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Russia's Military Losses in WW2. A Few Puzzles.
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Greg Cochran’s recent post on the topic reminded me of a post I began writing but then abandoned ages ago (like in 2012). I can’t find whatever I wrote (no big loss; there wasn’t much) but I did come across this graph I had quickly and messily compiled back then:

Population figures are taken from https://www.mortality.org/ for the year 1959.

As you can see, it is congruent with the map of male/female ratios in 1950 that Cochran cites in his post (see right).

In the younger cohorts, the GDR was about as hard hit as the RSFSR (~40% mortality relative to women) by WW2; the FRG did somewhat better (30% lost).

However, the RSFSR had a lot more men born around 1895-1905 missing relative to Germany, and the ratio only worsens from there on.

In contrast, in a “normal”, pretty rich country like Sweden that avoided both wars, men and women retain numerical parity until around the 1905 cohort.

Possible explanations:

  1. The scale of male surplus deaths during the Red Terror or Civil War casualties has been grossly underestimated.
  2. Victims of Stalinist terror (that’s around 1 million men; 99% were men) have been grossly underestimated.
  3. Usually, more boys than girls die in famines, and Russia had a lot of them: Early 1920s (5-10 million); collectivization (7 million); WW2 dearth (2 million); 1947 famine (1.5 million). This isn’t a huge difference, but must have played some role.
  4. Russian military losses in WW2 are grossly underestimated, on which more below:

The 1920s Russian cohorts were all pretty much smashed in 1941-42 (including the hunger-genocide of the great bulk of POWs that died in captivity during WW2; at 3.5/5.5 million, that’s more than 50% of the victims of the Jewish Holocaust). This left the older generations born in the 1900s-10s to do most of the fighting in 1943-45. I suspect this is the strongest effect, which accounts for the prolonged dip. (In contrast, Germany only had to start resorting to calling up oldtimers on a large scale after Operation Bagration in 1944).

The most cited figure of Soviet military losses in WW2 are around 8.7 million, of which 5.8 million were ethnic Russians [Krivosheev]; though some say it is an underestimate.

The Germans lost around 5.3 million [Overmans]; though some say it is an overestimate. The German government says 4.3 million.

So that’s broadly similar in terms of population (in 1941: around 110 million in RSFSR; 80 million in core parts of Nazi Germany).

However, something that doesn’t up here. During the 1920s-30s, Russia (RSFSR) was producing 3x as many babies as Germany. However, its 1920s cohort appears to be even more depleted than Germany’s.

(That said, the Russian infant mortality rate during that period was still around 200-250/1,000. So Russia’s effective lead over Germany was more on the order of 2.5x. Still a large difference).

And that doesn’t begin to explain the sharp divergence after the 1915 cohort: While Germany starts going up (albeit taking another slide around the WW1 period), Russia keeps going inexorably down.

Explanations that *don’t* fit:

  1. Gastarbeiters. This is 1959, that jig is only getting started in West Germany.
  2. Volksdeutsche deported from Eastern Europe. Would have actually worsened the German figures, as they suffered even greater military losses as a percentage of their population than the territory of the GDR.
  3. Russian alcoholization. While this accounted for the disparity in Russian men/women seen from the late USSR to today (seeing as it overwhelmingly affected men), this was not relevant to the pre-1965 period. There was no mass alcoholism before that period, and the gap between male and female Russian life expectancy was not dissimilar from those of other countries.

In general, a great deal more quantitative work needs to be done on the multiple Russian genocides and democides of the first half the 20th century.

Regarding the rest of Cochran’s post:

Seems pretty far fetched to ascribe the events of the late 1980s to the demographic catastrophe of the early 1940s. While I am mostly a materialist on history, if I had to add a “spiritual” reason to why the USSR collapsed, I’d say it had to do with the fact that Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader not to have been born in the Russian Empire. As Egor Kholmogorov put it in a recent article, he was the Soviet history’s “last man.”

That said, I do agree with his idea that the USSR was much weaker than it looked in the decade after WW2. Most of the divisions that invaded Germany were severely undermanned, unlike their fresh and often replenished Western Allies counterparts. While military histories often speak of Germany “scraping the bottom of its manpower barrel” by 1944, in reality that applied just as much if not more so to the USSR. Combined with its massive lead in strategic delivery platforms and atomic weaponry, this is why I have myself argued that the 1945-1955 period was the one time in world history that a single power (the US) had the means to become a world-dominating singleton.

 
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  1. songbird says:

    I would suppose this would have radically effected politics for the worse, but then again Sweden is right there on the graph to remind you that it was neutral.

    Still, I’m thinking of different things: the settlement of foreigners in Germany and France. Perhaps, a reluctance for real economic reforms in the USSR.

    • Replies: @Logan
  2. Can the low male/female ratio over several generations explain the renowned beauty of modern Russian and Ukrainian women? Fiercer sexual competition among young women for the surviving men leading to only the pretty girls raising families? I’m too lazy to teach myself population genetics, so someone tell me the answer. My impression is it takes a few generations for such effects to take hold, but Russian men seem to have died off at terrible rates for decades.

