Sunday, July 18, 2021

Crimes and Mercies, by James Bacque

This article is not about Holocaust denial. Or maybe a different sort of denial, which consists in blowing up (or simply inventing) crimes committed by Nazi Germany’s opponents in order to play down those of Nazi Germany.

The late Canadian writer James Bacque, who became (in)famous as the author of Other Losses, wrote a follow-up book with the title Crimes and Mercies.[1] The "crimes" part is summarized in the Goodreads advertisement as follows:
More than 9 million Germans died as a result of deliberate Allied starvation and expulsion policies after World War II—one quarter of the country was annexed, and about 15 million people expelled in the largest act of ethnic cleansing the world has ever known. Over 2 million of these alone, including countless children, died on the road or in concentration camps in Poland and elsewhere. That these deaths occurred at all is still being denied by Western governments.

The 9 million is actually Bacque’s minimum figure. He suggested that it might be much higher:[2]

Though Bacque didn’t expressly state this, the idea he tried to convey is clear: the Allies committed at least one, perhaps even two crimes on the scale of the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews. They were no better than the Nazis. Arguably even worse.

How did Bacque arrive at these sensational figures?

The 9.3 million "minimum" has 3 components: 1.5 million German prisoners of war, 2.1 million German expellees and 5.7 million German indigenous inhabitants of the four Allied occupation zones, which later became East Germany (the extinct "German Democratic Republic") and West Germany (the German Federal Republic). Bacque’s claims regarding these three groups will be examined in turn.

Prisoners of War

Bacque repeated his Other Losses contentions whereby "undoubtedly" over 800,000, "almost certainly" over 900,000 and "quite likely" over a million German PoWs died in US or French captivity beginning in April 1945.[3] Baqcue claimed that his figures were vindicated by records of the former Soviet Union whereby 450,600 German PoWs died in Soviet captivity.[4] This is supposed to mean that the majority of PoW deaths were attributable to the Americans and French.

The total number of deaths in the German armed forces (including Austrians and ethnic Germans from outside the German Reich in its prewar borders) in active service or captivity during or after WWII was in the order of 4.3 million, of which 1.2 million were still reported as missing as of 2005, that is, their places of burial had not yet been found.[5] In 2005 Manfred Stiel, head of the grave locations section of the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.), stated that the number of dead and missing servicemen in the East was estimated at about 3 million, and most of the missing (at least 650,000) were held to have died in Soviet captivity.[6] I think the figure for the East must be somewhat higher than 3 million, as 3 million on the Eastern Front would imply 1.3 million elsewhere, which, based on what is known from other sources about German losses in other theaters, I consider much too high. These sources include the most complete (though still very much incomplete) wartime tabulation of losses suffered by the German armed forces, the Wehrmacht High Command’s monthly casualty reports of January 1945, showing Tote durch Feindeinwirkung - deaths from enemy action, including killed in action (KIA), and died of wounds (DOW), Verwundete und Erkrankte durch Feindeinwirkung (wounded in action and sick - hereinafter WIA) and Vermisste (missing in action - hereinafter MIA).[7] Figures are given for the following branches of service and theaters of operations:

Heer (field army, including Waffen-SS units): Osten (Eastern Europe), AOK 20 (WB Norwegen) (the Northern Theater of Operations, including Norway and Finland), OB Südwest (Southwestern Europe), OB Südost (Southeastern Europe), OB West (Western Europe), Ersatzheer (replacement army). The table on the dead further includes a number (295,659) of DOW (An Verwundung Verstorbene), which is not broken down by theaters.
Kriegsmarine (Navy): Atlantik und sonstige Meere (Atlantic and Other Seas), Osten (East) and Mittelmeer (Mediterranean).
Luftwaffe (Air Force): Westen + Erweitertes Reichsgebiet (West + Expanded Reich Territory), Süden (South), Osten (East) and Betriebsverluste (Operational Losses, i.e. losses through accidents or in training). The Luftwaffe figures include airborne troops.
The table below shows the Wehrmacht High Command’s figures, which refer to the period from 1.9.1939 to 31.1.1945 and add up to 1,793,010 dead (thereof 1,497,351 KIA, broken down by theaters, and 295,659 DOW, not broken down), 4,401,049 WIA and 1,901,940 MIA, for a total of 8,095,999 casualties (7,800,340 without DOW). The MIA figure obviously includes, in unknown relative proportions, servicemen killed in action and prisoners of war. The sum of KIA and MIA is 3,399,291, the sum of KIA and DoW is 5,898,400.

