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There is an old phrase that the victors write the history books. As a result there is a lot of mythology about which nations suffered the most during the two world wars. These statistics may help to dispel some of those myths.
One might guess that one in five Britons killed in the Second World War was a civilian; but who would have thought that more Greeks were killed than Americans? It is certainly shocking to discover that over 17% of the Polish population died.
When we look at the First World War, it is salutary to discover that Bulgaria sustained more casualties than the USA, and that half as many Britons were missing as killed. It is certainly a surprise to realise that considerably more Austro-Hungarians were missing in action in the First World War than Americans were killed in both wars combined.
As you can see, the WWII figures do not include wounded or missing, and not all the figures are available for all countries. Switzerland, Eire and Sweden are notable by their absence. Eire did not exist as a separate nation in the First World War, and all three countries were neutral in the Second.
It is not clear whether the statistics for WWII include those killed in the Holocaust. The high numbers of Polish civilian dead suggest that they might be. It is, however, chilling to know that the Jewish population of Europe was 8 million in the 1930s, and the global population of Jews now is only 15 million1.
For all that, these statistics remain illuminating and disturbing.
They are presented in the order of the greatest number of deaths.
Dead, Wounded and Missing in the First World War
Civilian and Military Deaths in the Second World War
|Countries||Total Deaths||% of Pre-war Population||Military Deaths||Civilian Deaths|
Interesting, isn't it?
World War I Statistics on the Web
- First World War Deaths - a simple table with differing statistics from the ones shown above. In particular it records 126,000 killed and died for the USA, which is a considerable difference.
- European History - an article that mentions the difficulties in compiling statistics that gives some information on how they have arrived at the numbers.
- First World War - the article that was used as the source for the WWI statistics shown in this Entry.
- First World War Casualties - another simple table of yet another different set of numbers.
- War Statistics - this is interesting because it shows only the Allied deaths and bundles up individual countries into the British Empire; a useful example of how easy it is not to present the full picture, which is disturbing because it is explicitly aimed at schools.
- World War I - this site shows one set of statistics sorted in different orders.
World War II Statistics on the Web
- World War 2 Statistics - the simple table that was used for this Guide Entry.
- Death Tolls - a fascinating page, which cites statistics on a national basis, and then compares the numbers quoted in different reference books. For example the numbers quoted for Russian Military Deaths vary from 6,115,000 to 22,000,000 (The Guardian).
- WW2 Deaths - a simple table giving different numbers again.
- WW2 Statistics - a site that starts off with statistics of war deaths and continues with military statistics, which are particularly detailed about German armaments.
- World War 2 in Ukraine - a page of simple statistics from a site that focuses on the war in the Ukraine.
A Site of Citations
- Necrometrics - this site is a mine of useful and disturbing information about statistics, not to mention disturbing statistics. This page provides a source List and detailed death tolls for the man-made megadeaths of the 20th Century.
Bringing it Up to Date
- Three World Wars - this page compares the statistics for WWI, WWII and the 1990 Gulf War, with an allegedly real-time counter of the cost of the war in the Gulf.