In WWII 3 out of 4 German KIA Were by Soviet Army

4.3 million Axis troops, including 3.55 million Germans fell in the east. And 7.5 million Soviets

WWII’s Eastern Front was by far the bloodiest theater of war the world has ever seen. It cost the lives of nearly 12 million combatants of which 4.3 million Axis troops including 3.55 million Germans – death tolls far in excess of those in the west

The best available estimate of WWII German military deaths comes from German historian Rüdiger Overmans. Most estimates are based on wartime casualty reports of the German military; but Overmans shows convincingly that the system was unreliable and eventually broke down, so that earlier estimates underestimate the number of German military men who fell in WWII.

Overmans, after extensive research of his own, put the total German military war dead at 5,318,000. This figure includes deaths of Volksturm militiamen and foreign volunteers of the Waffen SS and Wehrmacht. It does not include the deaths of Soviet citizens in German service.

Of these, 459,000 are known to have died in captivity, including 363,000 as prisoners of the Soviets. Overmans suggests the figure of German POWs who perished in Soviet captivity may be far higher than the 363,000 recorded deaths, and could reach as many as one million men. This is speculation, however, since Overmans, working from the German archives, had no way to study the subject.

The Russian historian Krivosheev, who was better positioned to study the subject, instead estimates there were a total of 450,000 German POW deaths in Soviet hands, including the deaths of 94,000 prisoners who never made it to POW camps and whose deaths are thus not reflected in the Soviet records.

After reducing his 5,318,000 figure by 459,000 confirmed POW deaths, Overmans distributes the rest (which necessarily includes the 94,000 unrecorded POW deaths in Soviet hands and another 22,000 German military men executed by their own side), as follows:

Eastern Front 2,743,000
Western Front + Africa + Italy 506,000
Final Battles in Germany in 1945 – of which at least 2/3rds to Soviets 1,230,000
Northern Europe 30,000
The Balkans 104,000
Other (Including sea and air war over Germany) 246,000
Total 4,859,000

As said, of the 1,230,000 German dead in the final battles of WWII according to Overmans, at least two-thirds were in the East.

The figure of 104,000 killed in the Balkans includes casualties sustained against Yugoslav and Greek partisans as well as those killed as the Red Army swept much of the region in late 1944.

Fighting in Northern Europe corresponds to the Norwegian campaign against the western allies, the “Lapland War” against Finland in 1944/45, and most of all, the fighting against Soviet forces in northern Finland and the Russian Karelia region around Murmansk.

The German dead in sea battles and in the air war over Germany would have been overwhelmingly due to the western allies, but the Soviets must have extracted a non-insignificant toll as well.

Taking everything into account by a conservative estimate, German KIA to Soviets is just over 3.5 million. This would include 2,743,000 for the Eastern Front, at least 820,000 for final battles in Germany, as well as a guesstimated 100,000 in the Balkans, Northern Europe, and the seas combined; reduced by 94,000 unrecorded deaths in Soviet captivity and 20,000 executed by their own side largely late in the war and in the East.

In other words, of the total estimated 4,743,000 German KIA in WWII, some 3,549,000 or 75% were to Soviets.

Nor is this the extent of Axis KIA sustained fighting Soviet forces. According to Krivosheev, some 215,000 Soviet citizens were killed fighting in German uniform of the army, auxiliary police, or the Waffen SS.

Furthermore, Germany’s Axis allies lost hundreds of thousands more.

1941-45 Finland, for which there is reliable data, suffered some 60,000 KIA. For the other Axis participants figures are somewhat elusive.

By some estimates Italy lost over 90,000 military men on the Eastern Front including some 50,000 who perished after being captured by the Soviets.

Krivosheev gives figures for Hungarian and Romanian military dead less POWs as 350,000 and 480,000 respectively; but this is likely an exaggeration.

Going from the fact 300,000 Hungarian soldiers are believed to have died in WWII, and Krivosheev estimates 55,000 deaths in Soviet captivity, between 200,000 and 250,000 may have been killed in battles against the Red Army.

Romania left the Axis in August 1944, but contributed twice as many troops to the Eastern Front as Hungary before that. Its battle dead to the Red Army is therefore at least as high as that of Hungary, and probably higher.

Roughly speaking, against the Soviets, Axis forces suffered the loss of some 4.3 military men including 3.55 million Germans, 0.2 million Soviet collaborators and over 0.5 million Axis allies. These are military combat deaths without counting any POW deaths.

As I have argued, the corresponding figure for Soviet forces is 7.5 million, of which 7.25 million were Red Army regulars and the rest were partisans and militia. Adding fatalities sustained by Polish, Czechoslovak, Romanian, and Bulgarian units subordinate to the Soviets, but not part of the Red Army, might push up the number of allied dead in the east to 7.6 million.