Table 0

Adding up the figures of the three branches of services for Osten yields 1,164,755 KIA (77.79% of the total of 1,497,351), 3,621,568 WIA (82.29% of the total of 4,401,049) and 1,071,415 MIA (56.33% of the total of 1,901,940), the sum of the three categories being 5,857,738 (75.10% of the total of 7,800,340). Of the 3,399,291 KIA+MIA, 2,236,170 (65.78%) correspond to the East, whereas of the 5,898,400 KIA+WIA 4,786,323 (81.15%) occurred in the East.

These figures, as already mentioned, are everything other than complete, first because they only go until 31.1.1945 and second because there must have been a considerable backlog in reporting. However, they show a clear predominance of the East as concerns KIA (77.79%), WIA (82.29%), KIA+WIA (81.15%) and KIA+WIA+MIA (75.10%).

Though there are no comparable figures for the remaining period of the war, there’s no reason to assume that the proportions were higher in other theaters than in the East during that period. To be sure, there were far more prisoners of war in northwestern Europe (especially in the last two months, when German troops surrendered in masses to the Western Allies without putting up much of a fight if any at all), but the proportion of KIA and WIA in the East was, if anything, higher than in the period up to 31 January 1945. According to the Heeresarzt (Army Medical Officer) Reports for the field army in the period from 1 February to 20 April 1945[8] (when recording ended), 108,181 out of 129,816 killed (83.33%) and 494,003 out of 564,440 wounded (87.52%) occurred on the Eastern Front. For the period 1–10.4.1945, the Heeresarzt recorded 12,510 killed in the East vs. 100 killed in the West.

Estimates of the number of deaths in captivity vary, especially as concerns Eastern Europe. There are older estimates, published in a study by a commission under Erich Maschke, whereby 1,219,187 German PoWs died in captivity, thereof 1,094,250 in Soviet captivity.[9] More recent estimates put the death toll in Soviet captivity at about 650,000[10] or 700,000.[11]

If out of ca. 4,300,000 German military dead from WWII 1,219,187 perished in captivity, the remaining 3,080,813 died in active service. Applying the above proportion of KIA East vs. KIA in other theaters according to the January 1945 Wehrmacht Report (77.79%) to the total number who died in active service yields 2,396,494 deaths in active service for the Eastern Front. The total of German servicemen who perished on the Eastern Front or in Soviet captivity would thus be (2,396,494 + 1,094,250 =) 3,490,744, that is, 81.18% of German military deaths in World War II.

If the number of deaths in Soviet captivity was not 1,094,250 but in the order of the 650,000 mentioned by Stiel, the number of German military deaths in captivity (assuming that Maschke’s other figures are correct) would be 774,937 (USSR 650,000, Eastern and Southeastern Europe 93,028, France 24,178, USA 5,802, Great Britain 1,254, others 675), leaving 3,525,063 deaths in active service. 77.79 % of these would be 2,742,066 on the Eastern Front. The total of German servicemen who perished on the Eastern Front or in Soviet captivity would thus be (2,742,066 + 650,000 =) 3,392,066, that is 78.89% of German military deaths in World War II. This scenario I consider the more probable. If deaths in US captivity were higher than 5,802, the number of deaths in captivity increases and the number of deaths in active service decreases accordingly.

The German War Grave’s Commission’s 2005 estimate of 650,000 deaths in Soviet captivity exceeds the official Soviet figure by 199,400. Soviet figures on PoW deaths may be incomplete as concerns PoWs killed right after capture or in transit to PoW camps. For instance, only 9,147 out of about 60-70,000 German PoWs captured by the Soviets until the end of 1941 reached the camps in the rear.[12] It is also possible that the number who died in Soviet captivity was lower and the number who died in active service was correspondingly higher than my estimates. Indicative of this possibility is the fact that large numbers of German war dead continue being found on battlefields throughout Eastern Europe.[13] Either possibility is more plausible than Bacque’s fantasies. I still haven’t given up hope that the remains of my uncle, Obergefreiter Ernst August Schmidt, will one day be found somewhere in the Czech Republic and given a decent burial.

