The Holocaust Historiography Project

How Many Jews Were Eliminated by the Nazis?

A Preliminary Survey Of The Question

Frank H. Hankins

This study is part of the history of World War Two revisionism. It was written by Prof. Frank H. Hankins in 1958 at the suggestion of Prof. Harry Elmer Barnes, Hankins’s friend and colleague from Smith College days in the 1920s. Barnes — spurred to investigating the “Six Million” thesis as part of his revisionist program by his own long-held doubts and particularly by James J. Martin’s seminal letter to him of July 13, 1955 — could have found no better qualified scholar than Hankins to work on this project. Besides being a renowned sociologist and historian (at one time president of the American Sociological Society and editor of the American Sociological Review), Hankins was an expert demographer with a world-wide reputation. He was a fellow and president (1945) of the American Population Association, a member of the American committee of the International Population Union, the National Committee for Planned Parenthood, the editorial board of Birth Control Review, and the Association for Research in Human Heredity. He was the author of Adolphe Quetelet as Statistician, The Racial Basis of Civilization (a liberal book of 1928 attacking the Nordic supremacist sentiments then in vogue), An Introduction to the Study of Society, and a contributor to many other books, including Biology in Human Affairs, Contemporary Social Theory, and History and Prospects of the Social Sciences.

Hankins thus brought to the study of Jewish population movements in the mid-twentieth century an expertise sorely needed in a field noted — then and now — for the inherent malleability of its base-data, the extreme ease with which that data might be obtained or interpreted in entirely different ways by different persons, professional or amateur, who would wish to have any advance-conclusion “confirmed.” No twentieth century subject within the study of population movements has seen more varied conclusions arrived at, nor more varied ways of arriving at those conclusions, than the subject of what happened to the Jews of Europe during World War Two. Hankins’s effort was an attempt to review and explore this situation, approaching it objectively as a demographer, minus the standard starting-assumption that, six million (or more) Jews having perished, therefore any analysis of the problem must fit the data to this assumption rather than the other way around. It was a testament to the times in which he wrote that Hankins could not, because of this approach, affix in all wisdom his name to his study, and that it has remained unpublished — circulating only in photocopied manuscript form among a limited number of interested students — until now.

It is an early study, based on documentation available at the time. The mighty increase in source material and published analyses since then has not alleviated the basic problems inherent in any such study, problems which Prof. Hankins explicates at the outset. The whole essay may indeed be viewed as no more — nor less — than “a statement of a problem.” It is certainly not intended to be a “final word” — viz. its subtitle. The author was concerned with, first, showing how conjectural in 1958 was any approach to the problem of determining how many Jews were “missing” by the end of the war and, second, demonstrating the factors that would have to be considered in finding the answer to another problem, namely, that of determining how many Jews whatever their number “missing” — actually died, and of these how many died as a result of deliberate Nazi extermination (as opposed to a host of other causes). Hankins was the first demographer to raise seriously these issues in a way which tended to cast doubt on the commonly-cited demographic bases of the “Six Million (exterminated)” thesis.

Though his private correspondence with Barnes of the period shows that Hankins was extremely skeptical of the entire “Six Million” story — the story of a deliberate extermination program, of “gas chambers” in “death camps,” and so forth — he deliberately refrained from couching his essay in terms of a general debate on that whole question. Rather he restricted himself purely to a study of the possible numbers involved, a critique of previous explanations and methods of arriving at conclusions. Hence the particular question-form in which the title of the essay is given.

Note should be taken of one item Hankins brings up which is, in fact, outdated. At one point in the essay he states that “Those who have led in the charge that the Nazis did exterminate 4-7 million Jews do not allege that the large-scale extermination plan was formulated until after the Casablanca Conference of January, 1943, which launched the Unconditional Surrender formula for ending the War … But even those who support the extermination charges do not contend that the machinery for such extermination was well established before the late autumn of 1943.” Hankins was referring to standard sources which in 1958 alleged just this. Since then, of course, the recognized mainstream “line” of the “Holocaust” school as it has developed is that an extermination plan was decided on in 1941-42 (cf. Göring’s directive to Heydrich of 31 July 1941 and the Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942), with the first “actions” as part of this plan occurring later in 1942. But Hankins’s citation of the earlier line was merely an aside, reflecting the established notion of the time, and does not affect his general conclusions.

The appearance after so many years of “How Many Jews Were Eliminated by the Nazis?” is especially noteworthy in view of the publication by the IHR in June 1983 of The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry by Walter N. Sanning, with an Introduction by Dr. Arthur R. Butz. Sanning’s book is the result of years of intensive study utilizing the latest in technological research methods. It was actually written, its figures compiled and cross-checked, on a computer. It will be, in a word, the definitive study of the demographics of the Jewish population of Europe during World War Two, rendering all other studies of the particular question “Whatever happened to the 'Six Million'?” obsolete or superfluous. Its conclusions will not comfort the “Holocaust” Establishment. It is fitting that the publication of what promises to be the “final word” for years to come on this subject from the revisionist point of view should be immediately preceded by the publication at last of Frank Hankins’s first foreshadowing of that word.

