25 May 2014

Other War-Related Violent Deaths


Civilian Deaths in Ukrainian-Polish Conflict in Volhynia and East Galicia


Somewhat in excess of 50,000 non-combatants were killed in the Ukrainian-Polish Conflict in Volhynia and East Galicia. Most of these were Poles massacred in summer and spring of 1943 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army — about 40,000. Another 5,000-10,000 Poles were killed in a similar campaign in Galicia in the summer and spring of 1944. There was also a smaller number of Ukrainian victims of counter-killings by the Polish Home Army.[33]

Deaths due to Soviet Partisan Reprisals

The Soviet partisans routinely carried out reprisals against civilians whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers, such as officials of the civil administration under the Germans. The number of people killed in reprisals carried out by the Soviet partisans may be estimated at about 60,000.

Soviet Partisan formations in Belarus reported killing 17,431 people as collaborators by January 1st 1944.[34] This was six months before Belarus would be liberated in mid-1944 and the partisan units in Belarus dissolved. Additionally the deaths of some victims of reprisals may have gone unreported, for example if they were killed for reasons other than perceived collaboration. All things considered the number of people killed in partisan reprisals in Belarus probably falls in the range of 20,000-30,000.

Deaths connected to partisan warfare in Belarus may constitute anywhere between 0.3 to 0.55 of the total for the entire Soviet Union. This gives a wide range of possibilities for the total figure of people killed in partisan reprisals in USSR, from a low of 40,000 to a high of 100,000. Still the variant where Belarus amounts for just over 0.4 of the total violence connected to partisan warfare in the USSR had been deemed most likely elsewhere in this paper. This would net an estimate of 60,000 people killed in Soviet partisan reprisals against perceived collaborators, class enemies and criminals.

Porajmos – Nazi Genocide against the Roma

There were about 40,000 Soviet citizens murdered in the Nazi genocide against the Roma. There were an estimated 30,000-35,00 such deaths in the USSR within its 1939 borders, as well as between 2,500-4,500 victims in the Baltic countries. Additionally there would have been several thousand more in parts of western Belarus and Ukraine annexed from Poland.[35]

Other Causes of Violent Deaths

During the Soviet-German War the Germans purposefully targeted POWs, Jews, the residents of Leningrad and Moscow, villagers and townsfolk of "bandit infested" regions and the Roma for murder in cold blood. In addition it was German official policy to target Communists, Soviet functionaries, those who helped the Jews, suspected activists and helpers for the urban underground, the members of the intelligentsia and the like. Additionally civilians from all backgrounds and walks of life could find themselves rounded up and executed as hostages in town and city-based anti-partisan reprisals. Furthermore numerous civilians were shot or perished of exhaustion in forced marches and places of German detention in forced evacuations that the Germans carried out as part of their scorched earth tactics that accompanied their retreat. Christian Gerlach estimates that about 100,000 civilians were executed or otherwise died under these various killing policies in the Belarusian SSR alone.[36] If Gerlach's estimate is anywhere near the truth the total for the entire Soviet Union must be in the hundreds of thousands.

In addition to falling prey to official occupational killing policies doubtlessly numerous civilians in occupied USSR were killed in individual unofficial killings, that is by soldiers or policemen who were not carrying out specific orders or policy, but engaged in murder on their own. For nearly four years there were more than three million German troops on Soviet soil, all of whom were explicitly told they would not be persecuted for mistreatment of civilians in the East. They were encouraged to think of the civilian populace around them as subhuman and instructed to interact with it with utmost ruthlessness. How many Soviet civilians were killed when individual German soldiers some of whom had taken part in official mass killing actions took advantage of their license to freely engage in wanton murder in the occupied USSR? The figure is anyone's guess, but it has to be at least in the thousands, more likely in the tens of thousands, or even greater.

Numerous cities in the Soviet Union were subject to heavy German bombing raids. In June 1941, for example, German bombing inflicted such damage on the city of Minsk that fires engulfing the city took three days to die down. Still the most damaging of such attacks was a massive three-day operation against Stalingrad in August 1942. This attack alone killed tens of thousands of people, most likely about 25,000.[37] The total number of civilians killed in aerial bombing raids against Soviet targets is again anyone's guess, but a range between 100,000 and 200,000 seems reasonable.

1941-1944 the Soviet Union was a scene of gigantic land battles, the largest and most intense the world has ever seen, before or since then. Without a doubt numerous civilians were killed in the course of these military operations mostly, but not exclusively, without being specifically targeted. Civilians could be pulverized by artillery fire in their homes, strafed from the air on the roads and trains, or blown up by land mines or unexploded bombs and shells in their fields. The number of Soviet civilians who died during the war in such or similar manner, is again anyone's guess but it very likely exceeds 100,000. Most likely the real number is somewhere in the low hundreds of thousands, albeit given the scale of the battles even a figure as high as half a million may not be unthinkable.

The number of Soviet civilians who died violent deaths during military battles, bombing of Soviet cities, and in German repression against Communists, the urban underground, Jew-helpers and the like as well as in forced evacuations and instances of killings by individual occupational troops is impossible to determine. Any estimate is by necessity more so or less so conjectural and represents more an educated guess than anything else. Nonetheless in my judgment it seems likely these other causes of mainly violent, war-related deaths together took the lives of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people.

Table of Contents


33. Timothy Snyder, “To Resolve the Ukrainian Question Once and For All”: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ukrainians in Poland, 1943-1947, November 2001.

34. Snyder, Bloodlands, 251 citing Bogdan Musial, Sowjetische Partisanen 1941Р1944: Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Paderborn: Ferdinand Sch̦ningh, 2009) 261.

35. Donald Niewyk, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (Columbia University Press, 2000) 422.

36. Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, 1158.

37. Stephen G. Fritz, Ostkrieg : Hitler′s war of extermination in the East (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011) 1530.

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