The actual number of deaths in US captivity in the Rheinwiesenlager was up to 40,000.[14]

German refugees/expellees

Bacque’s "minimum" figure for expellees is in an order of magnitude that has been around since the 1950s. It includes not only postwar expellees but also refugees who perished during the war, and it was defended in 2006 by Christoph Bergner, then Secretary of State in the German Federal Republic’s Ministry of the Interior, against recent studies whereby the number of refugees and expellees who perished is much lower.[15] However, Bacque suggested that there might be 2.5 million on top of those 2.1 million and the total might be as high as 6 million, a figure claimed by German chancellor Konrad Adenauer at a speech in Bern on 23.03.1949[16], which is reproduced in Adenauer’s memoirs.[17] So I’ll have a look at these figures.

An essential source for understanding the evolution of Germany’s population in the postwar period is a collection of four articles published under the overall heading "Deutsche Bevölkerungsbilanz des 2. Weltkrieges" in the October 1956 edition of Wirtschaft und Statistik, a publication of the Statistisches Bundesamt, the German Statistics Office.[18] I would encourage anyone who reads German to read it. The articles that are of interest for this discussion are "Einführung und Zusammenfassung" by Dr. Kurt Horstmann, "Gesamtüberblick der Bevölkerungsentwicklung 1939 - 1946 – 1955" by Dr. Karl Schwarz and "Die Vertreibungsverluste der Bevölkerung in den Ostgebieten des Deutschen Reiches" by Dr. Werner Nellner. The fourth article, "Die Luftkriegsverluste während des zweiten Weltkrieges in Deutschland" by Dr. Hans Sperling, is an analysis of wartime civilian losses due to bombing attacks and thus not relevant for this discussion.

Although Bacque referred to various publications of the German Statistics Office, he ignored the "Deutsche Bevölkerungsbilanz des 2. Weltkrieges". If the reason was that he considered it unreliable, he should at least have mentioned it. Anyway, this source renders moot his conjectures about losses among German refugees and the indigenous population of the four occupation zones that eventually became the two German states.

The article by Dr. Karl Schwarz includes a table "Bevölkerungsbilanz des Deutschen Reiches 1939-1946 und 1939-1955". This table shows population figures for the 1939-1946 period based on a census conducted at the behest of the occupying powers on 29.10.1946[19] and projected figures for the 1939-1955 period. Not shown in the table are the results of censuses in 1950 conducted separately in the German Federal Republic (West Germany including West Berlin) and the "German Democratic Republic" (aka East Germany), but some figures in the articles of Schwarz and Nellner are given based on the 13 September 1950 census in the German Federal Republic and estimates for East Berlin, the "Soviet occupation zone" (although the "German Democratic Republic" had been created from the Soviet occupation zone in 1949, it was not yet recognized in 1956 as a state by the German Federal Republic) and the Saarland. The Saarland’s population was included in the 1946 census figures, as it was part of the French occupation zone, but not in the 1950 figures for the German Federal Republic as the Saarland was not yet part of it but under French administration as a protectorate. The projection for 1955, however, included the population of the Saarland, presumably because it was expected that it would soon join the German Federal Republic pursuant to one of the pacts signed between West Germany and France (it actually joined later). Below is a copy of Table 1 in Schwarz’s article containing the aforementioned figures, followed by a table I made with these figures and a translation of the designations in Table 1.[20]

Table 1

Table 1a

Note the designations "expellees from abroad" and "eastern territories of the German Reich now under foreign administration". The expression "now under foreign administration" is due to the fact that, while the relevant territories were now part of Poland or the Soviet Union, the German Federal Republic had not yet acknowledged this as a final situation (that only happened with the pacts signed by German chancellor Willi Brandt in the early 1970s). The population of these territories, which had been living in the German Reich in its borders as of 31.12.1937 on 17.05.1939, was not listed separately except as concerns those who were still living under "foreign administration" (1,750,000 in 1946, 1,040,000 in 1955) and the expulsion losses and deportees (1,260,000), because its original stock had been part of the German population in 1939. The "expellees from abroad", on the other hand, were ethnic Germans who had been living outside Germany on the territory of various foreign states (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia) as of 17.05.1939. They were thus not part of the prewar German population but had only been added to that population after the war. Therefore, unlike the refugees from the eastern territories of the former German Reich who had only moved from one part thereof to another, they were listed separately in the table.