— Keith Stimely

Introductory Considerations

The usual estimates, generally based on Jewish figures or charges, range from about 4 million to 6 or even a possible 7 million. Every estimate is, however, little more than an informed guess. The extensive variations in estimates show that all include a wide margin of probable error. The more one studies the matter, the clearer it becomes that the larger the estimate the greater the probable error. In most of these there is the tacit but gratuitous assumption that any decrease in the numbers of Jews in a given area after 1939, some allowance being made for the shiftings of territories from one jurisdiction to another, gives an approximation to the number of Jews deliberately eliminated. Such decreases, however, actually included large numbers who escaped by various routes and devices. Large numbers were lost behind the Iron Curtain; thousands died from the same conditions that caused the abnormal increase in the wartime mortality of the civilian populations of all central Europe. There would seem to be no reasonable way to give the Jews special exemption from the general hardships of wartime, especially in occupied areas. Indeed, they were probably worse for the Jews. The correct estimate of those who perished because of Nazi persecution should only include: (1) those who were slaughtered by shootings, gas chambers and other violence, and (2) those who died of hardships during the numerous forced deportations, or in the concentration camps because of excessive labor, starvation or disease, which they would probably have escaped had they remained in the usual civilian status.

Some Difficulties in Getting Reliable Figures

The most obvious and troublesome difficulty is the scarcity of census materials. In some areas, the last prewar census was made in 1930,1931, or 1933. For areas of special Jewish concentration there were: for Poland, a census, 9 December 1931 and an “official estimate,” 1 January 1939; for Russia, a census in 1926, and January 1939, but neither included a question as to religion; for Rumania, a census of December 1930 and an “official estimate” of December 1938; also a “census” in April 1941; and for Hungary, a census of 31 December 1930 and an “official estimate” of December 1938. To these may be added the immediate postwar census of Poland of February 1946 which, like most of the other population countings of the immediate postwar years, was largely only a sampling and an estimate computation. This was made inevitable by the vast movements of population still going on to the end of 1946, and even later.

The result is that one finds very considerable differences among the estimates of the numbers of Jews in various areas in the critical year 1939. It should be recalled that, from 1939 on, there was an unprecedented upheaval of populations, both Jewish and Gentile, throughout central Europe, first ahead of the German armies as they swept eastward after September 1939, and especially after 22 June 1941, and then behind the Russian forces as they swept westward, beginning in 1943. As the Germans went east, large numbers followed, especially from Germany; as the Russians went west, large numbers sought to return to former homesteads. In these moving hordes of all nationalities, including Jews, large numbers died from the hardships of war; other millions of several nationalities, including Jews, were deported; still other millions throughout the area were killed in civilian bombings, or died in the armed forces. During this whole period, the records of births and deaths were incomplete and otherwise defective.

It should be obvious that this situation makes all estimates of the numbers, both of total populations and especially of the numbers of Jews, at the best only informed guesses. It opens the way for tendentious calculations. A perusal of the literature shows that the large unknowns led to much carelessness in the use of figures. The same author, in a number of cases, gives different figures for the same item on different pages, as though a variation by some thousands could not add anything to the errors already involved. Every calculation has to have what the U.S. Bureau of the Census workers call a “residual” item, or a figure to strike a reasonable balance between the very probable numbers with which you start. For example, in 1939, the probable changes due to “normal” births and deaths, the probable number dying from various abnormal causes, and the probable number still surviving. This residual figure opens the way for all sorts of manipulations.

Thus, the Bureau of the Census (The Population of Poland, pp29 and 31) says, after noting that it is impossible to strike a true balance for the Polish changes, 1939-1945: “(Even after July, 1945) millions of displaced persons milled about… Across these currents of voluntary migration moved other millions permanently expelled from their homes etc.” and (p31) “War losses could have been anywhere from 2 million to 7 million persons. Either of the extreme figures seems unlikely, but the exact war losses cannot be determined precisely.” (For same quote, see page l87.)

These are some of the problems which face even the most honest and competent persons who seek to obtain reliable figures about the number of the Jews in Europe in 1939, the number who perished in some way during the war, how they perished, how many that remain unaccounted for really perished, and how many may now be living behind the Iron Curtain, in Israel, in the United States, and elsewhere. It is obvious that all these uncertainties which confront honest and objective students of the subject also provide almost unlimited opportunities for those who wish to juggle the figures, whether they seek to minimize or exaggerate the number of Jews who perished during the war.

Some Avenues of Escape for the Jews

Several studies make passing reference to the numerous Jews who escaped the Nazi round-ups by: (a) being secreted by non-Jewish friends; (b) using false identification papers; and (c) baptism into a Christian religious community. Those under (a) were probably not very numerous because the Nazi penalty was death for the entire family of the “good Samaritan.” Some find the numbers under (b) and (c) running into the thousands or tens of thousands. In census taking the individual classifies himself as of a certain nationality. This somewhat ambiguous term covers such alternatives as race, country of birth, country of residence, and country of citizenship. Jews could thus classify themselves as of Jewish or of some other nationality, according to their background, physical traits or language proficiency. Those born in Poland, but speaking German fluently and living in Germany, could classify themselves as Jewish, Polish or German, the latter on occasion requiring a new set of identification papers. A Jew born in Germany, living in Poland, and speaking Polish, had similar choices. This old method of escaping the harsher aspects of anti-Semitism seems to have been widely practiced by Jews under the pressure of the Nazis and the intense hostility in Poland and elsewhere, especially after 1933.