    AK: No.

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
    , @anonymous
  3. Dmitry says:

  4. inertial says:

    In addition of those killed in the war there were the wounded. I forget what the killed to wounded ratio was, 1:3? In any case, there were millions more Russians than Germans. A lot of the wounded died shortly after the war, within 10-15 years. They don’t count as WWII losses but maybe they should.

    In regard to collapse of the USSR, the “spiritual” explanation is bunk. What really happened was this. The post-war USSR was carried for decades by a single generation born roughly between 1902 and 1914. I could see this when I was a kid. All the authority figures around me were men and women of that generation – from the Politburo down to our scary one-legged school principal. Everything around us was shaped according to their ideas about how things should be. But what I didn’t realize at the time was how far back their dominance went – at least to the Khrushchev’s era and in some cases before (e.g. Dmitry Ustinov.)

    In the 1980s, this generation started to die off rapidly. No one knew it at the time, but a major support column for the Soviet system was eroding away. When it weakened enough the whole structure collapsed.

  5. mal says:

    I have seen such distribution on the population pyramid of the USSR before, and my speculation was partisan/counter-insurgency activity in WW2.

    Soviet partisans were quite vicious (with good reasons), and Germans wanted Lebensraum anyway. So if you were a German platoon entering a Russian village, it would make sense to just execute every male capable of carrying a rifle rather than wonder who exactly was a partisan.

    Because partisans and their supporters (as well as random villagers) do not wear military uniforms, they would not be counted as military deaths. Also, 10 year olds were not seen as fighting threat, and so were relatively spared.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  6. @mal

    But the M/F ratio is lowest in Russia, which was largely unoccupied or occupied for a short time, and higher in Belorussia, which was occupied in 1941 and only liberated in 1944.

    • Replies: @Mr. XYZ
  7. melanf says:

    Russian military losses in WW2 are grossly underestimated

    Why then the ratio for men born in 1920 for the RSFSR is the same as for the DDR? And how stable is explained by the difference between the DDR and the FRG?
    There are two more obvious factors – civilian casualties during war were higher among men; some of the prisoners/workers /collaborators forcibly taken to Germany remained after the war in Western Europe.

    The Germans lost around 5.3 million [Overmans]; though some say it is an overestimate.

    Calculations of Overmans likely underestimated. as I recall, on the basis of the number of German graves, loss of German troops was greater than estimates of Overmans.

  8. @Ledford Ledford

    The renowned beauty of modern Russian and Ukrainian women is due to not getting fat and refusing to embrace androgynous fashion trends.

    If you don’t believe me have a look at old photographs and videos of women from Western Europe and North America from the 1980s and earlier.

    Van Nuys Boulevard in Los Angeles, California in 1972

    Full series: https://edition.cnn.com/style/gallery/tbt-cruising-van-nuys-los-angeles/index.html

  9. Mr. XYZ says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Didn’t a lot of Belarusian women die from things such as disease and/or starvation during the German occupation, though?

  10. Mr. XYZ says:

    Excellent post, Anatoly!

    Anyway, I have a question for you: Do you think that Germany would have been capable of bleeding the Soviet Union enough to agree to a compromise peace had Germany completely switched to the defensive after Stalingrad–or for that matter, even before Stalingrad? Or would that have never been possible for Germany due to the possibility that if the Soviet Union would have genuinely been on the verge of collapse, Britain and the U.S. could have sent a lot of their own troops to the Eastern Front to prop up the Soviet Union?

    Also, in regards to this part:

    Combined with its massive lead in strategic delivery platforms and atomic weaponry, this is why I have myself argued that the 1945-1955 period was the one time in world history that a single power (the US) had the means to become a world-dominating singleton.

    I agree with this–though the installation of a one-world government would have been completely out of the question for sheer demographic reasons. Specifically, it would be impossible for the U.S. to retain a dominant position in a world government which claims to be a democracy due to the fact that the U.S. only made up something like 5% of the world’s total population back then. Thus, setting up friendly and allied independent states would have been a much better course of action for the U.S. back then.

    Of course, one could question the wisdom of such a move on the part of the U.S. considering that it would have still likely resulted in much more U.S. casualties and deaths than the U.S. actually endured during the Cold War in real life. After all, why fight and die to liberate Eastern Europe and the non-Russian parts of the Soviet Union when the Soviet Empire is going to come crumbling down anyway in several decades? (Granted, U.S. policymakers certainly didn’t have hindsight back then; however, we have the luxury of looking at this issue with the benefit of hindsight.)

    • Replies: @Vendetta
  11. Mr. XYZ says:

    Also, Anatoly, do you have separate age cohort data for Soviet Jews in 1959? I want to see just how much the Soviet Jewish male-female ratio for various age cohorts compares to that of Russians during the same time.

  12. LH says:

    What exactly happened in year 1965, that alcohol became such a big problem?

  13. Mr. XYZ says:
    @LH

    That’s when the Brezhnev era began (well, technically 1964, but one year doesn’t make a huge difference in regards to this). The Brezhnev era was known for its stagnation.