The population figures according to the separate censuses in both Germanys, 18,388,172 in East Germany and 49,842,624 in West Germany[21], add up to 68,230,796, a figure also used by Bacque. As mentioned above, this figure does not include the Saarland, so in order to compare it with the 1946 figure of 65,310,000, which includes the Saarland, the Saarland’s population has to be added. According to Schwarz’s article[22] the Saarland’s population at the end of 1955 was in the order of 1 million. The population in 1950 cannot have been much lower, according to an online source it was 955,000.[23] The 1950 comparator of the 1946 figure of 65,310,000 would thus be 68,230,796 + 955,000 = 69,185,796.

As concerns the refugees/expellees, Dr. Nellner’s afore mentioned article includes two tables, which are reproduced below.

Table 2

Table 3

Table 2 is about the population of eastern territories of the German Reich under "foreign administration", Table 3 about the ethnic German population abroad except for the Soviet Union (that is, ethnic Germans who before the war had been living on territory of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia). In the overview below I put the figures from both tables together. As some of Nellner’s figures were apparently not rounded to two decimals when adding them up, there are some differences in the sums, but these are minimal (the difference to the Table 2 total of 7.09 million is 0.02 million, the difference to the Table 3 total of 4.51 million is none). To match the breakdown with the totals of 7.09 million + 4.51 million = 11.60 million, I arbitrarily changed some figures by give or take 10,000. Some subtotals are thus slightly different in my overview than in the above tables. The figures from the above tables are rendered in brackets in the text following my overview.

Table 4

One can see that the total prewar German population of the territories considered was estimated at about 16,940,000, thereof about 9,530,000 in the eastern territories of the German Reich in its 1937 borders and 7,410,000 ethnic Germans outside Germany in its 1937 borders. Of these about 1,030,000 (1,020,000), thereof 650,000 (640,000) from the eastern territories and 380,000 ethnic Germans from abroad, were assumed to have died as members of the German armed forces, and 2,460,000 (2,470,000), thereof 1,030,000 (1,040,000) from the eastern territories of the Reich and 1,430,000 ethnic Germans from abroad, were assumed to be still living in September 1950 on the territories where they had lived before the war. 450,000 were now living in western countries, 100,000 were still living as prisoners of war or deportees, and 11,600,000 (7,090,000 from the eastern territories, 4,510,000 ethnic Germans from abroad)[24] were living on territory of East Germany or West Germany as of 13 September 1950. There were an estimated about 2,290,000 (2,280,000), thereof 1,270,000 (1,260,000) from the eastern territories and 1,020,000 from abroad, whose fate had not been clarified and who were presumed to have perished during flight and expulsion.[25] Of the 7,090,000 now living on territory of the two Germanys, according to Nellner[26], about 5,760,000 had been living in the four occupation zones at the time of the 1946 census. Additionally, about 4,080,000 ethnic German refugees/expellees from outside the 1937 German borders were living in the four occupation zones and included in the 1946 census figure. So, a total of about 9,840,000 refugees/expellees were living on territory of what later became the two Germanys as of 29.10.1946[27], and another 1,760,000 (1,330,000 from the eastern territories, 430,000 ethnic Germans from outside the 1937 German borders) arrived there between that census date and 13 September 1950, the date of the census in the German Federal Republic.

I highlight these figures because of their importance for the later analysis of Bacque’s claims regarding losses among the indigenous German population of the four occupation zones/two Germanys. But first let’s have a look at the Germans who remained behind where they had been living before the war, as Bacque suggested that they also died.[28] Who were these people? As concerns the eastern territories, Nellner explained as follows[29] (my translation):
A larger group of Germans was deported both by the Poles and the Soviets or retained in their home territories because they were needed as specialized labor. Besides that, especially Poland was eager to "polonize" [quote marks added] the eastern German territories handed over to it as fast as possible and also show that they held a large indigenous Polish population. For this reason, they recurred to the term "autoctonous", by which they designate the local population they could not simply declare as Polish without wanting to admit that they were Germans. It is noteworthy, however, that this group of persons was first subject to a so-called verification procedure. This procedure offered no true choice, as those affected had no say in whether or not they wanted to be included in the program. This applied to a very few who spoke Polish and a larger group who usually communicated in the Upper Silesian, Masuria and Kashubian local languages and besides these also spoke German. The largest group included in the program, however, were Upper Silesians who only spoke German. It can thus be proven that almost exclusively such persons were stated to be autoctonous who until the end of the war had affirmed their German identity. In Silesia alone these are 800,000 persons, but on the whole one must assume about 1.04 million Germans who stayed behind in the eastern territories of the German Reich.

