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My 11-y. daughter is making a year-schoolwork about children in WWII. And she wanted to know how many people were destroyed by the nazi camp system. At first I thought she is searching incorrectly and finds meaningless numbers only, but she proposed to find the number myself... And I was astonished, that I really cannot find the number.

There is a number of Jews shot or killed by gas (2.7 mln), a number of Polish victims in camps in Poland (1.2mln), Soviet soldiers killed in these Poland camps (800t), but obviously, if we want to find the whole numbers, these part ones are useless, for they overlap.

The only general number I found was 3.1-3.2 mln victims of extermination camps, but this is only about camps that were named extermination camps. Other camps or death trains or marches killed people in great numbers, too, and only smaller part of total 45000 camps were extermination ones. And 3.1mln is far less than the number of victims in 8 greatest camps in Poland only.

Also, I see no numbers for death trains and marches. And after we visited the museums of Teresin, we know, that they swallowed a significant fraction of the total number of victims. And I think, that these transports that killed people between camps, should be counted in the whole number.

Of course, the transports to camps were deadly, too (my granduncle was in one of such, and told about no-food regime for weeks), but I am afraid it is not possible to count their victims.

Do you know about some general number, either exact or at least some sensible estimation? If trains and marches cannot be covered, then at least all camps' victims number.

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  • @sempaiscuba Thank you very much. That is about 18 mln without "resistance activists", for them the number is unknown. And among these really great numbers of victims in partisan lands could be... But anyway, it is a very good estimation, could you put it here as answer, please? – Gangnus Apr 27 at 13:18
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    Also worth noting that Nazi Germany had the death penalty, and was not shy about using it. That was the fate of Dietrich Bonhoffer. – T.E.D. Apr 27 at 13:18
  • @T.E.D. That is that number of "activists". When we were in the museum of gestapo camp in Teresin, we were said that even a person who gave a piece of bread to a Jew was to be put into that camp. 50000 such "activists" for the small Czechia sat there. All of them were moved to "traditional" camps or shot(~2600). – Gangnus Apr 27 at 13:23
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    @sempaiscuba That number is not exactly about camps and transports, but the whole estimation for non-war victims is even better. Gratitudes from my daughter and me. – Gangnus Apr 27 at 13:26
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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a page titled, Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution which contains some good estimates, and also details that may help explain why it is do difficult to obtain good estimates for the number of people murdered by the Nazis.


Why is it hard to estimate the number of people murdered?

As the page Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution cited above observes:

Calculating the numbers of individuals who were killed as the result of Nazi policies is a difficult task. There is no single wartime document created by Nazi officials that spells out how many people were killed in the Holocaust or World War II.

To accurately estimate the extent of human losses, scholars, Jewish organizations, and governmental agencies since the 1940s have relied on a variety of different records, such as census reports, captured German and Axis archives, and postwar investigations, to compile these statistics. As more documents come to light or as scholars arrive at a more precise understanding of the Holocaust, estimates of human losses may change.

The single most important thing to keep in mind when attempting to document numbers of victims of the Holocaust is that no one master list of those who perished exists anywhere in the world.

They also note the main reasons why there is no single document listing the numbers of victims:

  1. Compilation of comprehensive statistics of Jews killed by German and other Axis authorities began in 1942 and 1943. It broke down during the last year and a half of the war.

  2. Beginning in 1943, as it became clear that they would lose the war, the Germans and their Axis partners destroyed much of the existing documentation. They also destroyed physical evidence of mass murder.

  3. No personnel were available or inclined to count Jewish deaths until the very end of World War II and the Nazi regime. Hence, total estimates are calculated only after the end of the war and are based on demographic loss data and the documents of the perpetrators. Though fragmentary, these sources provide essential figures from which to make calculations.


Numbers of people killed by the Nazis

The current best estimates for the number of people murdered are:

  • Jews: 6 million
  • Soviet civilians: around 7 million (including 1.3 Soviet Jewish civilians, who are included in the 6 million figure for Jews)
  • Soviet prisoners of war: around 3 million (including about 50,000 Jewish soldiers)
  • Non-Jewish Polish civilians: around 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elites)
  • Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina): 312,000
  • People with disabilities living in institutions: up to 250,000
  • Roma (Gypsies): 196,000–220,000
  • Jehovah's Witnesses: around 1,900
  • Repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials: at least 70,000
  • German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory: undetermined
  • Homosexuals: hundreds, possibly thousands (possibly also counted in part under the 70,000 repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials noted above)

(source - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Which suggests that in all, something like 18 million people were murdered by the Nazis (bearing in mind the caveats noted above).


The Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution page cited above also has a table showing a breakdown of best estimates for the breakdown of Jewish losses according to location of death.


A couple of other sites that might be of interest to your daughter are:

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    It is really hard to count. For example, from Teresin Ghetto nazis sent Jews in trains to some known camps... But some trains ( about a third) were sent to unknown camps. BTW, mortality for people sent to unknown camps, was 100%. Also that system of death trains and marches, officially people in them died out of the camp and were not counted. – Gangnus Apr 27 at 13:51
  • BTW, that number, I am afraid, is not full, too. For example, during ONLY first 4 months of war with USSSR , about 3 mil. prisoners were taken. And almost all of them were murdered. And in this table I see 3 mil for the whole war. – Gangnus Apr 27 at 13:54
  • @Gangnus Yes, that's why these kinds of figures will only ever be a best estimate. The actual total might be very much higher, but as historians we can only provide estimates based on evidence, and make it clear why those are only estimates. – sempaiscuba Apr 27 at 13:54

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