,990 KIA + 3,830 other deaths = 62,820 (E&C)
      • India: 25,000 (Eckhardt); 54,000 (Urlanis)
      • New Zealand: 16,000 (Eckhardt; Urlanis); 16,710 (E&C)
      • UK: 702,410 (E&C); 715,000 (Urlanis); 1,000,000 (Eckhardt)
      • South Africa: 7,000 (Urlanis); 7,120 (E&C: whites only)
    • Bulgaria: 14,000 (S&S-c.f. Belgium); 28,000 (Eckhardt); 75,844 (Tucker); 87,500 (Britannica, Davies, Compton's); 88,000 (Urlanis); 90,000 (Hammond); 95,000 (Paschall); 77,450 KIA + >24,500 other deaths = 101,950 (E&C)
    • France & Empire: 1,327,000 (Urlanis); 1,357,800 (everyone); 1,385,300 (E&C); 1,390,000 (Paschall); 1,630,000 (Eckhardt)
      • French Colonies: 58,000 (E&C); 114,000 (Urlanis)
    • Germany: 1,773,700 (everyone); 1,850,000 (Paschall); 2,037,000 (E&C, Urlanis); 2,400,000 (Eckhardt)
      • Africans: 14,000 (E&C)
    • Greece: 5,000 (everyone; Eckhardt, E&C); 26,000 (Urlanis)
    • Italy: 460,000 (Paschall); 462,391 (Tucker); 462,400 (E&C); 578,000 (Urlanis); 600,000 (Hammond); 650,000 (Britannica, Davies, Compton's, S&S); 950,000 (Eckhardt)
    • Japan: 300 (everyone)
    • Montenegro: 3,000 (everyone)
    • Portugal: 7,000 (Urlanis); 7,220 (E&C, incl. 5,550 in Africa); 7,222 (everyone); 13,000 (Eckhardt)
    • Romania: 219,800 (E&C: incl. 70,500 who died as POWs); 250,000 (Urlanis); 340,000 (Paschall); 335,706 (everyone); 375,000 (Eckhardt)
    • Russia: 1,700,000 (everyone, Paschall); 1,800,000 (E&C); 1,811,000 (Urlanis); 2,950,000 (Eckhardt)
    • Serbia: 45,000 (Tucker, Hammond, Britannica, Compton's), 48,000 (S&S), 70,000 (Davies); 127,500 (E&C: incl. sickness); 128,000 (Eckhardt: "Yugoslavia"); 278,000 (Urlanis: "Serbia + Montenegro")
    • Turkey: 236,000 (E&C); 325,000 (everyone); 350,000 (Paschall); 450,000 (Eckhardt); 804,000 (Urlanis)
    • USA: 50,585 (Tucker, Hammond, Britannica); 51,822 (E&C); 53,407 (Compton's); 116,000 (Paschall); 53,402 KIA + 63,114 other deaths = 116,516 (DoD; 1991 Info. Please); 126,000 (S&S; Eckhardt)
    • TOTAL: 8,364,712 (E&C); 8,500,000 (everyone); 8,513,000 (Paschall); 9,442,000 (Urlanis); 12,599,000 (Eckhardt)
  • Individual Battles:
WW1 Civilians
Civilian casualty estimates are spread wider, and are usually offered without source or detail. (Some of these civilian estimates may include all or part of the Russian Civil War and Armenian massacres -- it's difficult to decide where WW1 ends and these begin, or whether these are distinct and separate events at all)
  • Brzezinski: 13,000,000 civilians
  • Britannica: 13,000,000
  • Encyclopedia Americana (2003), "Twentieth Century": 12.5M civilians
  • Encarta: close to 10,000,000
  • Hammond: 9,000,000
  • Urlanis: 9,000,000 (based on increased mortality during the war years)
    • Russia: 1,500,000
    • Italy: 1,021,000
    • Austria-Hungary: 700,000
    • Germany: 692,000
    • France: 500,000
    • Serbia: 450,000
    • Romania: 430,000
    • Britain: 292,000
    • Greece: 150,000
    • Bulgaria: 100,000
    • Belgium: 92,000
    • Turkey: unknown
  • MEDIAN: 6.6-9.0M
  • Tucker (European Powers in the First World War -- the source of the data on my map): 6,642,633
    • Turkey: 2,150,000
    • Russia: 2,000,000
    • Germany: 760,000
    • Serbia: 650,000
    • Austria-Hungary: 300,000
    • Bulgaria: 275,000
    • Romania: 275,000
    • Greece: 132,000
    • France: 40,000
    • Britain: 30,633
    • Belgium: 30,000
  • Dictionary of Military History (1994): 6,600,000
  • Wallechinsky: 6,500,000
  • Eckhardt: 6,493,000
    • Nation by nation, Eckhardt and Tucker agree -- with three exceptions:
      • Russia: 3,000,000
      • Turkey: 1,000,000
      • UK: 31,000
    • (Eckhardt explicitly excludes the Armenian massacres and Russian Civil War from these numbers.)
  • John Ellis & Michael Cox, The World War I Databook: 6,458,886
    • Turkey: 2,000,000 (mainly Armenian)
    • Russia: 2,000,000
    • Germany: 700,000
    • Serbia: 600,000
    • Romania: 265,000 to 500,000 [=ca. 382,500]
    • Austria-Hungary: 300,000
    • Bulgaria: 275,000
    • Greece: 130,000
    • France: 40,000
    • Belgium: 30,000
    • Britain: 1,386 (in air raids)
  • Davies (Europe A History): 5,000,000
  • ATROCITIES:
    • Belgian civilians massacred by Germans, Aug. 1914 (John Keegan, The First World War, 1998): 211 at Andenne, 384 at Tamines, 612 at Dinant.
    • McDougall [http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/heads/footnotes/dirtyhands.html]
      • Belgian civilians k. by German army: 5,500
      • Lusitania sunk by Ger.: 1,200 k.
      • Germans d. of starvation under wartime blockade: 763,000
      • Armenians: 1,000,000+
Armenian Genocide [make link]
  • The big massacres occured in 1915, but there were rumblings before and after:
    • 1909:
      • Rummel: 30,000
      • Eckhardt: 6,000
    • 1915-18 (generally included in the Death Tolls for World War One)
      • Britannica: 600,000
      • Dict.Wars: 600,000 died of starvation, disease and exhaustion
      • Steven Katz in Is the Holocaust Unique? (Rosenbaum, ed.): 475,800 - 775,800
      • Encarta: 800,000
      • Kuper: 800,000
      • Sabrina Tavernise, “Nearly a Million Genocide Victims, Covered in a Cloak of Amnesia”, New York Times, March 8, 2009. “According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916.” [http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/09/world/europe/09turkey.html]
      • Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century: 1,000,000
      • Eckhardt: 1,000,000 civ.