So, unlike what Bacque obviously assumed, the Poles (who had taken over the former eastern territories of the German Reich except for East Prussia, which became part of the Soviet Union) by no means wanted to get rid of all the German population, at least not so fast. They needed a sizable part thereof as specialized labor or merely to populate the territories with a supposedly indigenous Polish population. Thus, they made many ethnic Germans look like Poles (something that Nellner seems to have been indignant about), at least for some time as the number of stay-behinds decreased from 1.75 million in 1946 to 1.04 million in 1955.

Regarding ethnic Germans who had lived outside the 1937 German borders, Nellner wrote the following[30] (my translation):
Among the 4.92 million Germans known in 1950 to have been expelled from abroad about 3 million had before the war lived in Czechoslovakia, 0.70 million in Poland, 0.30 million in Yugoslavia and 0.28 million in Danzig. Deduction of births and deaths from the time of expulsion until the end of 1950, which have been calculated as 140,000, yields 4.78 million Germans from abroad who after expulsion from their homeland were received in Germany (Federal Republic, Berlin, Soviet occupation zone and Saarland); that is 65 % of the population of these territories at the end of the war. For the remaining 2.51 million information about their whereabouts had to be obtained. For some territories, especially for the states of southeastern Europe, various data about the Germans still living there have been published in the last years. These numbers must however be examined in detail, as they are not always free from tendentiousness. For Poland, the Baltic States and other territories, however, extensive inquiries had to be made. The result was a total of 1.43 million persons, thereof 410,000 in Romania, 400,000 in Poland, 290,000 in Hungary and 250,000 in Czechoslovakia. It is furthermore estimated that about 60,000 to 70,000 ethnic Germans are still alive as prisoners of war, missing and deportees and others that cannot be established. This leaves a remainder of about 1 million unclarified cases, the larger part of which must be considered expulsion losses.

So, it seems that entities of the German Federal Republic looked as deeply as circumstances permitted into the matter of what had happened to German inhabitants of the former eastern territories of the German Reich and ethnic German minorities outside the 1937 borders. Bacque apparently didn’t bother to inform himself about this research, or then he dismissed it without further ado because he thought it could not be "believed"[31].

What about Adenauer? Indeed, the German chancellor stated the following, in his already mentioned speech in Bern on 23 March 1949[32] (my translation):
From the eastern parts of Germany, from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary etc., as established by the Americans, a total of 13.3 million Germans were expelled. Of these 7.3 million arrived in the Eastern Zone and mainly in the three Western Zones. 6 million Germans disappeared from the face of the earth. They died and rotted away.

7.3 million is a little more than the number of expellees from the eastern territories of the German Reich alone who lived on German territory as of 13 September 1950, in addition to 4.5 million ethnic Germans from outside the 1937 borders. So, Adenauer obviously based his calculation on faulty information. Adenauer may not have been aware of the actual 1950 figures, but he made this statement three years after the 1946 census, whose figures included a higher total number of refugees or expellees (9.84 million, as mentioned above) who were on territory of the four occupation zones at that time. This means that he or whoever gave him the figures was either careless or in bad faith. Whichever it was, the mistake is so obvious that no serious researcher of history would give Adenauer’s figure a chance of being realistic. Bacque, however, seems to have been guided by the principle that whatever served the ideas he was trying to convey might be useful, however far-fetched.

So much for the refugees/expellees, now for the whopper among Bacque’s figures.

Indigenous population of the four occupation zones

Bacque claimed that there were about 5.7 million unrecorded deaths among German civilians other than refugees in the 1946-1950 period, more precisely between the census dates 29.10.1946 and 13.09.1950.

