The Holocaust Historiography Project

How many Holocaust survivors were there in May 1945?

By Carl O. Nordling
1 September 1997

According to an AMCHA office report dated August 13, 1997, there were in this year about 900,000 "Holocaust survivors" --within an uncertainty range of 7 per cent plus or minus. A "Holocaust survivor" is defined as a *Jew* (=person born of a Jewish mother?) who lived in a country under National Socialist ("Nazi") regime (such as Germany from February, 1933), or in a district that was under Nazi occupation (such as some parts of the Soviet Union, 1941 to 1944), or in a country under regime of Nazi collaborators (such as Finland, 1941 to 1944), and who did not die before May, 1945. If there are still as many as 900,000 living, there must of course have been many more in 1945. But how many? It is impossible to answer that question with precision. Another range of uncertainty --let us say 8 per cent-- must be added to the one that we have to start with. The final figure will therefore have an uncertainty range of plus or minus 15 per cent.

The starting point for the following calculation has been an assumed age distribution of the Jewish survivors in May, 1945 (Figure 1). This distribution is based on what is known about the distribution of Jewish populations by age groups in various countries in the 1920's and 1930's and about birth rates among Jews in these years. The age distribution of the Jewish population of Prussia in 1925, shown as a diagram on page 22 of *Atlas of Modern Jewish History* (Oxford 1990), is a typical example.

(Figure 1 omitted)

In order to be valid for the year 1945 it is required that the death rate caused by the Holocaust and the wartime hardships was the same in all the age groups. Actually, the older age groups lost proportionally many more lives than the younger ones. This is evident from the known death rates in a sample of 722 Jews (victims and survivors), accounted for in *Revue d'histoire revisionniste*, issue no 2, p. 62 (cf. Carl O. Nordling, "L'Etablissement juif sous la menace et la domination nazies de 1938-1945", *Revue d'histoire revisionniste*, issue no 2, August 1990, p. 50-64).

I have calculated the number of survivors in each age group after a time space of 52 years assuming the Holocaust survivors having the same rate of mortality — related to the ages — as males in Sweden about 1970. If the age distribution in 1945 had been as shown above, each 1,000 of the 1945 survivors would have left 265 survivors in 1997. Their age distribution would have been as shown in Figure 2.

(Figure 2 omitted)

Realizing, however, that the conditions of war (including all manners of persecution) affected the older part of the Jewish population much more than the younger part, a certain modification is necessary. I have estimated that the older age groups (making up half the population) had lost an *extra* 15 per cent of their numbers already in 1945 (these age groups have left practically no 1997 survivors). Consequently we should calculate that 1,000-75=925 survivors of 1945 produced about 265 survivors in 1997.

Since actually about 900,000 survivors are reported for the latter year, there ought to have been about 3.14 million survivors in 1945 (925/265x900,000). Applying the estimated range of uncertainty, it emerges that the number of "Holocaust survivors" must have been between 2.7 and 3.6 million in 1945.

That is to say, there were between 2.7 and 3.6 million "survivors" according to a specific definition of "survivor" (viz. the one cited above).

There are a couple of reasons to comment on the definition.

First, it seems unlikely that a Jew who moved from Germany, let us say in 1933 or 1934, and who is alive today would consider himself a "*Holocaust* survivor". If all such Jews have been tracked down and are included in the total of 900,000, there is definitely a certain discrepancy between the concept of Holocaust survivors dealt with above and the concept of Holocaust survivors existing among people in general. This should be kept in mind.

On the other hand, it seems unlikely that all those who rightly should be classed as "Holocaust survivors" have ever reported themselves as such. Failure to join "the class" may be due to the reason just mentioned, but it may also be the consequence of a deliberate renouncing of their Jewishness by a number of born Jews. It is well known that many Jews assumed Gentile identities as a means to escape deportation during the war. Probably, not all of them resumed their original identities after the war. (They were, however, still "persons born of Jewish mothers".)

We must realize that this phenomenon represents a case of "hidden statistics" since it is quite impossible to know anything about the number of these cases. The real number of (born) Jews who survived living under National Socialist regime may therefore be even higher than 3.6 million. My concise summary is anyway: *There were probably a little more than three million "Holocaust survivors" in May, 1945*.