      • Robert Melson in Is the Holocaust Unique?: 1,000,000
      • Christopher Walker, Armenia : The Survival of a Nation (1980): 1,000,000 (in Turkey, 1915-16), plus an additional 50-100,000 (invasion of the Caucasus, 1918)
      • Alan Palmer, The Decline & Fall of the Ottoman Empire (1992)
        • Official Turkish est.: 300,000
        • max. Armenian claims: 2M
        • probable: >1,300,000 during war and aftermath
      • Porter: 1,000,000 to 1,500,000
      • Rummel: 1,404,000 domestic, 83,000 foreign
      • War Annual 8 (1997): 1,500,000
      • The Turkish Government denies that the Armenians were massacred, and instead, accuses the Armenians of massacring some 23,100 Turks. [http://www.kultur.gov.tr/portal/default_en.asp?belgeno=3338]
      • MEDIAN of these 17 estimates is 1M
    • Individual massacres
    • 1919-23:
      • C. Walker: 250,000 (in Turkey, 1919-22)
      • Robert Melson in Is the Holocaust Unique?: 500,000
      • Rummel: 440,000 domestic, 175,000 foreign
Russian Civil War (1917-22): 9,000,000 [make link]
  • Eckhardt: 500,000 civ. + 300,000 mil. = 800,000
  • Readers Companion to Military History, Cowley and Parker, eds. (1996) [http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/mil/html/mh_045400_russiancivil.htm]:
    • Combat deaths: 825,000
    • Ancillary deaths: 2,000,000
    • TOTAL: 2,825,000
  • Davies, Norman (Europe A History, 1998)
    • Civil War and Volga Famine (1918-22): 3,000,000 to 5,000,000
  • Brzezinski, Z:
    • 6 to 8 million people died under Lenin from war, famine etc.
  • Mastering Twentieth Century Russian History by Norman Lowe (2002)
    • TOTAL: 7,000,000 to 10,000,000
    • Red Army
      • Battle: 632,000
      • Disease: 581,000
    • Whites: 1,290,000 battle + disease
    • White Terror: "tens of thousands"
    • Red Terror
      • Executed: 50-200,000
      • Died in prison or killed in revolts: 400,000
    • Typhoid + typhus
      • 1919: 890,000
      • 1920: >1M
  • Urlanis:
    • Military deaths: 800,000
      • Battle deaths, all sides: 300,000
      • Dead of wounds: 50,000
      • Disease: 450,000
    • Civilians: 8,000,000
    • TOTAL: 8,800,000
  • Dyadkin, I.G. (cited in Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993)
    • 9 million unnatural deaths from terror, famine and disease, 1918-23
  • Richard Pipes, A concise history of the Russian Revolution (1995): 9 million deaths, 1917-1922
    • Famine: 5M
    • Combat: 2M
      • Reds: 1M
      • Whites: 127,000
    • Epidemics: 2M
    • not incl.
      • Emigration: 2M
      • Birth deficit: 14M
  • Rummel:
    • Civil War (1917-22)
      • War: 1,410,000 (includes 500,000 civilian)
      • Famine: 5,000,000 (50% democidal)
      • Other democide: 784,000
      • Epidemics: 2,300,000
      • Total: 9,494,000
    • Lenin's Regime (1917-24)
      • Rummel blames Lenin for a lifetime total of 4,017,000 democides.
  • Figes, Orlando (A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, 1997)
    • 10 million deaths from war, terror, famine and disease.
      • Including...
        • Famine (1921-22): 5 million
        • Killed in fighting, both military and civilian: 1M
        • Jews killed in pogroms: 150,000
      • Not including...
        • Demographic effects of a hugely reduced birth-rate: 10M
        • Emmigration: 2M
  • McEvedy, Colin (Atlas of World Population History, 1978)
    • War deaths: 2M
    • Other excess deaths: 14M
    • Reduced births: 10M
    • Emmigration: 2M
  • MEDIAN: Of these ten estimates that claim to be complete, the median is 8.8M-9.0M.
  • PARTIALS:
    • Small & Singer (battle deaths, 1917-21)
      • Russian Civil War (Dec.1917-Oct.1920)
        • Russians: 500,000
        • Allied Intervention:
          • Japan: 1,500
          • UK: 350
          • USA: 275
          • France: 50
          • Finland: 50
      • Russian Nationalities War (Dec.1917-Mar.1921)
        • USSR: 50,000
    • Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: a History of the Russian Civil War 1918-1921
      • Death sentences by the Cheka: ca. 100,000
      • Pogroms: as many as one in 13 Jews k. out of 1.5M in Ukraine [i.e. ca. 115,000] (citing Heifetz)
    • Nevins, citing Heifetz and the Red Cross: 120,000 Jews killed in 1919 pogroms [http://www.west.net/~jazz/felshtin/redcross.html]
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): Cheka responsible for maybe 250,000+ violent deaths.
    • Paul Johnson
      • 50,000 death sentences imposed by the Cheka by 12/20
      • 100,000 Jews killed in 1919
    • Green, Barbara (in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?)
      • 4 to 5 million deaths in the famine of 1921-23
    • Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace
      • North Russia: 244 USAns d. incl. 144 k.battle
      • Siberia: 160 USAns KIA + 168 other d.
      • [US Total: 304 KIA + 268 other = 572 d.]
      • Czech Legion: 13,000 dead.
Soviet Union, Stalin's regime (1924-53): 20,000,000 [make link]
  • There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to the number who died at Stalin's hands. There's the "Why doesn't anyone realize that communism is the absolutely worst thing ever to hit the human race, without exception, even worse than both world wars, the slave trade and bubonic plague all put together?" school, and there's the "Come on, stop exaggerating. The truth is horrifying enough without you pulling numbers out of thin air" school. The two schools are generally associated with the right and left wings of the political spectrum, and they often accuse each other of being blinded by prejudice, stubbornly refusing to admit the truth, and maybe even having a hidden agenda. Also, both sides claim that recent access to former Soviet archives has proven that their side is right.
  • Here are a few illustrative estimates from the Big Numbers school:
    • Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993 cites these:
      • Chistyakovoy, V. (Neva, no.10): 20 million killed during the 1930s.
      • Dyadkin, I.G. (Demograficheskaya statistika neyestestvennoy smertnosti v SSSR 1918-1956 ): 56 to 62 million "unnatural deaths" for the USSR overall, with 34 to 49 million under Stalin.
      • Gold, John.: 50-60 million.
    • Davies, Norman (Europe A History, 1998): c. 50 million killed 1924-53, excluding WW2 war losses. This would divide (more or less) into 33M pre-war and 17M after 1939.
    • Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago,
      • Intro to Perennial Classics Edition by Edward Ericson: Solzhenitsyn publicized an estimate of 60 million. Aleksandr Yakovlev estimates perhaps 35 million.