Nothing like this order of magnitude has been proposed by any historian. To grasp just how extraordinary it is, one must put it in relation to figures on German civilian war losses estimated by historians and search services. According to the latter, the total number of German civilian losses during the war and in the immediate postwar period is in the order of about 3.1 million, including civilians killed by bombing or ground fighting, deaths during flight and expulsion and victims of Nazi persecution and mass murder.[33] Adding Bacque’s 5.7 million to these 3.1 million yields 8.8 million, almost three times what is already a comparatively high estimate of German civilian casualties.

How did Bacque arrive at this figure? He explained it on pp. 121-122 of Crimes and Mercies:
The population of all occupied Germany in October 1946 was 65,000,000, according to the census prepared under the ACC.29 The returning prisoners who were added to the population in the period October 1946-September 1950 numbered 2,600,000 (rounded), according to records in the archives of the four principal Allies. Births according to the official German statistical agency, Statistisches Bundesamt, added another 4,176,430 newcomers to Germany.30 The expellees arriving totalled 6,000,000. Thus the total population in 1950 before losses would have been 77,776,430, according to the Allies themselves. Deaths officially recorded in the period 1946-50 were 3,235,539, according to the UN Yearbook and the German government.31 Emigration was about 600,000, according to the German government.32 Thus the population found should have been 73,940,891. But the census of 1950 done by the German government under Allied supervision found only 68,230,796.33 There was a shortage of 5,710,095 people, according to the official Allied figures (rounded to 5,700,000).*

So, this was Bacque’s calculation:

Table 5

What’s wrong with this calculation?

First of all, as mentioned above, the 1946 census figure included the Saarland, whereas the 1950 censuses did not. So, in order to compare 1946 with 1950 figures the population of the Saarland (which I assumed to be 955,000 million) has to be added to the latter, yielding 69,185,796. There goes the first of Bacque’s 5.7 million.

The 2.6 million returned prisoners of war were calculated by Bacque and must be taken with a big grain of salt on that account already, considering Bacque’s past performance. Moreover, Bacque’s figure is much higher than the one given by Schwarz, whose Table 1 shows 1,750,000 surviving prisoners of war outside Germany in 1946, of which 1,740,000 had returned by 1955.[34] However, Bacque’s trump card was the 6 million expellees who supposedly arrived between 1946 and 1950. Where did he get this figure from? Bacque rendered his source and reasoning as follows[35] (emphases added):
The source for this is the Murphy Papers, including the Council of Foreign Ministers papers at Stanford. Many authorities in Germany and elsewhere have written about the expellees, but there is no record at the HIA of any scholar having published these figures of Murphy's before. This lack of a publication record may mean little, because a scholar may in fact have used some of these figures without notifying Hoover. Courtesy of Ron Bulatoff, HIA, October 1994- These papers were declassified in several bunches, beginning in 1988. Others were declassified in 1991 by the State Department.
These papers include documents prepared for and presented at the Council of Foreign Ministers meetings in Moscow and elsewhere, from 1947 to 1949. They are based on statistics gathered by the ruling interzonal agency operating in Germany at the time, the Allied Control Council, under the aegis of the several Military Governments. Murphy states in April 1947 (CFM Papers, 9 April 1947, Statement by US Delegate, Box 61, Murphy Papers, HIA) that 5-6 million refugees had arrived. Since all other population figures in these papers are based on the census of October 1946, we can be sure that this figure is also for that date. The French delegate in the Moscow meeting said on 17 March 1947 that only 4-5 million had arrived. Murphy's assistant Brad Patterson stated on 18 May 1949 that 12 million had arrived (Murphy Papers, Box 67, file 67-6). The figure usually accepted by all authorities for the total arrivals in 1950 is 12 million. (The effect on the death estimates in this book of accepting the 12 million figure for May 1949 as valid for the final total of deaths in 1950 is nil.) This means that according to the Americans, between 6 and 7 million expellees arrived between October 1946 and May 1949.

As mentioned before the 1946 figure included 5.76 million arrivals from the eastern territories of the former German Reich, so this is obviously what Murphy (whose figures, as Bacque emphasized, are based on the census of October 1946) was referring to. But the total number of deportees who had arrived by that time, either from the former eastern territories or from abroad, was 5.76 million (eastern territories) + 4.08 million (abroad) = 9.84 million, as I have shown above. The number that arrived between 1946 and 1950 was thus not 6 to 7 million as Bacque would have it, but 11.60 – 9.84 = 1.76 million. Let’s see what this does to Bacque’s figures, assuming that his 2.6 million returning PoWs are realistic:

Table 6

According to the above all but 515,095 of Bacque’s 5,710,095 go up in smoke.