    • Replies: @LH
  14. Logan says:
    @songbird

    Combined with its massive lead in strategic delivery platforms and atomic weaponry, this is why I have myself argued that the 1945-1955 period was the one time in world history that a single power (the US) had the means to become a world-dominating singleton.

    The problem with this is that the vast majority of Americans had no desire to do any such thing.

  15. LH says:
    @Mr. XYZ

    Did they change the laws, made alcohol cheaper and/or more accessible, shot a popular movie praising drunkeness? What made people less drinking before?

  16. peterAUS says:

    This caught my eye:

    ….Most of the divisions that invaded Germany were severely undermanned, unlike their fresh and often replenished Western Allies counterparts.

    My take:
    Russian divisions were undermanned, but, the Soviet Armed Forces achieved a high level of related combat experience and expertise, especially at operational and strategic level.
    So, undermanned but highly experienced divisions operated by very competent staffs and commanders. Plus very good hardware.
    Air power and Navy was, in European theatre, better in Western allies.
    Land forces, especially use of armor and artillery, plus operational art, definitely better in Soviets.
    Results talk for themselves. Steamroller, including taking of Berlin.
    One other element: German tenacity in defense was much higher against Soviets than against Western allies.
    Of course I disagree with Martyanov about most things, especially about current paradigm, but, I think he can explain all this much better. He actually has, a couple of times, on this very site, so far.

    And, re “undermanned” that’s what you got incorrect re Western forces.
    It is proven fact that infantry battalions were severely undermanned there. That’s where it mattered, really.

    Now, having said all that, no way I am going to get into any debate about this. Whoever disagrees please do, but ain’t gonna be any reply of mine.
    Hehe…I am sure Andrej will do it with gusto.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  17. anonymous[191] • Disclaimer says:
    @Ledford Ledford

    Are you trying to say that American women just don’t look like they used to?

    AK: Just keeping the thread aesthetic.

    [MORE]

  18. inertial says:
    @LH

    Urbanization, increase in free time. Remember that in the West that time was the beginning of a rapid rise in drug abuse, for broadly the same reasons.

  19. utu says:

    (1) Using the data from the graph one could reconstruct (under some assumed condition) what were relative men/women mortality rates between 1869-1959. The reconstruction might be unstable but with some reasonable constrains this could be fixed. Then the picture would be much more clear what was going on.

    (2) How to explain East and West Germany difference? Is it because Russian liberation process was more brutal than in the West? Were the mass rapes of women accompanied with killings of boys and old men from local Volkssturm units?

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  20. @anonymous

    This is what kids looked like in my neck of the woods (rural Pennsylvania) in 1936

    Notice no blue-hair weirdos
    No fatties
    The girls are wearing girl clothing

    And below are some Catholic parochial school girls from Bonneauville, Pennsylvania in the 1910s. This was primarily a German-American community.

    Photo is grainy, so it’s hard to tell much, but we can see that they dress like women, and that they’re not remotely androgynous or fat. Two or three of the girls in the back look like they might have been rather pretty. Hair style definitely not my favorite, though!

    Like much of the glorious Empire, Bonneauville today is a shell of itself. Not that it was ever an especially happening place, but which would you prefer: a dull country town with actual women or a dull county town with women who dress like gym teachers?!

  21. Annatar says:

    The casualty estimates of Overmans and Krivosheev are off by significant amounts. On the German side, the first estimate of military losses was produced by Gregory Frumkin of the, editor of the Yearbook of the League of Nations, unlikely to be biased who estimated German military losses at 3.7m in Germany + Austria. A 1960 West German Govt analysis of the demographic balance put total military losses in Germany + Austria at 4 million. Most other historians like Müller-Hillebrand also put losses at 4 million. My own analysis suggests a figure of around 4 million for Austria + Germany makes sense.

    For Soviet losses, the Russian Academy of Sciences figure of 6.8 million military deaths in Russia and 10.7 million in the USSR as a whole makes more sense.

    Furthermore, civilians losses in the USSR were not evenly distributed, there is strong evidence that the vast majority of Soviet forced labour, including Russian that was worked to death was male, in addition you had more or less a continuous low level of starvation in the unoccupied areas of the USSR through the war, again more males tend to die then females in such situations.

    One thing that has always struck me about the German-Soviet war is although Germany lost they destroyed the demographic potential of Russia and other western Soviet Republics. For decades German thinkers were obsessed with the issue that the Slavs were having more kids, in 1940 the Russian TFR was over 4 and Russia was primed for a few decades of extremely rapid population growth, the war destroyed that possibility, after the war, the TFR only recovered to around 3 and the potential for rapid growth was gone, partially as a result of the increased urbanisation the war caused, the rural areas of western Russia were de-populated and have never recovered. In Germany on the other hand, the TFR was around 2.2 – 2.4 in the late 1930’s and recovered to the same level in the 1950’s.

    Basically, Russia went from a 70% TFR advantage over Germany in 1940, to around 20% in the 1950’s, without the war if you look at projections, the German population was projected to be around 85 million by 1970 whereas Russia was projected to reach 180 million. In reality, Germany got to 78m, 75 million if you exclude ethnic German immigrants, around 10% less then projected whereas Russia got to 130m, almost 30% lower then projected.

