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Documenting Numbers of Victims
of the Holocaust & Nazi Persecution

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.

What follow are the current best estimates of civilians and disarmed soldiers killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

These estimates are calculated from wartime reports generated by those who implemented Nazi population policy, and postwar demographic studies on population loss during World War II.

Number of Deaths

Jews: up to 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: 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)

Jewish Loss by Location of Death

With regard to the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust, best estimates for the breakdown of Jewish loss according to location of death follow:

Auschwitz complex (including Birkenau, Monowitz, and subcamps): approximately 1 million

Treblinka 2: approximately 925,000

Belzec: 434,508

Sobibor: at least 167,000

Chelmno: 156,000–172,000

Shooting operations at various locations in central and southern German-occupied Poland (the so-called Government General): at least 200,000

Shooting operations in German-annexed western Poland (District Wartheland): at least 20,000

Deaths in other facilities that the Germans designated as concentration camps: at least 150,000

Shooting operations and gas wagons at hundreds of locations in the German-occupied Soviet Union: at least 1.3 million

Shooting operations in the Soviet Union (German, Austrian, Czech Jews deported to the Soviet Union): approximately 55,000

Shooting operations and gas wagons in Serbia: at least 15,088

Shot or tortured to death in Croatia under the Ustaša regime: 23,000–25,000

Deaths in ghettos: at least 800,000

Other*: at least 500,000

*"Other" includes, for example, persons killed in shooting operations in Poland in 1939–1940; as partisans in Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, France or Belgium; in labor battalions in Hungary; during antisemitic actions in Germany and Austria before the war; by the Iron Guard in Romania, 1940–1941; and on evacuation marches from concentration camps and labor camps in the last six months of World War II. It also includes people caught in hiding and killed in Poland, Serbia, and elsewhere in German-occupied Europe.

Notes on Documentation

No single wartime document

There is no single wartime document that contains the above cited estimates of Jewish deaths.

There are three obvious and interrelated reasons for the lack of a single document:

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.

One centrally directed statistical study of Jews killed by German authorities survived the war. A copy was among the records captured by the US Army in 1945. Likewise, several regional compilations of such gruesome data were among the records captured by US, British, and Soviet forces after World War II. The US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union have used most of these documents at one time or another as exhibits in criminal or civil proceedings against Nazi offenders

Polish and Soviet civilian figures

With regard to the Polish and Soviet civilian figures, at this time there are not sufficient demographic tools to enable historians to distinguish between:

1) racially targeted individuals 
2) persons actually or believed to be active in underground resistance
3) persons killed in reprisal for some actual or perceived resistance activity carried out by someone else
4) losses due to so-called collateral damage in actual military operations

Virtually all deaths of Soviet, Polish, and Serb civilians during the course of military and anti-partisan operations had, however, a racist component. German units conducted those operations with an ideologically driven and willful disregard for civilian life.


SourceDocumenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust & Nazi Persecution, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.