Bacque calculated from 65 million in 1946, whereas the German Statistics Office’s figure for 1946 based on census data was 65,310,000. Assuming this higher figure, and the 500,000 emigrees mentioned by the German Statistics Office instead of the 600,000 assumed by Bacque, yields the following comparison:

Table 7

By the above calculation Bacque overestimated unrecorded civilian deaths by 4,785,000, or by a factor of 6.

Now, assuming that Bacque’s figure of 2.6 million prisoners of war returning from abroad in the postwar period is correct and the German Statistics Office’s figure is too low, what would this mean? Assuming 10,000 prisoners remaining in captivity in 1955, which is a well-known figure as Konrad Adenauer obtained their release by the Soviet Union in his famous 1955 trip to Moscow[36], it would mean that on 29 October 1946, the date of the census, 2,610,000 prisoners of war (and not 1,750,000 as per the German Statistics Office) were still in prison camps outside Germany. This, in turn, would mean that the number of losses in the 1939-1946 population balance (Tables 1 and 1a in this article) would have to be increased by (2,610,000 – 1,750,000 =) 860,000 prisoners, and that the 1946 census figure from the German Statistics Office (1939 population plus gains minus losses) would have to be reduced by 860,000, from 65,310,000 to 64,450,000, in order to compare it with the 1950 census + Saarland figure of 69,185,796. The effect of thus reducing the 1946 census figure while maintaining Bacque’s 2,600,000 would be the following:

Table 8a

The same effect is obtained by maintaining the 1946 census figure of 65,310,000 and using the German Statistics Office’s figure for returning PoWs in the 1946-1950 period, i.e. 1,740,000, instead of Bacque’s 2,600,000.

Table 8b

So, the difference between actual deaths and the number of recorded deaths given by Bacque (3,235,539) would be a mere 65,095. This means that Bacque exaggerated the number of unrecorded deaths by 5,645,000, or by a factor of 88. In other words, Bacque’s spectacular "revelation" that the Allies caused 5.7 million civilian deaths in excess of recorded mortality in the four occupation zones/two Germanys between October 1946 and September 1950 is just hot air. The above comparison suggests that the number of recorded plus unrecorded deaths in the four occupation zones, later the two Germanys, was 3,235,539 + 65,095 = 3,300,634, and not 3,235,539 + 5,710,095 = 8,945,634 as Bacque would have it.

This is of course assuming that the German Statistics Office’s other figures are correct. There is at least one that seems far too low, which is that of 20,000 civilians on territory of the four occupation zones who were killed in ground fighting. As many as 22,000 may have been killed in the battle inside Berlin between 23 April and 2 May 1945 alone[37], and another 10,000 may have perished in the Battle of Halbe between 24 April and 1 May 1945.[38] Civilian deaths in the entire area of the Red Army’s Berlin offensive have been estimated at about 100,000.[39] The total number of collateral civilian deaths from ground fighting throughout Germany was thus probably much higher than the number assumed by the German Statistics Office. This in turn would reduce the number of unrecorded deaths even further. One might even make a case that there were no unrecorded deaths at all and the 1950 census figures were higher than the actual population.

Before I move on, these are the differences in migration balance between Bacque and reality (WiSt = Wirtschaft und Statistik), which are the main reason for Bacque’s 5.7 million phantoms.

Table 9

Besides the blatant fallacies in Bacque’s calculation, the above tables also illustrate the absurdity of suggesting that of all deaths in Germany between 1946-1950 the large majority (5,710,095 out of 8,945,634, almost 64 %) were not officially recorded. Are the Allied and local authorities supposed to have left most deaths unrecorded or suppressed most records? Thousands of Allied and German officials would have to be involved in such gigantic cover-up conspiracy, with not a single whistle-blower to this day. Extremely unlikely, to say the least. Or are the Allied and local authorities supposed to have been overwhelmed by mortality on such a scale that their keeping of death records (even independently of cause) couldn’t keep up with it?