      • Page 178: citing Kurganov, 66 million lives lost between 1917 and 1959
    • Rummel, 1990: 61,911,000 democides in the USSR 1917-87, of which 51,755,000 occurred during the Stalin years. This divides up into:
      • 1923-29: 2,200,000 (plus 1M non-democidal famine deaths)
      • 1929-39: 15,785,000 (plus 2M non-democidal famine)
      • 1939-45: 18,157,000
      • 1946-54: 15,613,000 (plus 333,000 non-democidal famine)
      • TOTAL: 51,755,000 democides and 3,333,000 non-demo. famine
    • William Cockerham, Health and Social Change in Russia and Eastern Europe: 50M+
    • Wallechinsky: 13M (1930-32) + 7M (1934-38)
      • Cited by Wallechinsky:
        • Medvedev, Roy (Let History Judge): 40 million.
        • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: 60 million.
    • MEDIAN: 51 million for the entire Stalin Era; 20M during the 1930s.
  • And from the Lower Numbers school:
    • Nove, Alec ("Victims of Stalinism: How Many?" in J. Arch Getty (ed.) Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives, 1993): 9,500,000 "surplus deaths" during the 1930s.
    • Cited in Nove:
      • Maksudov, S. (Poteri naseleniya SSSR, 1989): 9.8 million abnormal deaths between 1926 and 1937.
      • Tsaplin, V.V. ("Statistika zherty naseleniya v 30e gody" 1989): 6,600,000 deaths (hunger, camps and prisons) between the 1926 and 1937 censuses.
      • Dugin, A. ("Stalinizm: legendy i fakty" 1989): 642,980 counterrevolutionaries shot 1921-53.
      • Muskovsky Novosti (4 March 1990): 786,098 state prisoners shot, 1931-53.
    • Gordon, A. (What Happened in That Time?, 1989, cited in Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993): 8-9 million during the 1930s.
    • Ponton, G. (The Soviet Era, 1994): cites an 1990 article by Milne, et al., that excess deaths 1926-39 were likely 3.5 million and at most 8 million.
    • MEDIAN: 8.5 Million during the 1930s.
  • As you can see, there's no easy compromise between the two schools. The Big Numbers are so high that picking the midpoint between the two schools would still give us a Big Number. It may appear to be a rather pointless argument -- whether it's fifteen or fifty million, it's still a huge number of killings -- but keep in mind that the population of the Soviet Union was 164 million in 1937, so the upper estimates accuse Stalin of killing nearly 1 out of every 3 of his people, an extremely Polpotian level of savagery. The lower numbers, on the other hand, leave Stalin with plenty of people still alive to fight off the German invasion.
  • Although it's too early to be taking sides with absolute certainty, a consensus seems to be forming around a death toll of 20 million. This would adequately account for all documented nastiness without straining credulity:
    • In The Great Terror (1969), Robert Conquest suggested that the overall death toll was 20 million at minimum -- and very likely 50% higher, or 30 million. This would divide roughly as follows: 7M in 1930-36; 3M in 1937-38; 10M in 1939-53. By the time he wrote The Great Terror: A Re-assessment (1992), Conquest was much more confident that 20 million was the likeliest death toll.
    • Britannica, "Stalinism": 20M died in camps, of famine, executions, etc., citing Medvedev
    • Brzezinski: 20-25 million, dividing roughly as follows: 7M destroying the peasantry; 12M in labor camps; 1M excuted during and after WW2.
    • Daniel Chirot:
      • "Lowest credible" estimate: 20M
      • "Highest": 40M
      • Citing:
        • Conquest: 20M
        • Antonov-Ovseyenko: 30M
        • Medvedev: 40M
    • Courtois, Stephane, Black Book of Communism (Le Livre Noir du Communism): 20M for the whole history of Soviet Union, 1917-91.
      • Essay by Nicolas Werth: 15M
      • [Ironic observation: The Black Book of Communism seems to vote for Hitler as the answer to the question of who's worse, Hitler (25M) or Stalin (20M).]
    • John Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen (2001): 20M, incl.
      • Kulaks: 7M
      • Gulag: 12M
      • Purge: 1.2M (minus 50,000 survivors)
    • Adam Hochschild, The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin: directly responsible for 20 million deaths.
    • Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land: Facing Europes Ghosts After Communism (1995): upwards of 25M
    • Time Magazine (13 April 1998): 15-20 million.
  • AVERAGE: Of the 17 estimates of the total number of victims of Stalin, the median is 30 million.
  • Individual Gulags etc.
  • Comments received: Letter #1 Letter #2 Letter #3
  • Famine of 1926-38, including the Holodomor: [make link]
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): 4.2M in Ukraine + 1.7M in Kazakhstan
    • Green, Barbara ("Stalinist Terror and the Question of Genocide: the Great Famine" in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?) cites these sources for the number who died in the famine:
      • Nove: 3.1-3.2M in Ukraine, 1933
      • Maksudov: 4.4M in Ukraine, 1927-38
      • Mace: 5-7M in Ukraine
      • Osokin: 3.35M in USSR, 1933
      • Wheatcraft: 4-5M in USSR, 1932-33
      • Conquest:
        • Total, USSR, 1926-37: 11M
        • 1932-33: 7M
        • Ukraine: 5M
Second World War (1939-45): 66,000,000 [make link]
Total
It's the most intensively studied event of the 20th Century, so the margin of error is not quite a wide here as for most of the other wars and oppressions on this page. Most historians agree that the death toll was about 50 million (including wartime atrocities). If you don't believe me, here's just a sampling of the books I have on hand:
  • Haywood: Atlas of World History (1997): 50M
  • Keegan, J., The Second World War (1989): 50M
  • Messenger, The Chronological Atlas of World War Two (1989): 50M
  • The Times Concise Atlas of World History (1988): 50M
  • J.M. Roberts, Twentieth Century (1999): >50M
  • Urlanis: 50M
    • Soldiers: 22.0M
    • Civilians
      • In camps, from Fascist terror: 12.0M
      • From hostilites, blockade, epidemics, hunger: 14.5M
      • From bombing: 1.5M
  • Dictionary of Military History (1994): 41M
  • Wallechinsky: 40-55M
  • Kinder, The Anchor Atlas of World History (1978): 55M
  • Hammond: 55M
  • Guiness World Records: 56.4M [http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/index.asp?id=46252]
  • Sivard, Ruth Leger, World Military and Social Expenditures 1986 (11th ed.): 38,351,000 (1939-45), not incl. 1.8M in Sino-Japanese War (1937-41)
  • Brzezinski:
    • Military: 19M
    • Civilians, "actual byproduct of hostilities": 20M
    • Civilians, Sino-Japanese War: 15M
    • Hitler's murders: 17M
    • TOTAL: 71M
  • Rummel:
    • European War Dead (1939-45): 28,736,000
    • Sino-Japanese War Dead (1937-45): 7,140,000
    • War-related Democides
      • Hitler: 20,946,000
      • Stalin: 13,053,000
      • Japanese: 5,964,000
      • Chinese Nationalist: 5,907,000
      • Allied Bombing: 796,000
      • Croatian: 655,000
      • Tito: 600,000
      • Romanian domestic democide: 484,000
      • Chinese Communist: 250,000
      • Hungarian democide in Yugoslavia: 78,000
      • [TOTAL: 48,733,000]
    • [TOTAL (1937-45): 84,609,000]
  • My Estimate: 65.6 million
  • AVERAGE
    • The MEDIAN of these estimates is 50M.