This gives a rough ratio of losses in the east of 1:1.8  (4.3 million compared to 7.6 million).* The ratio, while in Axis favor, gives lie to the often held impression of Soviet forces as fighting the war by unleashing trainloads of barely armed or unarmed men in massive “human wave” attacks to overcome the enemy by the sheer weight of their numbers.

Discounting the first two years of war which hit the Soviet Union unprepared and in which the Red Army was the most mismanaged, the ratio is even more balanced. In fact, since Soviet losses disproportionately occurred in the disastrous early stage of the war and the German losses in the final stage of the war, the losses ratio towards the end of the war, and in the best-executed Soviet operations, was actually in the Soviet favor.

* Ratios more to the disadvantage of the Soviet side frequently encompass all Soviet military death disregarding the fact that over 3 million of them perished in Wehrmacht POW camps, underestimate German losses by incorporating only reported deaths, and omit Germany’s Axis allies in the east.


Overmans,  Rűdiger. Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Oldenbourg 2000.

Krivosheev, G. F.. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books 1997

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  3. Terje M says

    “The German dead in
    sea battles would have been
    overwhelmingly due to the western allies, but the Soviets must have
    extracted a non-insignificant toll as well.”

    Just to take an example on how one sided this history is presented, the Soviet navy sank almost as many German convoy ships going to the port of Kirkenes, to supply the Nazi Murmansk front, as the Germans sank UK/US convoy ships going to Murmansk.

    Yet there is endless talk of the British convoys, while I only became aware of how large and heroic the Soviet naval effort was from an obscure local museum.

  4. Michael says

    Good article. American air force supported Communist Russia in the battle of Stalingrad and the American Lend/Lease act funded and supported Stalinist Russia against the Germans. In 1941 Russia’s standing army was 27 million with 24 thousand tanks. Though Germany lost Stalin was stopped from invading Europe and planting the red flag in every capital of Europe.

    1. cechas vodobenikov says

      drivel—less than 20% of promised lend lease was provide to the USSR—the US supported the Nazis until Churchill begged u to change sides–us supported the fascists in Spain as did UK–only the USSR supported the duly elected Spanish republic—your fascist lies r typical from an insecure feminized amerikan—only a fascist amerikan liar asserts that US war planes existed at Stalingrad—The Soviet forces surrounded the Germans and cut off their supplies of weapons, petrol, food…I could care less about the lies your 4th grade teacher told you…USSR voluntarily removed troops from Yugoslavia and Austria—Mikoyan was irritated that Stalin removed troops from both nations…and this had nothing to do with amerikan forces, submissive and insecure (more so today)—and the insecure cowardly amerikans had zero to do with this –u only sent troops into the European theatre after the Luftwaffe was decimated and German troops has no petrol w which to operate their tanks etc. apparently u r unaware that the DDR was communist

      1. Michael says

        In 1933 when the National Socialists came to power in Germany the American Jewish community declared an economic war on Germany. They called upon the global jewish community to slap an embargo on Germany. That was the “support” America gave to Germany. The German Jews opposed the Embargo.
        The Lend/Lease act helped Stalin push Germany out of Russia but Germany managed to prevent Stalin from invading Europe and making that continent Communist.
        But the support Russia got in Stalingrad was aerial support from American planes.
        The Focus group influenced Churchill’s decisions and they were Jewish bankers and others mainly from Eastern Europe. Hitler knew exactly what they communicated with Churchill since the land lines from Eastern Europe to England went across Germany and during the peace negotiations done by Neville Chamberlain Hitler handed to him a brown envelope with documentation of the Focus group and their hold on Churchill
        Sorry but you are wrong on so many points. Stop getting your information from the History channel or Wikipedia.

        1. cechas vodobenikov says

          more racist stupidity—u expect jews to support the holocaust…zero US planes in Stalingrad—another lie…again u lie about lend lease…I don’t live in your ugly nation—I read Russian, French historians—even UK historians contradict your fascist stupidity–a typical fake durak packuda amerikanski

          1. Michael says

            Whatever the fact or fiction over the holocaust does not mean Jews have a right to persecute Palestinians and destroy America’s economy.

  5. Superbus69 says

    Overmans is innummerate. His sellection of casualty reports was to small and he just threw numbers at different fronts and theaters with no research. For instance he claims that around 400,000 Axis died in the battles western Germany including 80,000 POWs. Excluding POWs and keeping in mind that there was little fighting in the west after the german borders were breached it would mean a loss ratio of 7 to 1 favoring the allies which is not likely since it was 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 in most other cases. The man was wrong and yet people who never read his book take it as “the most reliable source”. Nonsense.

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