    Germany lost the war but they destroyed the demographic potential of the USSR outside of Central Asia.

    Somewhat off topic, I feel the question of the Soviet collapse of 1941 in which the entire standing Red Army of June 1941 was destroyed, some 4 million men killed or captured, 60 million civilians fell under German occupation of which around 12 million were exterminated and 2/3 of the industrial and agricultural capacity of the country was lost hasn’t really been examined in Russia. One has to say that the Soviet High Command looks like it was run by idiots who basically nearly lost the war, they somehow managed to lose 4 million men while only managing to eliminate 300,000 enemy troops.

    Often the question about Operation Barbarossa is how the Germans could have done better, I think it is the wrong question, the Germans did as well as was physically possible, the occupied 1.5 million square kilometres of land, advanced a 1,000 km inside the USSR, overran 2/3 of the economic base of the country and eliminated 4 million enemy troops while losing only 300,000 men in what is probably the single most impressive feat of arms in modern warfare. If it was a video game, people would be complaining about the Germans being overpowered.

    Related to this is the myth that Germany ran out of manpower by 1942, until early 1944, Soviet losses as a percentage of manpower exceeded German losses, that is until early 1944 Germany was outright winning the war of attrition as its losses as a % of its manpower were lower then Soviet losses, this also means the USSR had to call up younger age groups, such as those born in the 1920’s in greater numbers then Germany as Soviet manpower was being drained more rapidly from 1941-1943. Indeed, some have argued that had Germany been fighting only a single front war, then by the end of 1945 they could have bled the USSR so much that a ceasefire would have been reached, by late 1944 the % of Soviet recruits from Central Asia had risen dramatically as the Slavic lands had been more or less completely emptied of potential recruits.

    Basically it seems pretty clear that the Soviet Union was extremely wasteful in its use of manpower, throwing away millions of men and also failing to prevent starvation in the unoccupied areas, something that resulted in the complete destruction of the 1920’s cohorts. The 1900’s cohorts were also as you have pointed out hit heavily by the fact that the USSR had to resort to recruiting older men before Germany did as its manpower was running out faster then Germany until early 1944. I am pretty sure Operation Bagration was the first major military operation in which the loss ratio meant that German losses were higher as a % of its manpower compared to Soviet losses.

    • Agree: Adam, Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @anon1
    , @melanf
    , @reiner Tor
  22. @inertial

    In regard to collapse of the USSR, the “spiritual” explanation is bunk. What really happened was this. The post-war USSR was carried for decades by a single generation born roughly between 1902 and 1914. I could see this when I was a kid. All the authority figures around me were men and women of that generation – from the Politburo down to our scary one-legged school principal. Everything around us was shaped according to their ideas about how things should be. But what I didn’t realize at the time was how far back their dominance went – at least to the Khrushchev’s era and in some cases before (e.g. Dmitry Ustinov.)

    In the 1980s, this generation started to die off rapidly. No one knew it at the time, but a major support column for the Soviet system was eroding away. When it weakened enough the whole structure collapsed.

    Mercifully, I fail to see how this is altogether different from what Karlin said, except that you phrased it in a “nicer” manner.

  23. Vendetta says:
    @Mr. XYZ

    The atomic bomb had been built with use on Germany in mind. The problem is that no matter how well the Germans do on the Eastern Front, it’s only a matter of time until the Americans initiate nuclear warfare against them, as long as they’re at war with the US. And the German nuclear program was hopelessly underfunded and stalled at a dead end from a research standpoint.

  24. anon1 says:
    @Annatar

    You do not mention your sources. I question some of your claims. German losses were over 800,000 men by the end of 1941 and rose to over a million by the end of January 1942. These losses were almost all in combat infantry and panzer units, the “teeth” part of the army. Even Hitler (who knew the truth) was forced to admit in his new years speech to Germany that “German losses” in the east that year were 500,000. He then ludicrously claimed that the Red army had suffered ten to twelve million casualties. If that had been true the war would have been over. Even the claim of two thirds of Soviet industrial capacity being occupied by the Germans is wrong. The Soviets did an astonishing job of moving and relocating their industrial capacity eastwards. By spring 1942 they were outproducing the Germans in just about everything, so much that Hitler fell into a violent rage when Halder tried to tell him this.

    • Replies: @Annatar
  25. melanf says:
    @Annatar

    A 1960 West German Govt analysis of the demographic balance put total military losses in Germany + Austria at 4 million.

    In the Annex to the law of Bundesrepublik Deutschland “on preservation of burial places” the total number of German soldiers buried in the territory of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries is 3226 thousand people, of which the names of 2395 thousand people are known.

    If this information is correct then 4 million, as well as Overmans ‘ calculations are highly underestimated

    am pretty sure Operation Bagration was the first major military operation in which the loss ratio meant that German losses were higher as a % of its manpower compared to Soviet losses.