Some illustrations: The U.S. Census Bureau report on Poland, with reference to an additional 900,000 Poles unaccounted for in their calculations, says (p78) that “these may have been non-Poles reclassed as Poles and thus lost to their previous category.” There is no way of knowing how many of these were Jews, but they certainly had the strongest motivation to use this avenue of escape, and it is difficult to conceive of any other racial or nationality group that would thus shift their classification on a large scale. This same authority in its study of Czechoslovakia notes (p26 and Ftnt. p14) that the last prewar census of 1930 reported 354,000 Jews by religion but only 110,000 by nationality. Jacoby (pp308 and 310) gives comparable figures but with a larger difference. In this case, the small number classed as Jews by nationality was due to the large number classing themselves as German by nationality. Jews in the Soviet Satellites states (pp239-240) that “thousands of Jews in Poland went through the occupation masquerading as Poles"; at the war’s end some 20,000 Jews were estimated still to possess forged identification papers.

The number of Jews reported as Jews by religion is rather uniformly greater than the number so reported by nationality. This is partly due to the Jewish custom of reporting as Jews all members of the Jewish community, regardless of their religious orthodoxy. It is partly due to the associated fact that Hebraism is not a universal type of religion but is closely identified with the Jews as a racial or genetically related group. However, special wartime conditions made conversion to some branch of Christianity a logical avenue of escape from surrounding hostilities. For example: The Hungarian Statistical Review for 1944 estimated that the number of Christians of Jewish origin in Greater Hungary was about 100,000. (See Jews in the Soviet Satellites, ppl84-5.) Kulischer notes (p199) that the number of Jews in Austria declined from 222,000 in 1923 to 180,000 in 1938, and adds that this was due in part to change of religion.

These avenues of escape may account for a considerable part of the reduction in the number of Jews reported as still in Europe. Official Jewish statistics, which are almost the only ones now available for postwar calculations, are likely to reflect the numbers living in organized communities or congregations. Many of these, as stable groups, were disorganized by various causes, and the members scattered more or less widely. If they have adopted a protective coloring (classification), they may not reappear until another day. Other statistics are based on the numbers of “professing” Jews, and these would at any time be only a part of the total number. It does not seem likely that we shall have clear guides to the number of “escapees” for a long time to come.

These are samples of what was a general practice which must have been widely utilized from 1933 onward. The hunted cannot be blamed for seeking out all avenues of escape.

Some thousands of Jews were killed in the fighting forces of the various nations, notably Poland and Russia. Just how many is conjectural. Jews in the Soviet Satellites (p242) says that thousands of young Jewish males were drafted into the Russian army and labor battalions. Also (p229), some 250,000 to 300,000 Jews were sent by the Russians to forced labor camps and settlements in northern and Asiatic Russia in the early 1940's. And again (p226), 68,000 Jewish officers and enlisted men were in the Polish army. Lestschinsky (p9) estimates that 200,000 Jewish soldiers in the Red armies fell during the war. Also “About half a million Jews died in the Asiatic provinces where twice that number were deported after evacuation from previous Polish and Rumanian regions as well as from the Soviet Ukraine and Soviet White Russia.” It is to be noted that some of the computations class all missing Jews as “killed” or “murdered” (notably Frumkin), making no allowance for those who died either in the fighting forces, or in air raids, or as a result of the increased hardships and special mortality of wartime.

Many Jews were either evacuated, as by the Russians, to safer areas, or migrated to refugee territory such as Switzerland, England, Turkey, Palestine, the United States and elsewhere. The numbers are uncertain, but that they were very large is evident from the scant data available. Hitler’s Ten-Year War on the Jews (p300) says: “Some 1,800,000 have been evacuated into the interior of the Soviet Union.” This figure for the period immediately following the outbreak of the war with Russia becomes only 1,200,000 five pages later in the summary table but no explanation for the change is given. Jews in the Soviet Satellites (pl82) found in 1945 no less than 21,000 refugees, mostly from Germany, in the ghetto of Japanese Shanghai. It also notes (pl83) that Spain and Portugal harbor about 8,000 refugees; (pl83) 163,423 Jews entered the U.S., 1933-42; (ppl83 and 190) there are 27,000 refugees in Switzerland, mostly from France and Italy; (ppl90-1) 6,000 Jewish refugees are in Sweden, mainly Danish; 150,000 Rumanian Jews were living in Transnistria, behind the Dniester. The numbers migrating to Great Britain 1938-45 are placed at 300,000 with a similar number migrating to Palestine between 1933 and 1947. It should not be overlooked that even those who migrated from 1933 to 1939 might appear among the “losses,” since most calculations necessarily begin with censuses dating from the early 1930s.

Kulischer’s Europe on the Move (pl92) notes that migration from Germany, Austria and Bohemia-Moravia amounted to 370,000 from 1933 to 1939-40. Of these, 200,000 went overseas and 50,000 to Switzerland, Great Britain and Scandinavia, 85,000 to France and the Low Countries, 10,000 elsewhere in western and southern Europe and only 25,000 eastward. Among them, about 250,000 were thus removed from Nazi reach. Elsewhere, the same author (p260) adds that, with the German advance eastward, the Russian “officials and a large proportion of the Jews were evacuated” (along with factories and factory workers). He estimates the total thus evacuated at 12,000,000 including more than 1,500,000 transferred or deported from former eastern Poland, the Baltic countries, northern Bukovina and Bessarabia.

Since these were thus moved “to save them from German atrocities,” it would not seem unreasonable to consider at least 2 million of them to have been Jews. Kulischer, however, considers the number to have been only about 1.2 millions. Of the millions of Jews uprooted by the war, he finds (p264) that only “about 1.5 million escaped Nazi rule, some 300,000 by emigration overseas and to the neutral countries, and the remainder through evacuation to interior USSR.” The figure here is crucial to any estimate of what happened to the 3.1 million Jews estimated for prewar Poland and the probable even larger number that lived in the Soviet Union. As the quote above from the Census Bureau study of Poland indicates, the “probable error” of estimates relating to the Polish population is colossal. An additional million Jews behind the Iron Curtain alters the picture for all Europe.