    • If we add up the country-by-country medians (of total death tolls) we get:
      • LEVEL 1: 47.35M
        • USSR: 20.0M
        • China: 10.45M
        • Poland: 5.8M
        • Germany: 5.5M
        • India: 2.15M
        • Japan: 1.9M
        • Yugoslavia: 1.55M
      • LEVEL 2: ca. 3.8M
      • LEVEL 3: ca. 0.25M
      • TOTAL: 51.4M
    • The country-by-country medians for military personnel killed in the war are:
      • USSR: 10.0M
      • Germany: 3.5M
      • China: 2.05M
      • Japan: 1.5M
      • USA: 0.4M
      • Romania: 0.3M
      • Yugoslavia: 0.3M
      • UK: 0.28M
      • Italy: 0.23M
      • France: 0.21M
      • Hungary: 0.14M
      • Poland: 0.125M
      • TOTAL: 19.0M
Who to Blame:
  • Most history books break their WW2 numbers down according to whether the dead are military or civilian and which country they came from. Since I've done that elsewhere, let's try to break it down by guilt. Here are various estimates by various experts of the number of superfluous, non-military deaths during the Second World War.
  • My own estimates are in this chart, which should show the relative evil and suffering of the participants of World War Two by listing how many millions of people were killed, by whom, outside of battle. I have ignored any death toll under a quarter million as small change. Numbers don't add up exactly because there's overlap and a lot of unknowns. Click the links for general sources and details. See my book for a more complete discussion.

(in millions) Perpetrators TOTAL Non-Battle Deaths
Germans Japanese Soviets UK US Nationalist Chinese Romanians Croats Civilians POWs
Victims Soviets 17.0               16.9 3.3
China   4.0       0.6     8.0 0.5
Poland (pre-war) 5.5               6.0  
Jews (all nations) 5.5           0.3   5.5  
East Indies   4.0             4.0  
India       1.5         3.0  
Vietnam   2.0             2.0  
Germans     1.4 0.6       1.6 0.4
Yugoslavia 0.5             0.3 1.2  
Gypsies 0.5               0.5  
Japan         0.4       0.4  
France 0.3               0.4  
Romania                 0.3  
Greece 0.3               0.3  
Hungary 0.3               0.3  
Czechoslovakia 0.3               0.3  
  TOTAL 24.0 11.0 4.0 2.0 1.0 0.6 0.5 0.3 45.0 4.2

Hitler [make link]:
  • Holocaust
    • Extermination of the Jews: [make link]:
      • Reitlinger, Gerald, The Final Solution (1953): between 4,194,200 and 4,851,200 (this number is accepted by Kinder, The Anchor Atlas of World History (1978))
      • Brzezinski: 5,000,000
      • Chirot: 5,100,000
        • 3,000,000 in death camps.
        • 1,300,000 massacred.
        • 800,000 by dis./maln. in ghettos
      • David E. Stannard, The Politics of Genocide Scholarship, in Alan S. Rosenbaum, ed., Is the Holocaust Unique? Perspectives on Comparative Genocide (1996), p. 178. By one estimate, 2.4 million of the 5.1 million victims of the Holocaust died of disease in ghettos and concentration camps.
      • Rummel: 5,291,000
      • Grenville: 5-6M
      • Davies, Europe A History (1998): avg. c. 5,571,300 (puts the minimum at 4,871,000 and the maximum at 6,271,500.)
      • MEDIAN: ca. 5.6M
      • Nuremberg indictment: 5,700,000 (accepted by Britannica)
      • Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (1990): 5,596,029 to 5,860,129
      • P. Johnson: 5,800,000
      • Wallechinsky: "nearly" 6,000,000
      • Urlanis: 6M
    • Country-by-country
    • Individual Camps, Massacres etc.
  • Soviet Prisoners of War killed:
    • Urlanis: 3,912,000
    • 12 March 1995 Times-Picayune: nearly 3.5M
    • Our Times: 3,300,000
    • Rummel: 3,100,000
    • MEDIAN: 3.0-3.1M
    • Mazower, Dark Continent: 3M
    • Harper Collins Atlas of the Second World War: 3,000,000
    • Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960): 2,000,000 dead and 1,000,000 never accounted for, presumed dead.
    • Britannica: 2,600,000
  • Roma (Gypsies):
    • Hammond: 250,000.
    • Rummel: 258,000.
    • Mazower, Dark Continent: 200,000-500,000.
    • Porter: 500,000
    • Brzezinski: 800,000
    • Ian Hancock, "Responses to the Romani Holocaust" in Is the Holocaust Unique? (A. Rosenbaum, ed.) cites these:
      • US Holocaust Memorial Museum: 250,000
      • "several published estimates": >1,000,000
      • Pauwels and Bergier: 750,000
      • Financial Times (London): 500-750,000 in death camps and another million shot outside.
  • Homosexuals:
    • Chirot: 10-15,000
    • Rummel: 220,000
  • Euthanasia of Handicapped:
    • Hugh G. Gallagher: 275,000, citing Breggin (in Century of Genocide, Samuel Totten, ed., (1997))
    • Johnson: 70,000 insane and incurable Germans k.
    • US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Historical Atlas of the Holocaust: 70,000 k.in initial phase, 1939-41. 275,000 total k, acc. to Nuremburg Tribunal.
  • Air Raids
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): "an estimated 500,000 Soviet citizens died from German bomb attacks."
    • Belgrade
    • London
    • Stalingrad
  • Victims of Wehrmacht:
    • Acc2 historical exhibit curated by Hannes Heer: The common soldiers of the Wehrmacht murdered 1.5M Jews, 3.3M POWs + 5-7M non-Jewish civilians (17 May 1995 Agence France Presse; 22 Feb. 1997 AP)
  • Soviet civilians, generally:
    • The Cambridge History of Russia by Dominic C. B. Lieven, Maureen Perrie, Ronald Grigor Suny, p.226
      • Premature deaths under German occupation: 13.7M, including
        • "killed in hot or cold blood": 7.4M, incl.
        • "taken to Germany and worked to death": 2.2M
        • "died of overwork, hunger and disease": 4.1M
  • General political prisoners:
    • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (1998): over one million died in concentration camps, not counting those deliberately targeted for extermination.
    • Rosenburg, The Haunted Land: 26,000 political death sentences passed by German courts.
  • HITLER TOTAL:
    • Courtois: 25,000,000
    • Rummel: 20,946,000 democides
    • Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: 17,000,000 (p.6)
    • Brzezinski: 17,000,000
    • Urlanis: 15-16,000,000 (11-12M civilians + 3.9M POWs)
    • MEDIAN: ca. 15.5M
    • Our Times: 13,000,000 (6M Jews + 7M others)
    • Compton's: 12,000,000
    • Grenville: 10,000,000, including 2M children.
