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I've been reading a good bit on the Soviet-Axis war of World War 2 as of late. Something that continually strikes me is the large variation in casualties for any given operation or battle that occurred on the front, depending on who you ask.

Perhaps the most egregious difference is at the Battle of Kursk. FWIW, I am aware that German and Soviet scholars have disagreed on what actually comprised the Battle of Kursk: Soviet scholars believed both the large Soviet counterattacks and Operation Citadel were part of the Battle, whereas German sources have generally only considered the Axis offensive as the Battle of Kursk (or something to the effect).

However, even when steps are made to rectify this issue, it seems that sources still vary wildly. A simple google search brings up 'the WW2 DB', a source that states the casualty ratio was incredibly lopsided: 200,000 Germans vs. 860,000 Soviets, 500 German tanks vs. 1,500 Soviet tanks. But then there are also sources such as the 'Rise and Fall of the German Air Force: 1933-1945': ISBN 5-699-18349-3 or the Russian 'Book for Future Admirals', which both state around 300,000 irrecoverable Soviet losses vs. 280,000 irrecoverable German losses. I know the first source is counting wounded and sick as well, but it still does not explain how some sources are basically stating a 1:1 loss ratio, and others are going up to 4:1.

Does anyone know what the deal is here? Do Germans and Soviets count casualties, particularly for their armor and wounded, very differently? Is propaganda on either side a strong force for these numbers?

Thanks in advance!

  • "the Russian 'Book for Future Admirals'" is a propaganda book for adolescents which contains little truth. – sds Aug 1 at 18:35

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