We can add to the above “Avenues of Escape” three areas of difficulty and probable sources of error in the estimates.

Excess Mortality and Decreased Fertility

While the total population of Europe outside Russia remained almost the same in 1945 that it had been in 1939, the total excess of births over deaths almost exactly balancing the losses due to war, this was almost entirely due to the rise in fertility among the countries of western Europe. The opposite situation obtained in central Europe, the scene of the main war depredations. Here, there was an “excess mortality” above what would have occurred in peace times. There was no way for the Jews here to escape the usual hazards of war, such as deaths from air raids and other military attacks on the towns and cities. Nor could they escape the reduction in vitality and, hence, of resistance to usual diseases, due to the increased hardships which affected all other elements in the civilian populations. Their infant mortality also went up along with that of their fellow citizens.

Now, curious as it may seem, this “excess mortality” item is usually given separate computation for Jews and non-Jews. For the Jews it is quite unfairly added to the numbers “killed” or “murdered.” Thus, Frumkin’s summary table (p173) for “Total Europe” outside the 1939 Soviet Union (that is, including the Poles and Jews of the Ceded Polish Territory but excluding N. Bukovina, Bessarabia and part of Carpathia) gives the following figures:

Table 1: European War Losses
Source Number
Military 5,824,000
Civilian excluding Jews 4,922,000
Jews killed 4,371,000
Total losses 15,117,000

It should be obvious that, among the Jews “killed” are listed all those who suffered from the increased mortality which they shared on an enlarged scale with other civilians. Since this figure gives the total reduction in the Jewish population of this area, it obviously includes also those Jews who should be listed under all the above items as well as the one that follows. The Jewish population, because it was so largely concentrated in the heart of the eastern war zone would, along with the rest of the population there, have suffered its proportionate diminution of numbers even if they had been treated exactly like all others. The “excess mortality” cannot be charged to Nazi “murders.” Frumkin thus, quite dishonestly, lists all Jews lost or unaccounted for during the war as “killed,” implying that they were deliberately exterminated by the Nazis, which is nonsense. More may have perished in other ways than lost their lives in all Nazi camps. And in the camps more may have died from exposure, disease, lack of medical care, and starvation than from deliberate extermination.

The importance of this item can be shown from Frumkin’s figures for Poland. He starts with a total population, including only the Poles and Jews in the Ceded Territory, of 28,400,000 of whom 3,500,000 are Jews. He estimates the civilians other than Jews who died from “excess mortality” at 2,500,000; and Jews “killed” at 3,400,000. If one subtracts the original number of Jews from the original total, he gets 24,900,000 among whom there were 2,500,000 deaths from the extra hazards of wartimes. That equals 10 percent of the original population. The same proportion for the Jews would have been 350,000. These, to be sure, died, but they were not “killed” in Frumkin’s meaning.

In much the same category, mention should be made of the reduced fertility (i.e. births) of the Jewish population as a result of the forced migrations, under-nourishment, and other hardships and deprivations they experienced. This item is of secondary import; but one cannot list among the “killed” those who were never born. This reduced fertility naturally lessened the numbers surviving after 6 years of harassment, but all reductions in the numbers of Jews become “killed” in some of the calculations. Numbers that might have been were not there at the end of the upheaval; they were “missing” and “lost.” But all of them were not “killed” by the Nazis or anybody else.

Numerous and Extensive Population Shifts during the War

A supreme difficulty with all estimates arises from the repeated shiftings of populations and territories. A major illustration is the division of Poland in 1939. The main question here is not the number of Jews in the Polish territory ceded to Russia in 1939, although even here differences need not be neglected, but what happened to the Jews in the Ceded Territory. Some estimate that they were all caught in the Nazi net by the eastward advance of the German forces after 22 June 1941. Others estimate that from 1.2 to 1.8 million of Polish and other central European Jews migrated, were evacuated by the Russians, or were forcefully deported by them to areas behind the Russian lines. Moreover, the number of German, Polish and Czech Jews who had moved east ahead of the Germans on their first advance in September, 1939, is unknown, but guesses are made.

An equally striking case is supplied by Rumania.* Parts of this country, estimated to have 900,000 Jews in 1939, were shifted back and forth between Russia and Rumania; other sections went to Hungary and back; still others to Bulgaria and back; the Germans controlled different parts for different periods. With every shift of political control there were varying shifts of populations, including Jews. At the same time, the Jews in self-defense were migrating in different directions and escaping their Jewishness by every device known. It is little wonder that the Rumanian figures, whatever they are, should be suspect. The Rumanian census of 1930, the last before the war, found a Jewish population of 756,930. This is the figure used by Sylvain (Jews in the Soviet Satellites, Table 1, p493) as the prewar population, instead of the number 900,000 which is found in most other references as the 1939 number. (In this table, incidentally, he gives the figure for Bukovina as 93,101, but this becomes 102,900 three pages later.) It is now necessary to keep track of the shifts of land and people. Bessarabia, previously part of Rumania, went to Russia in 1940, back to Rumania, 1941-44, and to Russia again in 1944. Much the same changes apply to Bukovina. Transylvania was divided, the southern portion going to Bulgaria in 1940 and returning after the war. Sylvain gives the combined areas of Bessarabia, all Bukovina and all of Transylvania a Jewish population of 381,562 for the prewar era in Table I, but (pp516-7) this figure becomes 457,000, excluding S. Bukovina, from whom there were only 100,000 survivors.

