World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion).
Civilian deaths totaled 50-55 million. Military deaths from all causes totaled 21–25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war.
More than half of the total number of casualties are accounted for by the dead of the Republic of China and of the Soviet Union.
The government of the Russian Federation in the 1990s published an estimate of USSR losses at 26.6 million, including 8 to 9 million due to famine and disease. These losses are for the territory of the USSR in the borders of 1946–1991, including territories annexed in 1939–40.
The People’s Republic of China as of 2005 estimated the number of Chinese casualties in the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945 are 20 million dead and 15 million wounded.
In 2018, the United States Holocaust museum has the number of murdered during the time period of the holocaust at 17 million – 6 million Jews and 11 million others.
World War II losses of the Soviet Union from all related causes were about 27,000,000 both civilian and military, although exact figures are disputed. A figure of 20 million was considered official during the Soviet era. The post-Soviet government of Russia puts the Soviet war losses at 26.6 million, on the basis of the 1993 study by the Russian Academy of Sciences, including people dying as a result of effects of the war. This includes 8,668,400 military deaths as calculated by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The figures published by the Ministry of Defense have been accepted by most historians outside Russia. However, the official figure of 8.7 million military deaths has been disputed by Russian scholars who believe that the number of dead and missing POWs is not correct and new research is necessary to determine actual losses. Officials at the Russian Central Defense Ministry Archive (CDMA) maintain that their database lists the names of roughly 14 million dead and missing service personnel. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated in 2009 that “data about our losses haven’t been revealed yet…We must determine the historical truth.” He added that more than 2.4 million people are still officially considered missing in action, of the 9.5 million persons buried in mass graves, six million are unidentified. Some Russian scholars put the total number of losses in the war, both civilian and military, at over 40 million.
Summary of Russian sources
The war related deaths detailed in Russian sources are as follows.
- The Krivosheev study listed 8,668,400 irreplaceable losses (from listed strength): 5,226,800 killed in action, 1,102,800 died of wounds in field hospitals, 555,500 non combat deaths, POW deaths and missing were 4,559,000. Deductions were 939,700 who “were encircled or missing in action in occupied areas who were reconscripted once areas liberated” and 1,836,000 POWs returned from captivity.
- The Krivosheev study listed 500,000 reservists captured by the enemy after being conscripted but before being taken on strength.
- Russian sources report 2,164,000 deaths as civilian “forced labor in Germany” Viktor Zemskov believed that these they were actually military deaths not included in the Krivosheev report. Zemskov put the military death toll at 11.5 million.
- Convicts and deserters listed in the Krivosheev study. 994,300 were sentenced by court martial and 212,400 were reported as deserters. They are not included with the 8.668 million irreplaceable losses listed by Krivosheev.
- Russian sources list 7.420 million civilians killed in the war, including the siege of Leningrad. Sources cited for this figure are from the Soviet period The figure of 7.4 million has been disputed by Viktor Zemskov who believed that the actual civilian death toll was at least 4.5 million. He maintained that the official figures included POWs, persons who emigrated from the country, persons evacuated during the war counted as missing as well as militia and partisan fighters.
- Russian sources maintain that there were 4.1 million famine deaths in the regions occupied by Germany,
- Gulag prisoners. According to Viktor Zemskov “due to general difficulties in 1941–1945 in the camps, the GULAG and prisons about 1.0 million prisoners died Anne Applebaum cites Russian sources that put the Gulag death toll from 1941–45 at 932,000
- Deportation of ethnic minorities. Russian sources put the death toll at 309,000
- War-related deaths of those born during war – according to Andreev, Darski and Kharkova (ADK), there was an increase in infant mortality of 1.3 million.