    • NOTE: These numbers only include outright murders, but keep in mind that some 28M civilians and 14M soldiers died in the European War. That's 42,000,000 deaths which can probably be blamed on Hitler to one extent or another.
Japanese [make link]:
  • In China and Korea
    • Nanking Massacre, 13 Dec. 1937-Feb. 38:
      • Spence, The Search for Modern China: 42,000
      • Gilbert: >200,000 civilians and 90,000 POWs
      • Dict.Wars: 200,000
      • Rummel: 200,000
      • P. Johnson: 200-300,000
      • 27 Aug 2001 Newsweek, quoting Japanese textbook: "The number of dead is said to be over 100,000 and it is estimated to be over 300,000 in China."
      • Palmowski, Dictionary of 20th Century World History: "perhaps as many as" 400,000
      • Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking (1997) cites these:
        • Liu Fang-chu: 430,000
        • James Yin & Shi Young: 400,000
        • Sun Zhaiwei: 377,400 corpses disposed of
        • Wu Tien-wei: 340,000
        • District Court of Nanking: 300,000
        • International Military Tribunal of the Far East: 260,000
        • Fujiwara Akira: 200,000
        • John Rabe: 50,000-60,000
        • Hata Ikuhiko: 38,000-42,000
      • [Median: 260,000]
    • Unit 731, Manchukuo (bio-warfare center: 1937-45)
      • Discovery Channel: "as many as 200,000 people — Chinese soldiers, private citizens and prisoners of war — had died" [http://dsc.discovery.com/anthology/spotlight/bioterror/history/history2.html]
      • Global Security: Up to 3,000 died in this facility. Perhaps as many 200,000 Chinese died from germ war campaign in Yunnan Province, Ningbo, and Changde. [http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/japan/bw.htm]
    • Bombing: 71,105 Chinese k. by Japanese bombing (Clodfelter)
  • South East Asia and East Indies
    • Bataan Death March, 1942
    • Burma-Siam Railroad, worker deaths (1941-43)
      • Johnson: 16,000 POWs
      • Our Times, also Gilbert: 50,000 Burmese civilians and 16,000 Allied POWs
      • Grenville: 100,000 Asians and 16,000 Europeans
      • 7 February 2002 AP: 50,000 Asian laborers and 16,000 Allied POWs
    • Manila Massacre, 1944-45
    • East Timor
      • James Dunn, in Century of Genocide, Samuel Totten, ed., (1997)): 70,000 died under Japanese occupation
      • 19 May 2002 San Gabriel Valley Tribune: "January 1942: Japan occupies the entire island. With support from the local people, Australian commandos in East Timor battle Japan. Japanese reprisals kill 60,000 civilians 13 percent of East Timor's population."
    • Dutch East Indies: 25,000 Dutch d. out of 140,000 imprisoned (3 Feb. 1998 Agence France Presse)
    • Singapore, citizens (mostly Chinese) massacred, 1942
      • Japan Economic Newswire/Kyodo News Service
        • 16 June 2004: 50,000-100,000
        • 13 Aug. 1984: Report by Allies after WW2 est. 5,000 k. Families claim 40,000-50,000
      • Associated Press
        • 30 July 1995: "The Japanese military said 6,000 were killed. Singaporeans put the death toll at 50,000."
        • 12 Sept 1995: 30,000-40,000
      • National Archives of Singapore: 8,600 reported. "[T]here were many more." [http://www.s1942.org.sg/dir_defence7.htm]
      • Grenville: 5,000
      • LC: 5,000-25,000 [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sgtoc.html]
      • [ANALYSIS: There's no consensus. I have 5 low estimates ranging from 5,000-8,600. I have 5 high estimates ranging from 25,000-100,000. Three sources hedge their bets by offering both a low estimate and a high estimate. Two give a low estimate exclusively, and two give a high estimate exclusively.]
  • TOTAL:
    • Chalmers Johnson: "...the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese." [http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n22/john04_.html]
    • Rummel blames the Japanese for 5,964,000 democides
      • POWs: 539,000 (400,000 Chinese)
      • Forced Labor: 1,010,000 (142,000 Chinese)
      • Massacres: 3,608,000 (2,850,000 Chinese)
      • Bombing/CB warfare: 558,000 (all Chinese)
      • Imposed Famine: 250,000 (none in China)
      • Rummel also estimates that General/Prime Minister Tojo Hideki was responsible for a lifetime total of 3,990,000 democides.
    • Some guy on Internet [http://www.jca.apc.org/JWRC/exhibit/Index.HTM]
      • Nanjing Massacre: 155,337 dead bodies
        • Chinese official estimate: >300,000
        • Japanese scholars:100-200,000
      • Datong Coal Mine, China: 60,000 slave laborers killed
      • Forced labor camps in Japan: 6,830 imported workers died
      • Singapore: 5,000 Chinese k -- another estimate: 50,000-60,000 k.
      • Burma-Siam RR: 12,400 POWs + 42,000 Asian wkrs
Stalin during WW2 [make link]:
  • Deported nationalities:
    • Aleksandr Nekrich, The Punished Peoples (1978): Net population losses, 1939-59, after allowance for wartime losses.
      • Chechens: 590,000
      • Kalmyks: 142,000
      • Ingush: 128,000
      • Karachai: 124,000
      • Balkars: 64,000
      • [TOTAL: 1,048,000]
    • Kenneth Christie, Historical Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe: Ghosts at the Table of Democracy (2002)
      • Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonians (1940-41): 85,000 deported, of which 55,000 killed or died
      • Baltics executed during reconquest (1944-45): 30,000
      • Postwar partisan war
        • Lithuanians: 40-50,000 k.
        • Latvian: 25,000
        • Estonians: 15,000
      • [TOTAL: 170,000 ± 5,000]
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997)
      • citing Rummel: 530,000 Chechens and other Black Sea/Caucasus minorities died
      • citing NKVD archives: 231,000 deaths, 1943-49
    • Harff and Gurr:
      • Chechens, Ingushi, Karachai, Balkars, Kalmyks: 230,000 d. (1943-57)
      • Meskhierians, Crimean Tatars: 57,000 - 175,000 d. (1944-68)
    • Davies: 1,000,000 Volga Germans, Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, etc.
    • NewsHour: some 200,000 Chechens died during the exile [http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/europe/chechnya/history.html]
    • The Cambridge History of Russia by Dominic C. B. Lieven, Maureen Perrie, Ronald Grigor Suny, p.226: a quarter million died during the deportation of ethnic groups.
  • Enemy POWs never returned:
    • Brzezinski: 1,000,000 total d. (incl. 357,000 Germans, 140,000 Poles)
    • Davies: 1,000,000 d.