[* Footnote: After finishing the manuscript I find in my notes that Frumkin (pl70) puts the “Jews killed” for the postwar area at 160,000. The “killed” for him, as already noted, includes all missing or lacking by his estimates. He admits that this figure “is substantially adjusted” (see his pl2 footnote), that is, “represents a rough estimate with a wide margin of error.” Elsewhere (pl31) he estimates those “killed” in Bessarabia, Bukovina and S. Dobrudja at 230,000, also subject to “adjustment.” For a good sample of the necessity of really juggling with figures in order to arrive at any estimate for such areas as Rurnania see this author’s study, op. cit., pp129-134.]

There are other glaring question marks which one must put alongside his text. In Table VII, giving the Jewish population of Rumania for the present area (excluding S. Dobrudja, N. Bukovina and Bessarabia), he computed 478,042 in 1930; 466,128 in 1941 — the year of a census; and 300,000 in 1944. By 1947 their number in this “Rump Rumania” had risen to 428,000. He then allows 28,000 as the probable number of returnees from German and Hungarian camps, N. Bukovina, Bessarabia and Transnistria. Then comes this remarkable statement: “Thus around 100,000 persons out of this population… represent in fact what remained of the 457,000 Jews of Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania.” (Italics in original.) Since the territories mentioned were excluded from Table VII, I cannot understand how he can conclude from it the numbers of Jews missing therefrom. Perhaps I do not understand his manipulations of the data.

In any case, it is interesting to note that the numbers given in Table VII for the present territory were much the same in 1930, 1941, 1942 and 1947. The difference between the first and last is about 50,000. This figure makes no allowance for the natural increase of numbers, but on the other hand neither does it make any allowance for the excess mortality of civilians, the thousands who are said to have fled to Turkey, the 150,000 noted above as having taken refuge behind the Dniester. As for the 381,562 Jews reported in the prewar census in Table I (not the 457,000 derived by some mysterious process) they were under German-Rumanian control from 1941 to 1944, when they once more slipped behind the Iron Curtain. What happened to them is as much an enigma as what happened elsewhere along the borders of the War Zone. The above examples are designed to show how the lack of reliable census materials makes it necessary for the computer to continually conjecture the numbers here and there, now and then. If he is inclined to over-estimate the missing in repeated guesses, he may end up with a compounding of exaggerations.

I see I have overlooked some other sources of possible error. First: the computers make different allowances for the number of deportees who died in the process of deportation, never less than 25%, usually 50% and in some cases as high as 80% or more. Since there were no actual counts in such cases, these estimates must be charged with a large probable error.

Secondly: the vast upheaval, with its migrations, deportations and evacuations, made some duplication in the count of those “lost” or “killed” quite easy. The evacuees behind the Iron Curtain, e.g., are considered among the latter, unless they returned, at least in large part. Those sent to the camps of Poland by the Germans could easily be counted as among the “losses” of the countries from which deported and charged again among those killed in Poland. That this is done in some instances seems indicated by the fact that out of the estimated original Polish Jewish population of 3.1 million in 1939, somewhat more than that are usually estimated to have been killed there.

Examples of Varying Estimates

1. How Many Jews Were There In Europe In 1939?

Because this is the basic figure from which any over-all estimate must start, variations in it are of primary significance. The following represent the estimates of the American Jewish Committee as given in the World Almanacs in various years:

Table 2: Jews in Europe 1933-1939
Year of Publication Year of Statistics Numbers Numbers given under World Religions
1939 1933 9,494,363 9,494,363
1941 1939 8,939,608 not given
1945 1939? 9,372,666 8,939,608
1949 1939 9,739,200 not given
1949 1947 3,920,100 not given

One is bound to wonder at the reduction of nearly 555,000 between 1933 and 1939. Even more striking is the increase for the year 1939 in comparing the World Almanac issues of 1941 and 1949. This amounts to almost 800,000 (8,939,608 in the 1941 issue, and 9,739,200 in the 1949 issue). It is easy to see that this makes the loss much greater than if the numbers given in 1941 for the year 1939 were used as the basis of computation.

We may note a similar elevation of the base in the same organization’s estimates of Jews in the World:

Table 3: Jews in the World 1933-1939
Year of Publication Year of Statistics Numbers
1939 1933 15,319,459
1941 1939 15,748,091
1945 1939 15,688,259
1949 1939 16,643,120

Here is an increase in the figure for 1939 of almost 955,000 as given in the 1949 issue. How account for such a huge elevation of the world total? Were more Jews discovered? Was a more careful count made? Or was it seen by that time that a larger base from which to compute the war losses would serve a useful purpose?

2. How Many Jews Were Eliminated In Europe By The War?

This is the leading question and one now impossible to answer with any assurance. However, it is pertinent to take a look at the variations in the estimates of various investigators.

A. Some Figures For Poland

1. Bureau of the Census, (page 2) — “War losses in postwar boundaries amounted to approximately 4 million persons, of whom 2 million were Jews executed by the Nazis.” (See p3 above for quotation from pages 31 and 187.)

2. Frumkin, (page 119) — for approximately the same territory, 2.3 million.

3. Gottschalk and Duker, (page 11) — Poland, the Baltic States, Soviet White Russia and the Ukraine, “the greatest areas of Jewish concentration in Europe, became a vast death-chamber for about 5 million Jews.”

4. Frumkin, (p119) — for Poland’s Ceded (to Russia) Territory, with a prewar Jewish population of 1.2 million, the number of “killed” is estimated at 1.1 million. For all prewar Poland he thus computes a loss of 3.4 million.