    This is definitely wrong. For example, during the Crimean Offensive (8 April – 12 May 1944) German irrevocable losses surpassed the Soviet at least 4 times.

    • Replies: @Annatar
  26. @LH

    It didn’t happen in 1965 precisely, it happened sometime around the early to mid-1960s. But it is convenient to denote 1965 as a turning point.

    Solid line: Deaths from alcohol poisoning (red = men; green = women)

    There’s no real consensus on why it happened. Likely a combination of cheap vodka + ennui of Soviet life.

  27. @utu

    While I realize you sympathize with the Axis and view Russians as “hyenas,” the real reasons were more prosaic.

    1. Ossies were always more enthusiastic about Nazism & hence willing to volunteer. Was even more true for the Volksdeutsche.

    2. Now sure, that effect was muted by conscription, but due to being lower skilled, Ossies were more like to get conscripted anyway (since the Germans tried to exempt skilled workers to the extent possible).

    • Replies: @utu
    , @reiner Tor
    , @Unzerker
  28. Dave Pinsen says: • Website

    Patton did want to rearm the Germans and invade Russia. It’s interesting to speculate on what would have happened in that scenario. West Germany benefited from an enlightened approach to harmonize capital with labor established by the U.S., but that was to counter the allure of communism. If the Soviet Union were defeated after WWII, what sort of system would have replaced it then?

  29. Annatar says:
    @anon1

    The losses you indicate include overall casualties, which includes fatalities, the Germans did suffer 800,000 casualties in 1941 of which around 300,000 were fatalities.

    In terms of industrial output, the German economy was roughly equal in size to the Soviet economy in 1940 if you look at indicators such as steel production. During the course of the war, German industrial output was far larger due to most of the Soviet industry having been overrun, in 1942 for example. Germany outproduced the USSR 3.5:1 in steel and coal, Germany produced 269 million tons of coal and 28.7 million tons of steel to the USSR’s 75 million tons of coal and 8.1 million tons of steel.

    The destruction of soviet industrial potential as a result of the loss of the western territories was significant, in 1940 the USSR produced 18.3 million tons of steel, that figure fell to 45% of that level by 1942, it would have been even lower had the USSR not built new steel mills in the Urals in 1941. In terms of coal, output fell from 166 million tons to 75 million tons, down to 45% of 1940 levels.

    The idea the Soviet economy was larger then Germany is unfortunately a myth that has been perpetuated in the post ww2 era, German industrial output was around 3 to 4 times that of the Soviet Union through 1942 and 1943. Soviet output of weapons was greater because Soviet equipment was less resource intensive and the Soviets devoted a larger percentage of their industrial output to certain weapon systems such as the T-34 tank then the Germans did. The USSR did not beat Germany because it had a greater industrial base, it won because of the way it utilised its resources.

    German artillery ammunition consumption for example which was the number one expense for both sides and was what caused over 80% of casualties was far greater. In 1942, Germany expended 710,000 tons of ammunition to the Soviet’s 446,000 tons, in 1943, Germany used 1.1 million tons of ammunition to the USSR’s 828,000, the difference in per capita consumption is of course greater. The reason for this disparity is the Germans had a far larger industrial base so they could produce more ammunition overall and of course had far more in per capita terms, something which helped increase the combat effectiveness of the average German division as compared to its Soviet counterpart. For all the focus on Soviet artillery barrages, the German army used far more artillery, simply because they could produce more.

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
  30. Annatar says:
    @melanf

    4.9 million is about the maximum figure that can be argued for considering the fact that the total German population in 1949 should have been 71.5 million if one just sums up natural growth from 1941-1949, it was actually 68.1 million, a shortfall of 3.4 million, to this figure must be added the 3 million or so ethnic Germans, primarily from Czechoslovakia that were repatriated. So the total shortfall is around 6.4 million. Furthermore, around 0.5 million Germans migrated out of Germany, mainly the remaining Jewish population between 1939-1949, so total deaths do not exceed 5.9 million, how one goes about deciding how many of these deaths were civilians or military is up for debate. The lowest civilian death toll plausible is around a million, of which around half a million were killed by strategic bombing, leaving 4.9 million military dead. The high end civilian death toll of around 2 million would suggest 3.9 million military deaths.

    You are right about the Crimean Operation but I meant major operation which when referring to the Eastern Front I treat as an operation that resulted in a huge change of territory or massive losses for either side.

    • Replies: @melanf
    , @German_reader
  31. utu says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    I must pass on you ad hoc explanations. The difference between DDR and FRG are significant so probably somebody has looked into it.

  32. @inertial

    In regard to collapse of the USSR, the “spiritual” explanation is bunk.

    It’s not. The USSR collapsed when Armenia and Azerbaijan (two Soviet republics) went to war and tried to genocide each other. This happened in 1988.

    At this point the ‘union’ stopped existing, and everything else after was just a drawn-out process of figuring out how to legally formalize the collapse.

    TL;DR – Islam killed the USSR.