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): official figures released under glasnost
      • Germans: 2,388,000 POWs taken, of which 356,000 died
      • Hungarians, Romanians, etc.: 1,097,000 taken, of which 162,000 died
      • Japanese: 600,000 taken, of which 61,855 died
      • [Total: 4,085,000 taken, of which ca. 580,000 died]
    • Katyn Massacre (April-May 1940):
      • Dictionary of 20C World History: 14,000 Polish officers systematically killed. 4,500 bodies discovered by Germans.
      • 30 July 2000 Sunday Telegraph [London]: 15,000 k.
      • Paul Johnson: 15,000 -- a third at Katyn, the rest in Sov. conc. camps.
      • Gilbert: 15,000 Polish POWs sent to 3 camps - Starobelsk, Kozelsk, Ostashkov - all killed. 4,400 from Kozelsk killed at Katyn.
  • Returning Soviet POWs killed after the war:
    • Harff and Gurr: 500,000 - 1,100,000 repatriated Soviet nationals killed (1943-47)
    • Harper Collins: 1,000,000 POWs
    • Davies: 5-6M deaths, screening of repatriates and inhabitants of ex-occupied territory
  • Soviet soldiers executed:
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997)
      • "latest Russian estimates put the figure as high as 158,000 sentenced to be shot."
      • "442,000 were forced to serve in penal batallions." [These were assigned suicidally dangerous tasks, and the only way out was death or wounds, so figure maybe half dead, half crippled.]
  • Gulag during the war years:
    • Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): 2.4M sent to Gulag; 1.9M freed. "Official figures show 621,000 deaths in the Gulag" during WW2
    • The Cambridge History of Russia by Dominic C. B. Lieven, Maureen Perrie, Ronald Grigor Suny, p.226: heightened mortality three quarters of a million inmates.
  • Total killed by Stalin during the war years:
    • Davies: 16-17,000,000 non-war-dead
    • Rummel: 18,157,000 democides
    • My Very Rough Estimate (based largely, but not entirely, on Overy, who seems well-informed and sensible.) In tenths of millions.
      • Axis POWs: 0.6M
      • Soviet Soldiers during war: 0.4M
      • Gulag: 0.6M
      • Black Sea/Caucasus Minorities: 0.2M
      • Baltic Minorities: 0.2M
      • Repatriated Soviets after the war: 1.0M
      • Germans who died fleeing the advancing Red Army: 1.0M
      • TOTAL: 4.0M
Others
  1. Anglo-American Allies [make link]:
    • Bombing of Germany:
      • 1945 US Strategic Bombing Survey: >305,000
      • Hammond: 400,000
      • Rummel: 410,000, 100% democidal
      • Clodfelter: 499,750
      • Keegan: 593,000
      • Grenville: 593,000 (citing "official Germany")
      • P. Johnson: 600,000
    • Bombing of Japan:
      • Conventional bombing:
        • Clodfelter: 260,000 (citing an Official US est.) or 299,484 (citing Japanese source)
        • Keegan: 260,000
        • Paul Johnson: 260,000
        • Large, Showa Japan: [183,637]
          • Tokyo: 97,301
          • all other cities: 86,336
      • Nuclear bombing:
        • Keegan: 103,000 died outright
        • Messenger: 130,000 outright
        • Large, Showa Japan: [210,000]
          • Hiroshima: 140,000
          • Nagasaki: 70,000
        • Our Times: 120,000 outright, 140,000 later
        • P. Johnson: 175,000 outright, 100,000 later
      • Total:
        • 1945 US Strategic Bombing Survey: 330,000
        • Keegan: 363,000, not including post-war radiation sickness
        • Rummel: 374,000, incl. 337,000 democidal
        • P. Johnson: 435,000
        • Harper Collins Atlas of the Second World War: 500,000
        • Large, Showa Japan: [393,637]
    • Bombing of Romania & Hungary: 50,000 (Rummel)
    • Individual air raids
    • Mistreatment of Axis POWs [I myself don't find these accusations credible, but FWIW, here they are.]
      • James Bacque, Other Losses (1989) made the first accusation that Americans deliberately starved German POWs, killing about a million.
        • Bacque [http://www.corax.org/revisionism/misc/970920bacques.html]
      • Bacque's 2nd book, Crimes & Mercies, expands the body count to 9.3-13.7M Germans killed by the Allies after the end of the war, incl. some 2.1-6.0M civilians who died being expelled from the East. [http://codoh.com/review/revcrimes.html]
      • Stephen Ambrose dismisses these claims as sloppy research. He explains that the total number of German POWs who died from all causes in US hands was 56,000 out of some 5M held. [see also http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi?people/b/bacque.james/] (56,000 might seem like a lot, but this would include those who were captured wounded.)
      • The 1956 Maschke Commission counted 4,537 deaths. [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheinwiesenlager or http://www.cyberussr.com/hcunn/for/us-germany-pow.html]
      • [Letter]
  2. Mussolini (r. 1922-1943)
    • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (1998): total of 29 death sentences passed on political prisoners before 1939.
    • Rummel, democides by Fascist govt. of Italy:
      • Ethiopia and Libya: 200,000 [before WW2]
      • Yugoslavia: 15,000
      • Greeks: 9,000
      • Italians, domestically: 250
      • TOTAL: 224,250
  3. Yugoslavia:
    • 2 March 1999 Agence France Presse
      • Number killed in Croatian-run death camp at Jasenovac
        • Acc2 Croatian press: 85,000
        • Official Yugoslav estimate: 700,000
        • Simon Wiesenthal Centre: 500,000
    • Alex Dragnic, Serbs & Croats (1992)
      • k. by Ustase
        • Serbs: est. range 300,000 to 1,000,000, but 500-700,000 is "generally accepted"
        • Jews: 50,000
        • Gypsies: 20,000
      • Massacre by Germans, Oct. 1941: 4-7,000
    • John Lampe, Yugoslavia as History (1995)
      • 300,000 Serbs k. by Ustasha
      • 26,000 Jews k. by Ustasha
      • 9,000 Slovenes executed by Italians, summer 1941
      • Killed by Tito, 1945-46: 100,000
    • Noel Malcolm, Bosnia: a Short History (1994)
      • Muslims k. by Chetniks in Foca-Cajnice:
        • Aug. 1942: 2,000
        • Feb. 1943: 9,000
      • Killed by Tito, 1945-46: 250,000 in shootings, camps and marches.
    • Mennecke, "Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina," in Totten, Century of Genocide (2nd ed., 2004, p.422): more than 300,000 Serbs murdered
    • Mazower, Dark Continent
      • Serbs k. by Ustase: at least 334,000.
      • Collaborators k. by Tito, postwar: up to 60,000
    • 9 July 1990 NY Times
      • Communist partisans shot 70-100,000 without trial within weeks of the war's end.
      • Anti-Communist emigres claim ca. 500,000 killed ("... exaggerations, said Darko Bekic, a historian in Zagreb...")
