In 1939, the world was plunged into its most destructive and fateful conflict in history. A complex, intricate web of power was forged by the most dangerous international forces, pulling together all the resources of mind and dime to reshape the political stage of the 20th and 21st centuries. In just 6 years, a single war claimed more lives and destroyed more property than every other conflict before it. To drive the point across, here are some brutal World War II facts.
From the time the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1941, two-thirds of the German armed forces were always engaged on the eastern front.
The eastern front was costly for the Nazis, as there was never a time since the invasion where it didn’t drain over 66% of their total armed resources.
More people died on the eastern front than on all the other stages of World War II put together.
Four out of five Germans who were killed during the war died on the eastern front. Add to that the vast number of other casualties from the Soviet Union, Italy, Hungary and Romania (plus the fact that most extermination camps were located on the eastern front) and the result is the bloodiest stage of the bloodiest war in history.
3 out of 4 U-Boat sailors died during the war.
So massive and decisive was the attack on the German Navy that a mere 25% of all the sailors serving on German submarines (U-Boats) was lucky enough to survive.
The war claimed between 50 and 70 million lives overall.
Although this is just an estimate (as the numbers cannot be thoroughly confirmed), the number is mind-blowing. Just to give you an idea, it is as if the entire population of the UK, or France, or Italy, or over a hundred other countries had been wiped out. The toll was equivalent to around 3% of the world-population at that time.
The single power who lost more people during the war was the Soviet Union, with casualties of between 9 and 16 million people.
Some estimates put this number even higher, up to 27 million. This includes the deaths sustained by the Soviets during one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, the Siege of Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg.) All in all, the Soviet Union lost over 15% of its total population.
80% of males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 died during the war.
With the previous estimates, it’s not surprising that a whole generation of Soviet soldiers was lost during the war. Still, it is a brutal figure to put things into perspective.
Polish midwife Stanislawa Leszczyńska delivered over 3,000 babies at Auschwitz.
She was ordered to murder them, but she refused. Tragically, many of the babies were killed only hours later anyway.
More than 1 million Jewish children were killed by the Nazis.
The Third Reich wasn’t merciful even towards children: they murdered over one million of them, often with brutal methods such as drowning. Many died after inhumane experimentation. Overall, it is estimated than more than 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust.
Over 4,900 Germans were executed under Hitler’s orders following the 20 July Plot.
On 20 July, 1944, several German conspirators (led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg) who were against Nazi-rule and favored the Allies attempted to murder Hitler to end the war. The plot famously failed, and the conspirators were caught and executed. Hitler used the attempt as an excuse to kill several political opponents, regardless of whether they had a direct involvement in the plot. Thousands of anti-Nazi Germans died, some of whom were strangled with piano wires as per Hitler’s wishes.
The US killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people with the Nuclear Attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
These figures only include people who died immediately during the attack or a few months afterwards. Thousands more died years later from the side-effects of radiation, including cancer and birth defects. Most of them were innocent civilians.
World War II saw acts of brutality by every party and represented one of the worst possible scenarios of fascism. With today’s tense political climate repeating several similar patterns of xenophobic, racist, and intolerant discourse, let’s hope we can look to the past to avoid the same mistakes and terrors.
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