I have three questions about this that I hope people can help me out with:

  1. How many soldiers were conscripted in total (in all countries)?

  2. What was punishment like if you refused?

  3. How many conscripts are estimated to have died in the war?

According to Wikipedia 1.3 million men were conscripted and 2.4 volunteered between 1935 and 1939.

This leaves a large portion of the war unaccounted for, as Germany carried on conscription until the end of the war.

Spartacus Educational claims that the German army could conscript 300,000 men per year.

If the rate of military conscription stayed the same for the rest of the war it would mean that around 1.8 million additional soldiers were conscripted during the war.

Approximately 18 million men served in the war, with about 5.3 million casualties by the end. If the ratio of deaths (18 : 5.3) is the same for volunteers and conscripts we can estimate that 530,000 conscripts died.

Personally I think this could be a big underestimation for the following reasons: The size of the German army increased every year as the war escalated. (In 1939 it had 4,220,000 soldiers and by 1944 it had 9,420,000 soldiers.) Also, conscripts may have been more likely to die since they were less dedicated to the war and German conscription became more and more desperate, eventually conscripting children and the elderly who were given terrible weapons and equipment.

What do you all think about this possibly being an underestimation?

(Unfortunately I have found nothing about the consequences of refusing to fight in the German army, except for some anecdotal stories about people being shot as punishment)

  • 1
    Only in Germany or other countries, too? – Greg Mar 21 '20 at 8:16
  • 2
    What's your definition of "Nazi soldier"? – user8611 Mar 21 '20 at 9:13
  • 2
    @MarkC.Wallace Sorry I was tired and wanted to post the question before going to bed. I've updated the question with everything I've found on the topic. – Supercreature Mar 21 '20 at 21:10
  • @Greg All countries, any conscripts fighting for Germany – Supercreature Mar 21 '20 at 21:10
  • These varies by country and by time. Eg in Hungary, ethnic Germans were conscripted to SS, and at the end of war even high schoolers ( non ethnic) were put into wagons, and taken to Germany to dig trenches or support flacks. It is very different from 1 or 2 years earlier. – Greg Mar 22 '20 at 3:42

I think your questions are impossible to answer with any precision, except possibly for the first point. Especially at the end of the war, things got confused and desperate.

  • A number of services proliferated which were not quite Wehrmacht but certainly fighting, like the Volkssturm (kids and cripples with any weapon at hand, from ancient to most modern), Flakhelfer (pupils serving AA batteries during alert), but also Hiwi (POWs who became military auxiliaries, not always willingly).
  • At the end, accusations of hindering the war effort (and refusing to fight certainly counted) would get people executed by court martial. Nazi court martials passed about 30.000 death sentences, 23.000 of them were executed. Not all of those sentences were for desertion, and not all desertion sentences were about conscripts refusing to fight.
  • In the memoir 'Christobel', the author remembers a German civilian being executed by court martial (probably for hindering the war effort) for refusing to give his bike to a soldier when commanded to do so. This was just a couple of days before the end of the war. – Jurp Mar 21 '20 at 13:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.