      • "Total of 1,700,000 Yugoslavs were killed, both in combat and in atrocities and reprisals by and against civilians"
    • Rummel, democides by perpetrator:
      • Axis occupying nations: 718,000
      • Chetnik partisans: 100,000
      • Communists: 100,000 as partisans, 500,000 shortly after coming to power
      • Ustashi government of Croatia: 655,000
      • TOTAL: 2,073,000 democides (also 555,000 battle deaths, for a grand total of 2,628,000)
    • Fred Singleton, Twentieth-Century Yugoslavia (1976)
      • 350,000 Serbs k. by Ustasha
    • Marcus Tanner, Croatia: a Nation Forged in War
      • Bleiburg massacre: est. range from 30,000 to 200,000 returning POWs k. by Communists (The upper number being favored by Croat nationalists)
      • Ustashe camps
        • acc2 Communist govt: 600,000 k. in Jasenovas
        • acc2 Banac 120,000 k. in all camps
        • acc2 "others": 80,000 k. in all camps
        • acc2 Pres. Tudjman: 60,000 k. in all camps
      • Total war deaths (according to one study)
        • Serbs: 487,000
          • incl. 215,000 in Nazi and Ustase camps
        • Croats: 207,000
        • Muslims: 86,000
        • Jews: 60,000
        • TOTAL: 947,000
    • Johan Wüscht, Population Losses in Yugoslavia during World War Two (1963), estimates a total population shortfall of 2,210,000 in the 1948 census. After accounting for emmigration (700,000) and a drop in births (423,000), he reckons the total number of deaths caused by the war and its aftermath to be 1,100,000. He also points out that adding up all the accusations of atrocities commited during the war far exceeds this calculated number of deaths, so one of them is wrong.
    • ANALYSIS: Among those events with several estimates, the medians are ...
      • Serbs k. by Ustashe: 300,000
      • Postwar executions by Communists (and related deaths): 175,000
      • Jasenovac
  4. Romania:
    • Rummel: 484,000 democides under kings Carol & Michael (1938-48) incl. 302,000 Jews.
    • Robert Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts (1993): 185,000 Jews from Bessarabia and Moldovia murdered in "the only non-German-run extermination camp in Europe".
  5. France:
    • Collaborators killed after liberation:
      • Grenville: 10,000
      • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: 9-10,000
      • Our Times: 9,000 summarily, 700 after trial.
      • David Drake, Intellectuals and Politics in Post-War France: 10,000 summary executions and 791 legal executions.
  6. Other Western Nations, postwar purges:
    • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent
      • Italy: 10,000-15,000
      • Netherlands: 40 executions
      • Norway: 25 executions
People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong's regime (1949-1975): 40,000,000 [make link]
[sources in alphabetical order]
  • Agence France Press (25 Sept. 1999) citing at length from Courtois, Stephane, Le Livre Noir du Communism:
    • Rural purges, 1946-49: 2-5M deaths
    • Urban purges, 1950-57: 1M
    • Great Leap Forward: 20-43M
    • Cultural Revolution: 2-7M
    • Labor Camps: 20M
    • Tibet: 0.6-1.2M
    • TOTAL: 44.5 to 72M
  • Jasper Becker, Hungry Ghosts : Mao's Secret Famine (1996)
    • Estimates of the death toll from the Great Leap Forward, 1959-61:
      • Judith Banister, China's Changing Population (1984): 30M excess deaths (acc2 Becker: "the most reliable estimate we have")
      • Wang Weizhi, Contemporary Chinese Population (1988): 19.5M deaths
      • Jin Hui (1993): 40M population loss due to "abnormal deaths and reduced births"
      • Chen Yizi of the System Reform Inst.: 43-46M deaths
  • Brzezinski:
    • Forcible collectivization: 27 million peasants
    • Cultural Revolution: 1-2 million
    • TOTAL: 29 million deaths under Mao
  • Daniel Chirot:
    • Land reform, 1949-56
      • According to Zhou Enlai: 830,000
      • According to Mao Zedong: 2-3M
    • Great Leap Forward: 20-40 million deaths.
    • Cultural Revolution: 1-20 million
  • Jung Chang, Mao: the Unknown Story (2005)
    • Suppression of Counterrevolutionaries, 1950-51: 3M by execution, mob or suicide
    • Three-Anti Campaign, 1952-53: 200,000-300,000 suicides
    • Great Leap Forward, 1958-61: 38M of starvation and overwork
    • Cultural Revolution, 1966-76: > 3M died violent deaths
    • Laogai camp deaths, 1949-76: 27M
    • TOTAL under Mao: 70M
  • Dictionary of 20C World History: around a half million died in Cultural Rev.
  • Eckhardt:
    • Govt executes landlords (1950-51): 1,000,000
    • Cultural Revolution (1967-68): 50,000
  • Gilbert:
    • 1958-61 Famine: 30 million deaths.
  • Kurt Glaser and Stephan Possony, Victims of Politics (1979):
    • They estimate the body count under Mao to be 38,000,000 to 67,000,000.
    • Cited by G & P:
      • Walker Report (see below): 44.3M to 63.8M deaths.
      • The Government Information Office of Taiwan (18 Sept. 1970): 37M deaths in the PRC.
      • A Radio Moscow report (7 Apr. 1969): 26.4M people had been exterminated in China.
      • (NOTE: Obviously the Soviets and Taiwanese would, as enemies, be strongly motivated to exaggerate.)
  • Guinness Book of World Records:
    • Although nowadays they don't come right out and declare Mao to be the Top Dog in the Mass Killings category, earlier editions (such as 1978) did, and they cited sources which are similar, but not identical, to the Glaser & Possony sources:
      • On 7 Apr. 1969 the Soviet government radio reported that 26,300,000 people were killed in China, 1949-65.
      • In April 1971 the cabinet of the government of Taiwan reported 39,940,000 deaths for the years 1949-69.
      • The Walker Report (see below): between 32,2500,000 and 61,700,000.
  • Harff and Gurr:
    • KMT cadre, rich peasants, landlords (1950-51): 800,000-3,000,000
    • Cultural Revolution (1966-75): 400,000-850,000
  • John Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen: 27M death toll, incl. 2M in Cultural Revolution
  • Paul Johnson doesn't give an overall total, but he gives estimates for the principle individual mass dyings of the Mao years:
    • Land reform, first years of PRC: at least 2 million people perished.
    • Great Leap Forward: "how many millions died ... is a matter of conjecture."
    • Cultural Revolution: 400,000, calling the 3 Feb. 1979 estimate by Agence France Presse, "The most widely respected figure".
  • Meisner, Maurice, Mao's China and After (1977, 1999), doesn't give an overall total either, but he does give estimates for the three principle mass dyings of the Mao years:
    • Terror against the counterrevolutionaries: 2 million people executed during the first three years of the PRC.
    • Great Leap Forward: 15-30 million famine-related deaths.
    • Cultural Revolution: 400,000, citing a 1979 estimate by Agence France Presse.