  33. @peterAUS

    Didn’t van Creveld write that American divisions were meat grinders, whenever they suffered losses (even wounded) those were immediately replaced by new men from elsewhere? Or was he incorrect? Then when the wounded healed, they were sent back to the front – but if their original unit was at full strength, then to another unit. This had a terrible effect on unit cohesion. This was unlike the Germans or even Soviets did it, where units could be understrength for a long period of time, but with much better cohesion.

    So using the undermanned status of divisions as a proxy for manpower reserves works with American units, but doesn’t work with the Soviets.

    Having said that, the Soviets were obviously at the end of their manpower reserves. The situation then kept improving, but it was still very bad. It never fully managed to straighten out the population pyramid.

  34. @Annatar

    they somehow managed to lose 4 million men while only managing to eliminate 300,000 enemy troops.

    The French armed forces suffered similar loss ratios. You seem to forget that the Soviet losses were mostly just prisoners who surrendered after being encircled and using up their supplies, often going hungry for days. I suspect the Polish military suffered similarly skewed loss ratios, though they had the excuse of being outnumbered.

  35. @Anatoly Karlin

    Is it not possible that more returning POWs chose West Germany instead of East Germany? Especially if they didn’t know where their families were.

  36. @reiner Tor

    Or, expanding this idea, people who were willing to take risks for a better life probably invariably chose West Germany over East Germany, and the majority of these risk-takers were men.

    So West Germany ended up with more men than East Germany.

  37. @reiner Tor

    That’s much more plausible than utu’s fantasies about the Red Army executing Hitlerjugend.

    The post-GDR emigration was famously dominated by (educated) women, but obviously 1945-1961 was a different world.

    However, I am still 95% Ossies really were killed in larger numbers than Wessies, with Volksdeutsche being killed more than anybody. I distinctly remember reading that in Overman’s work. Perhaps his methods did exaggerate the German dead as Annatar explains, but I assume its geographic distribution would remain unchanged at any rate.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @German_reader
  38. @Anatoly Karlin

    Another point might be the Volkssturm. It was a militia composed of all able-bodied males, mostly the elderly and the very young (but not normal military age males, who were already in the army and the Waffen-SS), however, obviously if some young guy was exempted (for whatever reasons), he must have been in the Volkssturm. The Volkssturm did probably very little in the West, but perhaps it tried to fight way harder in the East against the Soviets. Though numerically a small minority, the young men are likely to have done most of it. Kinda makes sense that more of them died in 1945.

    A further possibility is forced labor. In Hungary there was the “málenkij robot,” for which many males were deported to the USSR. (They told civilians they’d need to come for “a little work,” which then turned out to be years of forced labor in the USSR. The term is a corrupted form of the Russian malenkaya rabota (маленькая работа), meaning “little work.”)

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_labor_of_Hungarians_in_the_Soviet_Union?wprov=sfti1

    It’s possible that in East Germany it was on a larger scale.

  39. melanf says:
    @Annatar

    4.9 million is about the maximum figure…

    This and similar calculations are based on such loose assumptions that they can only be a matter of faith. In particular, the number of Volksdeutsche was clearly more than 3 million.

  40. @reiner Tor

    Another point about forced labor is that the civilians were often taken as if they were soldiers. Marshal Malinovsky was reprimanded by Stalin for failing to capture Budapest more quickly. (An obvious reason for the “failure” was that it’s simply very difficult to quickly capture an encircled city.) So the good Marshal overestimated the number of defenders. Then he put pressure on his subordinates to produce the larger number of POWs. Uniformed people (tram controllers, postmen, etc.) were the most in danger of being deported.

    In Germany, because of Volkssturm, all able-bodied males could more or less correctly be assumed to be military members. So they might all have been taken prisoners, most likely in a random and disorganized fashion.

    • Replies: @utu
  41. Unzerker says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    The difference in treatment of POWs between the East and West would be my main explanation.

    Another reason would be the difference in health care to the wounded men. I would think your chance of survival would be vastly bigger if you were treated in the parts of Germany that were occupied by the British or Americans.

    • Replies: @AKAHorace
  42. @Annatar

    The Soviet economy also benefited from producing very few capital goods and receiving considerable intermediate inputs from the USA (e.g. cold rolled steel, copper wire, aviation fuel, etc.). Then there’s the fact that the USSR had practically no naval construction during the war.

    Germany even managed to outproduce the USA for shells in 1944 (though was, naturally, outproduced in every single other area).

    The Soviets were chronically short of shells for much of the war which explains much.

    The famous artillery barrages at the start of great offensives were anachronistic throwbacks to the Western Front of 1916. The shortage of ammunition meant that it made the most sense for the high command to draw up a Somme-vintage fire plan in advance of great offensives. These artillery barrages were impressive and terrifying, but less useful and in fact consumed less ammunition than allocating the guns to lower level commanders and letting them use them as they saw fit.

    The Red Army also frequently employed their howitzers in a direct fire role as well for reasons of economy.

    German units were also far better supplied with mortars than their adversaries.

  43. AKAHorace says:
    @Unzerker

    Another reason would be the difference in health care to the wounded men. I would think your chance of survival would be vastly bigger if you were treated in the parts of Germany that were occupied by the British or Americans.