5. Frumkin, (p182) — having estimated (p173) the Jews killed outside the Russian areas at 4,371,000, comments that, if the Ceded Territory is added “the total number of Jews murdered by the Germans amounted to some 5 million.” (Note that this would give only about 700,000 for the Ceded Territory, although the figure quoted just above is 1.1 million.)

B. Europe As A Whole

6. Frumkin, (p182) — following the above quote, goes on to say: “if the USSR territory occupied by the Germans during the war were likewise taken into account, the figure might easily be between 6 and 7 million.” (This of course excludes the USSR territory behind the Russian lines.) As a comment on the reliability of Frunkin’s methods and figures, the competent and objective Belgian statistician Maurice-Pierre Herremans estimated that only 25,000 of the prewar Jewish population of Belgium were “missing” from all causes at the end of the war, while Frumkin states that 27,000 of them were “killed,” mostly by the Nazis.

7. Kulischer, (p279) — puts the number of Jews “exterminated” at 5.5 million. [footnote: “… nearly 3 million were nationals or residents of European countries and territories lying now outside the Soviet Union.” (See No. 5 above)]

8. Institute of Jewish Affairs, (World Almanac, 1952, p240) — estimates that 71% of Jews in Europe at the start of the war were lost, of whom 5.7 million were killed and 200,000 lost in battle. (This would give the 1939 Jewish population of Europe as 8,450,000.)

There are many other estimates made by Jews or based on Jewish figures, but most of these are either copied from statements of the Institute of Jewish Affairs or the World Jewish Congress or, like Fay’s statement in Current History of 6 million, round numbers loosely used without any investigation of the facts and reflecting the prevailing mood of the day. To quote them adds nothing to the picture.

9. As a commentary on the above estimates, most of them by Jewish writers, and nearly all based on Jewish figures, one may well point out that Gerald Reitlinger, in his SS: Alibi of a Nation (1956), a large and heavily documented work, estimated that the number of Jews actually deliberately exterminated by the Nazis in their death camps, euthanasia camps, gas chambers, and the like, was far less than 500,000. Reitlinger writes as a strong critic of the Nazis, so he is not seeking to defend or exonerate them.

General Conclusions

The foregoing pages should have made it clear that the answer to our title question is, for the time being, unanswerable in terms that satisfy any scientific standards. There are so many loopholes amid so few relatively sound figures that the calculator can set his own figure in advance and arrive there by estimates and guesses, all of which can be given a certain plausibility. Even the best studies, therefore, are little more than crazy quilts of conjectures made somewhat more substantial than a tissue of lies by scattered bits of fact.

Frumkin, former statistician for the United Nations, has made the most ambitious effort to estimate the numbers of Jews missing ("killed” in his findings). He starts with a 1930-33 census, estimates the number attained in 1939 through an excess of births over deaths, and thus gets a base figure for the prewar year. He then estimates the changes due to “normal” births and deaths to 1945, the changes resulting from changes in territory, the war losses and the gains and losses for given areas due to population shifts, and thus gets an “adjusted” population for each area for 1945. He frequently notes that his figures are “elevated” or “represent an upper limit” but has the scientific honesty at least to indicate that most of them are “slightly” or “substantially” adjusted. He thus lends himself to the charge of piling Ossa on Pelion by adding one high estimate to one and then another and another.

His conclusions are severely criticized by the Bureau of the Census study of the Polish figures, mainly on the grounds that (1) they make no allowance in the case of the Jews for the excess mortality of all civilian populations in the war areas, and (2) no account is taken of the highly problematical number of Jews who left Poland and elsewhere in central and western Europe, and are still behind the Iron Curtain.

To show how one may manipulate the figures, taking only those that someone considers quite authentic or reasonably so, look at the following: [footnote: Caution: Do not take this table too seriously as it is intended merely to show the possibilities of manipulating data, every item of which seems within reason. Omitting items 7 and 8 gives a total killed of about 4 million.]

Table 4: Manipulating figures for Jewish wartime casualties
1. Jews in Europe, including USSR and Turkey, 1939 8,940,000
2. Jews in the remainder of Asia 771,000
Total in Europe and Asia, 1939 9,711,000
3. Jews in Europe, including USSR and Turkey, 1946 3,920,000
Subtotal 5,791.000
4. Jews in the remainder of Asia, 1946 917,000
Subtotal 4,874,000
5. Migrants to areas outside Europe and Asia .300.000
Subtotal 4,574,000
6. Number dying in military forces, Poland and USSR 274,000
Subtotal 4,300,000
7. Probable underestimate of USSR areas 1,000,000
Subtotal 3,300,000
8. Possible underestimate for remainder of Asia 300,000
Total loss to Jews in Europe and Asia 3,000,000
9. Excess wartime mortality, like others 300,000
10. Killed by excess wartime persecution 2,700,000

The first four of the above figures are taken from estimates of the American Jewish Committee. The probable underestimate for the USSR and Turkey derives from the statement of the Bureau of the Census study of Poland (pl89) that possibly as many as 2 million more Polish refugees were there than Frumkin allows for. Since the racial Poles would be far more likely to return to their own country than the Jews-Poles by residence — anti-Semitism being very strong in Poland after the war — it is quite likely that most of the underestimate would be composed of Jews.

