At first glance it is hard to know how to handle these extraordinarily high fatality figures. We can say with certainty that this was the reality of “total war.” Civilians died in the millions in several countries. In Germany, more civilians than soldiers lost their lives. We can also see the stark brutality of the racial war of aggression and annihilation. Poland’s military was defeated in a matter of weeks, but six million of its civilians would die before the war’s end: three million Jewish men, women, and children in the Holocaust and three million non-Jewish civilians during the forced population transfers and “Germanization” of the region. The map also makes vivid the immense sacrifice borne by the population in the Soviet Union in the defeat of National Socialist Germany: over 20 million dead, including both civilian and military casualties.

Estimated Fatalities During the Second World War by Country (1939-1945)


Source: Sources and cartography: J. Noakes and G. Pridham, eds., Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1919-1945, vol. 2 (New York: Schocken Books, 1988), p. 874, with revised figures based on research by Jonathan Wiesen and Pamela Swett, 2022. Cartography by Gabriel Moss, 2022-2023.