World War II combat deaths versus Democide

Monday, Jun 29, 2009

World War I combat dead: 9 million World War II combat dead: 15 million Total War combat dead in the 20th century: 35 million Democide (governments killing civilians [their own or prisoners]) in the 20th century: 262 million

The most authoritative sources, widely relied in the field of war studies, are the statistical books of J. David Singer (search under COW Project). His figure for World War II war dead is 15,000,000. Now, you may think he is in error, since that often given for the U.S.S.R. alone is about 20,000,000, and 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 is the total for the war often cited. What has caused these massive disparities is the confusion between those killed in combat and its crossfire, and those murdered by governments during the war (democide). Aside from battle or military engagements, during the war the Nazis murdered around 20,000,000 civilians and prisoners of war, the Japanese 5,890,000, the Chinese Nationalists 5,907,000, the Chinese communists 250,000, the Nazi satellite Croatians 655,000, the Tito Partisans 600,000, and Stalin 13,053,000 (above the 20,000,000 war-dead and democide by the Nazis of Soviet Jews and Slavs). I also should mention the indiscriminate democidal bombing of civilians by the Allies that murdered hundreds of thousands, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of these dead are usually included among the war-dead. But those killed in battle versus in democide form distinct conceptual and theoretical categories and should not be confused. That they have been consistently confounded helps raise the toll during World War II to some 60,000,000 people, way above the estimated 15,000,000 killed in battle and military action. And that the almost universally accepted count of genocide during this period also is no more than "6,000,000" Jews, around 13 percent of the total wartime democide, has further muddled research and thought.

Overall, both World War I and World War II had about 24,000,000 (combat) war dead. This leaves still many, and smaller, wars to go to reach my approximate 35,000,000. I did a through search of the estimates of war dead for each nation, 1900-1987, and you can find them in my books Lethal Politics for the U.S.S.R., China's Bloody Century, Democide for Nazi Germany, and for all others, Statistics of Democide.

Democratic Peace Q&A, R.J. Rummel, Honolulu: Department of Political Science, February 20, 2005,