Here is another possibility: Kulischer, as noted above (Europe on the Move, page 279) puts the total Jews exterminated at 5.5 million, of whom “nearly 3 million” lived in Europe outside the present USSR territories. His total allows 2.5 million for the Soviet Union and is thus highly conjectural. Schwartz, whose study is the only extensive one of the USSR, computes the Jewish “losses” there as follows:

Table 5: Jewish wartime losses (Schwartz)
Region Prewar Loss
White Russia 375,000 300,000
Ukraine 1,533,000 900,000
RSFSR 250,000 to 275,000 100,000
Total loss 1,300,000

[Table footnote: Exclusive of 133,000 who died in the Russian armies, a figure which Lestschinsky puts at 200,000.]

Since this “loss” includes deaths from all causes and this was the area of greatest population upheaval and civilian hardship, it is reasonable to allow 300,000 for all items of “excess mortality” from causes suffered by all residents. That would leave a net loss due to Nazi persecution of 1 million.

If we add this to Kulischer’s “nearly 3 million” we get a total for all Europe and all the Soviet Union of nearly 4 million or 1.5 million less than Kulischer’s total. [footnote: Caution: This estimate may be too large or too small because the estimates of Schwartz for losses in Soviet territory are conjectural. and a much larger margin of error attaches to Kulischer's. However, the 4 million estimate is likely to be far closer to the actual figure than the 5, 6 or 7 million of some studies. And, of course, 4 million may be grotesquely in excess of the actuality, since most of the figures which have to be used are those of Jewish students of the problem or are based on figures given out by Jews and Jewish organizations.

The writer cannot claim in these pages to have done more than scratch the surface of the question. It is for the statistician a most frustrating problem, because of the numerous pitfalls. My aim has not been to seek a more decisive estimate than those made by others, who may have spent many months and consulted thousands of original documents. Rather it has been to show the transparently conjectural nature of the current estimates and to point out some of the probable sources of error, which are mainly lack of adequate and up-to-date population statistics, the manufacture of statistics where they are actually lacking, the manipulation and juggling of such statistics (both reliable and manufactured) as are used, to exaggerate the number of Jews in Europe and the world in 1939 and decrease the number known in 1945, and the general absence of students or studies that have no political, racial or religious axe to grind and are really seeking facts to promote truth and serve scientific purposes.

Many interesting aspects have been neglected. For example, Reitlinger in several passages notes the conflicts between Himmler, who was commissioned to find a “final solution” to the Jewish problem, and Göring who wanted Jewish workers for his munitions factories. On one occasion, Hitler himself intervened for a like reason, and Himmler then bragged of the large numbers preserved for such purposes. There are numerous cases authentically reported of Jews who were led to believe that they were headed for extermination camps but actually turned up at factories or in labor camps.

Another aspect to be considered is the large increase in numbers of Jews in Israel. That increase was about 400,000 from 1933 to 15 May 1948, when independent statehood was achieved. From then to February 1954 the population rose from 650,000 to 1,675,000. This and other items suggest that, during the immediate postwar years, a million or more Jews may have been among the displaced persons scattered all over the Eurasian map. As time passes, more of these come to statistical counting. At least, the vast increase in Israel has not been accompanied by concurrent diminutions in the settled populations elsewhere. The Jews can keep close account of their numbers where there are settled communities but even they could not keep a close count during the recent Diaspora following 1939 and 1945.

Another point to be considered is that, even if it could be proved that vast numbers of Jews died in the Nazi concentration, euthanasia, and death camps, it would not follow that all, or possibly even a majority of these, were deliberately exterminated by the Nazis. There was a huge death rate in all of these camps due to disease. In one camp, at least, there was a serious typhus epidemic. Lack of drugs and medical treatment, coupled with general low vitality and lowered physical resistance to disease, made the death rate abnormally high. Many died from exposure, and others from hard labor. Starvation was common, especially toward the end of the war, when supplies ran low even for soldiers and civilians. It is useful to reflect that it is generally estimated that at least five million expellees from East Prussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and eastern Germany perished mainly after the war was over, and it is generally conceded that relatively few of these were deliberately murdered. They died in large part from the horrible exposure and starvation during the process of expulsion. The Jews who moved back and forth during the war, either voluntarily or by forceful evacuation, before and following the movement of the armies, were subjected to just as harsh conditions as the expellees, in some cases to even worse situations. Until it is disproved by better Jewish and other studies than are currently available, one may express some confidence in Reitlinger’s estimate that the number of Jews deliberately exterminated by the Nazis was considerably less than 500,000.

The soundest basis for scepticism regarding any such figure as 6 or even 4 million Jews exterminated by Hitler and the Nazis is that contributed by logistics rather than statistics. As you have seen, the latter are inadequate, manufactured, garbled, and consciously manipulated to establish a thesis and figure assumed in advance. Logistics is a well-established science, knows no political, racial or religious bias, and in this case relies upon a vast body of materials accumulated during the Second World War. Evidence in this field is as copious and precise for the years between 1939 and 1945 as it is sparse and fugitive for population changes and shifts during the same period.

Students of logistics who have given some attention to the charge that the Nazis, however evil-minded and however much they wished to do so, actually exterminated 4 to 7 million Jews in less than two years during a desperate two-front war which turned against Hitler at the very moment he is alleged to have set up his extermination program, contend that it would have been utterly impossible for them to have achieved anything like such a result. It would have required so much more effort and manpower and would have brought such confusion and added strain to the already overtaxed transportation facilities that the Nazis could not have waged even a reduced one-front conflict.