    There is some dispute about this. See
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other_Losses#Other_evidence_for_German_POW_deaths

  44. @Anatoly Karlin

    However, I am still 95% Ossies really were killed in larger numbers than Wessies

    “Ossies” in this context is really misleading, what is today East Germany (actually still often called Mitteldeutschland, the real Ostdeutschland was East Prussia, Silesia etc.) wasn’t a specific region with common features before 1945 (it isn’t really today either, apart from some legacies of the communist era). It wasn’t even all affected by the fighting in 1945 to the same degree. Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and large parts of Saxony (e.g. Leipzig) were at first occupied by the Americans who only left in July 1945. Therefore it’s unlikely they saw significant mortality of Volkssturm men like happened in the battles of Breslau, Königsberg, Berlin etc. One would have to take a closer look at the data and dinstinguish regions within the GDR.
    Only explanation I can think of is that more expellees from the lost eastern territories settled in the GDR than in the federal republic, and that they had higher male mortality.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
  45. @reiner Tor

    The Volkssturm did probably very little in the West, but perhaps it tried to fight way harder in the East against the Soviets.

    That’s a certainty. It’s also certain that on at least some occasions there were summary executions of Volkssturm men,
    e.g. the judge who had sentenced Erich Mielke wrote a book about an incident in April 1945 where about 200 Volkssturm men (his father among men) were locked in a barn and burned alive:
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Seidel#Kriegsverbrechen_in_Sachsen

    However, the numbers one reads for Volkssturm losses (175 000 missing in action) don’t seem high enough to me to have such a distorting effect on the male-female ratio.

    • Replies: @utu
    , @reiner Tor
  46. @Annatar

    of which around half a million were killed by strategic bombing

    according to Richard Overy in The bombing war that’s probably an overestimate. Overy estimates deaths by bombing in the Reich were about 350 000 (and iirc that includes a few tens of thousands of foreign forced labourers and pows).
    The whole issue of WW2 losses seems still pretty uncertain in many ways, it’s unfortunate that many aspects of it are still highly politicized.

  47. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    “A further possibility is forced labor.” – Good point. I forgot about the forced labor. The operation to bring forced labor to USSR was massive and well prepared. It was agreed upon in Yalta that the forced labor was the form of reparations that Stalin could exact from Germany. There is a paper trail to various orders issued in USSR that all Germans 17 year old and above could /would be interned. The first implementation took place in Romania where there were ethnic Germans and then in February 1945 in Upper Silesia. Historians particularly in the Soviet block did not study it and are still reluctant to deal with it. So nobody knows how may were deported and how many survived and returned. For Upper Silesia the estimate is between 30k and 90k. A lot of them were miners and workers who were exempted from being drafted to Wehrmacht.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231957332_Commemorating_the_Soviet_Deportations_of_1945_and_Community-Building_in_Post-communist_Upper_Silesia

  48. utu says:
    @German_reader

    However, the numbers one reads for Volkssturm losses (175 000 missing in action) don’t seem high enough to me to have such a distorting effect on the male-female ratio.

    No, it is big enough number to account for some of the difference in M/F ratios between DDR and FRG.

    • Replies: @German_reader
  49. @utu

    But not for the entirety imo…I’m bad with numbers, but a 10% difference between East and West Germany seems quite high to me.
    And as I wrote, there were parts of the GDR like Thuringia or western Saxony that weren’t affected by the fierce fighting between Red army and German forces in late 1944/45 (much of that happened anyway on German territory like East Prussia and Silesia that was lost after 1945). Volkssturm resistance against the Americans usually melted away quickly, with few casualties on either side.
    for the record, I don’t find Karlin’s explanation (“Ossies” being more Nazi and therefore readier to volunteer, and less skilled as workers, so therefore fewer exemptions) convincing either…as AK has written himself in the past, Saxony at least wasn’t exceptionally Nazi; it was also a centre of industry, so I see no reason why industry-related exemptions from military service would have been lower. Maybe the argument would work for a predominantly agrarian and Nazi region like East Prussia…but did East Prussians mostly end up in the GDR? That seems unlikely to me.
    The debate is a bit pointless, I don’t think we can answer the question here, one would need more fine-grained data (distinguishing different regions within the GDR, also the established population and new arrivals from the lost eastern territories).

    • Replies: @utu
  50. utu says:
    @German_reader

    “But not for the entirety imo…I’m bad with numbers, but a 10% difference between East and West Germany seems quite high to me.” – Think about the denominator. DDR had much smaller population so the 175k Vokssturm dead can account for a significant far of the difference.

    “The debate is a bit pointless, I don’t think we can answer…” – It is futile because it will be always political with all kind of rationalizations used and concocted ad hoc explanations like that about Nazi enthusiasm in the East. However pointing to the most obvious fact (as I did) that one part of Germany was conquered and occupied by Red Army while the other by the the Western Allies is a valid starting point.

