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8 May, 2008 14:11

WW2 claimed 8 MLN Germans: historians

WW2 claimed 8 MLN Germans: historians

The exact number of casualties sustained by Germany and its allies during World War II is still a mystery. Russian and German historians are now suggesting the number could be as high as the catastrophic losses of the Soviet Red Army.

Incredibly, more than sixty years after the end of the bloodiest war in history some countries still do no have an accurate figure for the number of lives it claimed. German historians have found the task particularly challenging. Their main source of data on military casualties remains official statistics published by the government department led by the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. As one might expect the figures were liberally revised downwards, especially after the Battle of Stalingrad when the Germans began to retreat and take heavy losses.

German's post-war division further complicated efforts. Shortly after the war Germany was divided up by the Allied powers, and in 1949 split into Western and Eastern Germany. Historians on either side of the border were rarely able to cooperate and research ground to a standstill. The division prevented any effective research being conducted until the county was reunified in 1990.

Official estimates show that 2.5 million Germans died on the Eastern Front. But Russian historians count over 3.2 million German graves on the territory of the former Soviet Union alone.

In Russia, research on the war on the Eastern Front, which Russians call the Great Patriotic War, is still extremely active.

Latest estimates raise the figure of German losses on the Eastern Front to 4 million. This makes 7 million a more plausible number for total German military casualties in the war, or 8 million when its Axis allies are included.

These latest figures are not far off the number of Soviet Union casualties. 8.6 million Red Army soldiers, as well as navy and air force servicemen died in World War II, and the civilian death toll is thought be in excess of 12 million.