Those who have led in the charge that the Nazis did exterminate 4-7 million Jews do not allege that the large-scale extermination plan was formulated until after the Casablanca Conference of January, 1943, which launched the Unconditional Surrender formula for ending the war. Hitler realized the implied threat to him, blamed the Jews for the decision, and may have decided on more drastic treatment of them at this time. But even those who support the extermination charges do not contend that the machinery for such extermination was well established before the late autumn of 1943.

By 1944, Allied bombing in the West and Russian victories in the East rendered the German situation much more desperate and placed ever greater strains on German war material, plant, manpower, and transportation. Hitler could not have diverted enough effort to the extermination of the Jews between November 1943, and May 1945, to have disposed of 6 million Jews without producing a virtual collapse of his whole war effort. Some students of logistics contend that such a breakdown would have resulted from the actual extermination of 3 million or considerably less. Further, as the tide turned against the Nazis, the Jews became ever more essential to the German war effort, and it would have placed a strain on even Hitler’s folly to have wasted their urgently needed services in behalf of extermination based on hatred.

Other considerations to be taken into account are such things as the paucity of authentic evidence as to the nature and extent of the Nazi extermination facilities and operations. A number of the sources are obvious forgeries. The testimony of many of the Germans at Nuremberg and other trials was extracted after the most cruel and atrocious tortures. Some of these “witnesses,” knowing that they were going to be hanged in any event, boasted of what they very possibly never did at all but at the moment wished they had done, or they boasted to inflate their own egos. The total of such boasts amounts to far more than all the Jews in the world in 1939. One such German “witness” boasted that the Nazis had exterminated 40 million Jews! The charges about vast Nazi extermination operations came very late, most of them after the war. The first statement of the claim that the Nazis exterminated 6 million Jews was made in the New Jewish Frontier in January, 1945.

The most competent Jewish account of Hitler’s treatment of the Jews does not even mention the wholesale extermination program. Another leading Jewish historian of the subject even contends that Hitler deliberately forbade any extensive extermination of Jews in the latter part of the war, when it appeared that he was likely to lose the war, lest any such actions bring ruthless retaliation on the German people. The 6 million theme was picked up by President Truman early in his first administration, without anything but hearsay on his part, and has been so frequently repeated during the last decade that it is used almost automatically by journalists who have never made the slightest study of the subject. It has now become commonplace in journalistic lore.

It is quite possible that more thorough studies of population statistics, more evidence from actual witnesses, historical study of the origins and dissemination of the extermination charges, checking of the charges with what is actually known, and demonstration of deliberate fakery and falsehood, in other words, such techniques as Lord Ponsonby and J.M. Read applied to the atrocity myths of the First World War, may reduce the allegation of massive Nazi extermination of Jews to the same level of morbid imagination and irresponsible, if deliberate, mendacity that the alleged Belgian atrocities were reduced to in the years following 1918. Surely, the authenticity of the Nazi extermination program has never been vouched for by any person of the prestige and reputation for integrity enjoyed by James Bryce in 1915. Of course, no realistic and informed student of the Second World War doubts the actuality of incredibly inhumane atrocities during the conflict, atrocities on both sides carried out against Jews and Gentiles alike, especially in the guerrilla and partisan warfare behind the lines of battle. As one competent authority has well described the situation, the fictitious atrocities of the First World War became the actual atrocities of the Second.

Partial List of References Used

Gregory Frumkin, Population Changes in Europe Since 1939, London, 1951, 191pp.

Gerald Reitlinger, The SS: Alibi of a Nation, London, 1956, 502pp.

Eugene Kulischer, Europe on the Move: War and Population Changes, 1917-1947, N.Y., 1947, 377pp.

Displaced Persons Analytical Bibliography, Report of a Special Committee of the Judiciary, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1950, 82pp. (Special section on the Jews.)

Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, Report to the U.S. Government and His Majesty’s Government, Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1946. (2 vols. — Europe and the Near East.)

Max Gottschalk and Abraham Duker, Jews in the Post-War World, Dryden Press, N.Y., 1945.

Maurice-Pierre Herremans, Personnes Deplacees (Repatries, Disparus, Refugies), Brussels, 1948. [footnote: This work is somewhat revealing, in that the careful calculations of the Belgian statistician find only 25,000 of the prewar Jewish population of Belgium “missing” while Frumkin finds 27,000 of them “killed."]

Eugene Kulischer, Jewish Migrations: Past Experiences and Post-War Prospects, American Jewish Committee, N.Y., 1943.

Meyer, Weinryb, Duschunsky and Sylvain, The Jews in the Soviet Satellites, American Jewish Committee, Syracuse University Press, 1953.

Institute of Jewish Affairs, Hitler’s Ten Year War on the Jews, N.Y., 1943, 311pp.

Gerhard Jacoby, Racial State: The German Nationalities Policy in the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, Institute of Jewish Affairs, N.Y., 1944.

U.S. Bureau of the Census: A series published by the Government Printing Office, The Population of Poland, 1954,198pp; The Population of C:zechoslovakia, 1953, 72pp.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Year Books of the American Jewish Committee

World Almanacs

Statistical Bulletin, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, January 1946.


Current History — Two articles by Sydney B. Fay on Europe’s expellees, etc., Volumes 11 and 12, 1946-7.

U.S. Bureau of the Census, Series noted above: Population of the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin, 1952, 95pp; Israel: Jewish Population and Immigration, 1952, 58pp.

Solomon M. Schwarz, The Jews in the Soviet Union, Syracuse University Press, 1951, 380pp.

Jacob Lestschinsky, “Soviet Jews and Soviet Jewry,” New Leader, 8 March 1947, p9.