25 April 2014

The Holocaust, Anti-Partisan Reprisals and the Siege of Leningrad

The Holocaust

Compared to the other categories of Soviet civilian losses of World War II there are now relatively precise and reliable calculations for the number of Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Israeli historian Yitzhak Arad calculates there were between 2,509,000 and 2,624,500 civilian Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust, which makes for a mid-point estimate of 2.55 million.[29]

This estimate includes only direct victims of the Holocaust, and leaves out Soviet Jewish deaths in unoccupied USSR, for example among Jewish refugees from western USSR and in the Siege of Leningrad. It leaves out 120,000 deaths of Jewish Red Army men killed in combat, Jewish civilians killed in the course of battles such as the Siege of Odessa, as well as of the 80,000 Jewish Red Army soldiers who were killed in German captivity as Soviet POWs.

Naturally the 2.55 million figure is given for the Soviet Union within its expanded borders. It covers all losses from all areas part of the Soviet Union in 1941 that were retained after 1945. Sometimes far smaller figures of about 1 million Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust may be encountered, but this is because such estimates cover only the victims from territories part of the Soviet Union in its 1939 borders.

Anti-partisan Reprisals

In response to partisan activity in a given area in their rear the Germans in the Soviet Union carried out what were essentially clearance operations targeting primarily the civilian population of the area rather than any local partisan formations. Areas deemed to be infested by partisans or „bandits“ were descended upon by security units and its population subject to mass killings and deportations. When the population of a given place was deemed to have been "infested" by partisan influence it was wiped out. It was the policy of eliminating civilian support for partisans by eliminating civilians.

The number of Soviet civilians killed in anti-partisan reprisals is highly uncertain. The German historian Christian Hartmann mentions a figure of 500 thousand, whereas the British historian Richard Overy mentions the figure in excess of 1 million victims. American historian Timothy Snyder talks of 700 thousand dead but that is for Poland and the Soviet Union combined.[30]

02 April 2014

Wartime Losses in Light of Expected and Actual Mortality Due to Soviet Repression

The all-present figure of 26.6 million demographic losses of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War is based on a calculation that on the basis of mortality figures for 1940 posits that without the war there would have been 25.3 million fewer losses among those born before July 22nd 1941, and 1.3 million fewer losses among those born after 22.6.1941.[23]

Such a calculation would, in the case that in 1940 the number of Soviet repression deaths was negligible, produce an estimate of total Soviet losses in the war, ie the total of losses due to the war and due to Soviet wartime repression. However, the number of Soviet repression deaths in 1940 is not necessarily so small as to be insignificant for this calculation.

In the case that Soviet repression during the war caused no more deaths per year than in 1940, such a calculation would produce an estimate of Soviet losses directly due to the war, ie without losses due to Soviet wartime repression. However, the war actually brought about a great increase in the scale and the lethality of Soviet state repression.

This means the 26.6 million figure is neither an estimate of total Soviet losses in the war, nor an estimate of losses due to the war. It captures some, but not all wartime deaths due to Soviet repression. It captures wartime Soviet repression deaths in excess of the expected level of Soviet repression deaths based on the 1940 levels, but does not capture the part of Soviet losses due to Soviet state repression not in excess of the 1940 levels.

How many people perished in 1940 due to Soviet state repression? We know that 47 thousand people died in the labor camps of the gulag, 7 thousand in the labor colonies of the gulag and 6 thousand in prisons. 2,044 people were executed for criminal offenses and 1,649 for political offenses. Additionally there would have been excess deaths among internal exiles.[24]