    Here is a case of small township Miechowitz/Miechowice in Upper Silesia where on January 25-27 1945 over 300 civilians (mosty males) were murdered.

    https://gornyslask.wordpress.com/tragedia-gornoslaska-1945-48/
    https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zbrodnia_w_Miechowicach
    On January 27, 1945, after the town was occupied by soldiers of the 309th Regiment of the 291 Infantry Division of the Red Army, a bloody retaliation began. In USC documents, the hours of death were between 5.00 and 18.00 200 people. Men were pulled out of the houses and cellars, either at the place or near the forest, where they were escorted, shot or sometimes murdered, beating all over their bodies with rifle butts. In addition, many injured people died as a result of injuries a few days later. Many invalids died, because the soldiers assumed that the disabilities from the war, although many of them were mine pensioners.

    From the morning of January 25, in the area of Miechowice, weak fights took place between dispersed Volkssturm troops, supported by individual Hitlerjugend members, and units of the Red Army. During the day, the village, which did not resist, was occupied by Russian soldiers in green uniforms with faces of Asian appearance (quote from testimonies given in the investigation). The soldiers entered the cellars and flats in search of men who were killed on the spot. Young people or cripples were sought, presuming that they could be soldiers. In this way, a young man was killed, a cripple after suffering from Heine-Medina’s disease. One of the first victims was vicar Jan Frencel (Johannes Frenzel), who was called to one of the victims. He was detained by soldiers of the Red Army. His corpse, with traces of torture, was recognized by the color scheme during the exhumation of the common grave.

  51. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    ” So they might all have been taken prisoners, most likely in a random and disorganized fashion.” – Correct, rounding up was random and disorganized. But they had quotas. Guards were held responsible for maintaining the total number of detainees. The penalty for losing some detainees must have been high so in cases when some escaped during a transport the guards would go to towns and villages during a stop where they would arrest people to make up for the loss.

  52. @German_reader

    175,000 would roughly be 1% of the DDR population, but we’re talking about the sex ratios of the 25-49 year old population. My rough guess would be that the 25-49 age group is half of the total population, so maybe 10 million in the DDR. Half of whom “should be” males and half females. So 5 million males, but 40% or two million are missing. That’s 10 percentage points or 500 thousand more than it would be if the ratio was the same as in the Bundesrepublik. (I don’t know the exact numbers, these are very rough guesses just to have an idea how much impact the 175,000 might have.) So in East Germany there were 500,000 males missing relative to West Germany. The Volkssturm might explain a third of it.

    • Replies: @utu
  53. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    DDR: M/F=0.6
    FRG: M/F=0.72

    If population of DDR in Volkssturm age group was 10 mln then to get M/F=0.6 M=3.75 mln and F=6.75 mln.

    If we add to 3.75 mln the 0.175 mln of dead Volkssturm we get M/F=0.628 which reduces the gap between DDR and FRG by 23% = (0.028/0.12)*100

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  54. Alliumnsk says:

    USSR Volksdeutsche were deported to Siberia/Kazakhstan where they didn’t fight WW2 therefore they could have such sex ratios.

  55. @utu

    You are throwing away the one advantage of not knowing the numbers: you can make up round or very easy to calculate with numbers, to illustrate the point to people who think they are bad with math. (It’s very simple math, so I don’t think it’s truly hard for anyone here.)

    If the relevant age group is ten million, half women and half men, then you have to kill 1.5 million men to get to the West German ratio of 0.7 males to 1 female, and an additional half million to get to the East German ratio of 0.6.

  56. utu says:

    There is no significant difference between us. I assumed that 10 million is the actual population (M+F) and you assumed that the 10 million is the population including the missing men. I just wanted to get rough estimate of how much the Voksstrurm dead could account for the difference between East and West Germanys’ M/F ratios. The result was 23%. But we do not have data here what were the actual populations of East and West Germany in the relevant age bracket.

    The conclusion is that if we include (1) Volkssturm losses, (2) Mass labor deportations to USSR (see comment #47) and (3) Indiscriminate revenge killings of men being suspected of resisting (see comment #50) we may account for the difference between East and West Germanys in the M/F ratio.

    Can we find out what was the population in age bracket born 1910-1923? Let assume some values and see what we can get.

    M+F 1910-1923 surviving in 1959
    West Germany M/F=0.72
    M+F_M__Missing Male
    5 2.09 0.814
    10 4.19 1.63
    15 6.28 2.44
    20 8.37 3.26
    25 10.5 4.07
    30 12.6 4.88

    M+F 1910-1923 surviving in 1959
    East Germany M/F=0.6
    M+F_M__Missing Male
    1 0.375 0.25
    2 0.75 0.5
    3 1.125 0.75
    4 1.500 1.0
    5 1.875 1.25
    6 2.25 1.5

    Which of the numbers are congruent with total German losses for this age group?

  57. LeaNder22 says:

    Curious statement Anatoly:
    1. Ossies were always more enthusiastic about Nazism & hence willing to volunteer.

    trying to conjure up my age old knowledge of the parts of Germany where the Nazis were elected first. I am not aware that the East figured that significantly.

    Otherwise this statement triggers both historical and and more recent bits and pieces about propaganda vs reality in the East. Not that it was an easy matter West either post 1945.

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