  • R. J. Rummel:
    • Estimate:
      • Democide: 34,361,000 (1949-75)
        • The principle episodes being...
          • All movements (1949-58): 11,813,000
            • incl. Land Reform (1949-53): 4,500,000
          • Cult. Rev. (1964-75): 1,613,000
          • Forced Labor (1949-75): 15,000,000
          • Great Leap Forward (1959-63): 5,680,000 democides
      • War: 3,399,000
      • Famine: 34,500,000
        • Great Leap Forward: 27M famine deaths
      • TOTAL: 72,260,000
    • Cited in Rummel:
      • Li, Cheng-Chung (Republic of China, 1979): 78.86M direct/indirect deaths.
      • World Anti-Communist League, True Facts of Maoist Tyranny (1971): 64.5M
      • Glaser & Possony: 38 to 67M (see above)
      • Walker Report, 1971 (see below): 31.75M to 58.5M casualties of Communism (excluding Korean War).
      • Current Death Toll of International Communism (1979): 39.9M
      • Stephen R. Shalom (1984), Center for Asian Studies, Deaths in China Due To Communism: 3M to 4M death toll, excluding famine.
  • Walker, Robert L., The Human Cost of Communism in China (1971, report to the US Senate Committee of the Judiciary) "Casualties to Communism" (deaths):
    • 1st Civil War (1927-36): .25-.5M
    • Fighting during Sino-Japanese War (1937-45): 50,000
    • 2nd Civil War (1945-49): 1.25M
    • Land Reform prior to Liberation: 0.5-1.0M
    • Political liquidation campaigns: 15-30M
    • Korean War: 0.5-1.234M
    • Great Leap Forward: 1-2M
    • Struggle with minorities: 0.5-1.0M
    • Cultural Revolution: .25-.5M
    • Deaths in labor camps: 15-25M
    • TOTAL: 34.3M to 63.784M
    • TOTAL FOR PRC: 32M to 59.5M
  • July 17, 1994, Washington Post (Great Leap Forward 1959-61)
    • Shanghai University journal, Society: > 40 million
    • Cong Jin: 40 million
    • Chen Yizi: 43 million in the famine. 80 million total as a result of Mao's policies.
  • Weekly Standard, 29 Sept. 1997, "The Laogai Archipelago" by D. Aikman:
    • Between 1949 and 1997, 50M prisoners passed through the labor camps, and 15,000,000 died (citing Harry Wu)
  • WHPSI: 1,633,319 political executions and 25,961 deaths from political violence, 1948-77. TOTAL: 1,659,280
Analysis/Total: 40 million
  • If we line up the 14 sources which claim to be complete, the median falls around 39.9 million range, so you probably can't go wrong picking a final number from this neighborhood. Depending on how you want to count some of the incomplete estimates (such as Becker and Meisner) and whether to count a source twice (or thrice, as with Walker) if it's referenced by two different authorities, you can slide the median up and down the scale by many millions.
    1. Stephen R. Shalom (1984), Center for Asian Studies, Deaths in China Due To Communism: 3M to 4M death toll, excluding famine.
    2. A Radio Moscow report (1969): 26.4M
    3. John Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: 27M death toll
    4. Brzezinski: 29M
    5. R. J. Rummel (1991): 34,361,000 democides, 1949-75
    6. The Government Information Office of Taiwan (1970): 37M
    7. Current Death Toll of International Communism (1979): 39.9M
    8. Government of Taiwan cabinet report (1971): 39,940,000 deaths for the years 1949-69.
    9. Walker Report (1971): 32M to 59.5M [mean: 45.75M]
    10. Glaser and Possony, Victims of Politics (1979): 38M to 67M [mean: 52.5M]
    11. Courtois, Le Livre Noir du Communism: 44.5 to 72M [mean: 58.25M]
    12. World Anti-Communist League, True Facts of Maoist Tyranny (1971): 64.5M
    13. Jung Chang, Mao: the Unknown Story (2005): 70M
    14. Li, Cheng-Chung (Republic of China, 1979): 78.86M direct/indirect deaths.
  • Notice, however, that many of those sources are obviously the propoganda arms of enemy governments. Perhaps a better way of estimating would be to add up the individual components. Keep in mind, however, that official Chinese records are hidden from scrutiny, so most of these numbers are only slightly better that pure guesses. It's pointless to get attached to any one of them, because the real number could easily be half or twice any number here. The medians here are:
    • Purges, etc. during the first few years: 2M (10 estimates)
    • Great Leap Forward: 31-33M (14 estimates)
    • Cultural Revolution: 1M (13 estimates)
    • Ethnic Minorities, primarily Tibetans: 750-900T (8 estimates, see below)
    • Labor Camps: 20M (5 estimates)
    • This produces a total of some 54,750,000 to 56,900,000 deaths. The weak link in this calculation is in the Labor Camp numbers for which we only have 5 estimates.
  • Notice that many early body counts (such as Walker) completely miss the famine during the Great Leap Forward, which was largely unknown in the west until around 1980. There are two contradictory ways to assess those early estimates which ignore the famine:
    1. "If these are the numbers that they came up with without the famine, imagine how high the true number will be once you add the famine deaths."
    2. "Can we trust any of these numbers? After all, if they missed such a huge famine, they can't have known very much about what was going on inside China."
  • ... so this line of reasoning will get us nowhere. In fact, the median of the 7 estimate that predate 1980 is 45.7M, which is almost the same as the median of the 7 estimates that post-date 1980 -- 58M. (At this scale, a 12M difference counts as "almost the same".)
Tibet (1950 et seq.): 300,000
  • Chinese occupation. (For the most part, it's already been included in the numbers above.)
    • Free Tibet Campaign [http://www.freetibet.org/info/facts/fact1.html]
      • Tibetans killed by the Chinese since 1950: 1,200,000
      • Died in prisons and labour camps between 1950 and 1984: up to 260,000
      • 1959 Uprising: 430,000 died
        • K. in Reprisals: 87,000
    • Our Times: 1,200,000
    • Courtois: 600,000 - 1,200,000
    • Walker, Robert: 500,000-1,000,000 (all ethnic minorities)
    • Rummel: 375,000 democides inflicted on etnic minorities
      • ... incl 150,000 Tibetans
    • Margolin, "China" in Courtois, Black Book of Communism, p. 546
      • The population of Tibet plunged from 2.8 million in 1953 to 2.5 million in 1964 [ a loss of 300,000]
    • Porter: 100,000 to 150,000.
    • Eckhardt:
      • 1950-51 War: 2,000 civ.
      • 1956-59 Revolt: 60,000 civ. + 40,000 mil. = 100,000
    • Harff and Gurr: 65,000 Tibetan nationalists, landowners, Buddhists killed, 1959
    • Small & Singer say that China lost 40,000 soldiers in Tibet between 1956 and '59.


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Last updated Feb. 2011

Copyright © 1999-2011 Matthew White