And where would they have buried all those 5,710,095 unrecorded dead without anybody noticing? Well, maybe each time a recorded dead was buried, they reopened the grave once the grieving relatives were gone, took two unrecorded bodies out of the refrigerator and put them on top of the recorded one. Maybe my maternal grandfather, who died of cancer in 1949, is sharing his grave with two other people.

US Ambassador Murphy, Bacque’s key source for his census calculations, is also referred to in several parts of Bacque’s book as having written something in 1947 about expecting a shrinkage of the population by two million in the next two or three years "owing to the present high death rate in Germany"[40], or that "the death rate in Germany was so high that, in effect, it must exceed the birth rate by two million people in the few years during which the expellees and prisoners were to return"[41], or that "after the influx, which he expected to number two million prisoners and four million expellees, the population would rise by only four million"[42], or that he expected "two million deaths to come soon after 1947 based on his knowledge ‘of the present death rate in Germany’"[43]. What Murphy actually stated is unclear because, for all his reliance on this source and several partial quotes of Murphy’s predictions, Bacque never provided a comprehensive quote of Murphy’s statement. Instead, he calculated that the death rate that Murphy must have been referring to was something like 24 %o p.a.[44] based on the reading that Murphy expected deaths to exceed births by two million over a period of one, two or three years. This is Bacque’s calculation, in which he assumed an annual birth rate of 14.47 %o:

Table 10

This calculation leads to interesting results if continued – after 10 years the population will be 73,460,000 and the death rate will be about 16%o. And it would get better and better the further you go down.

Actually the 3-year scenario, assuming a birth rate of 14.47 %o p.a., would be more like this:

Table 11

The death rate per 1,000 is calculated as number of deaths ÷ (population at beginning of year + births during year).

In this scenario, assuming that births and deaths evened each other out in 1950, the positive migration balance would have to be 6,185,796 for the Census 1950 + Saarland figure of 69,185,796 to be reached. Or then this figure would include 6,185,796 people who weren’t there.

The actual migration balance between 29 October 1946 and 13 September 1950 was 3,000,000, as mentioned above (1,740,000 returning PoWs plus 1,760,000 expellees minus 500,000 emigrants). So, in order to reach the 1950 figure of 69,230,796, and replacing Bacque’s starting population of 65 million with the actual population count of 65,310,000, there would have to be an excess of births vs. deaths of 875,796 as shown below.

Table 12

If the birth rate was 14.47%o p.a. as estimated by Bacque, the average death rate over the 1947 to 1950 period would have been 10.96%o to 10.99%o p.a., and the total number of deaths over the same period couldn’t have been higher than 2,923,356.

Bacque mentioned 4,176,430 births between the 1946 and 1950 censuses, which would mean a birth rate of ca. 15.91%o. This in turn would mean that the population could take more deaths and still maintain the birth excess of 875,796 required to match the census data, as shown below. With a birth rate of 15.90%o, the death rate would be 12.36%o to 12.39%o.

Table 13

A birth rate of 15.91%o would be close to the 1946 birth rate of 16.1 %o given for the territory of the later German Federal Republic by the German Statistics Office.[45]

Bacque assumed a 16.1 %o birth rate for West Germany but a much lower birth rate (10.4%o) for East Germany. But why should the birth rate in East Germany have been so much lower than in West Germany? If it was, and if the death rate was accordingly lower than the 12.36%o to 12.39%o shown above, this would mean that the death rate in West Germany was accordingly above 12.36%o to 12.39%o and may have been in the order of 13 %o as per the German Statistics Office for 1946.[46]

Anyway, the numbers of births and deaths in the above calculation match the respective numbers in the above census comparisons (4,176,430 births, 3,300,634 deaths), which suggests that this calculation, with an average birth rate of 15.91%o and a death rate of 12.36%o to 12.39%o, is the most realistic one for both Germanys together.

It may be that mortality reached higher levels during certain periods and in certain regions, especially where there was a huge refugee population. But Bacque’s mortality scenario, where 8,945,634 civilian inhabitants of the four occupation zones (3,235,539 recorded plus 5,710,095 unrecorded) died between October 1946 and September 1950, would require a mortality rate of 34.8%o % or 3.48 % throughout all of Germany and the entire period of about 4 years, if one assumes a birth rate of 14.47 %o or 1.447 % as Bacque does.

Table 14

The 1950 census + Saarland figure would in such case not be lower than the expected population, as Bacque claims, but would exceed the expected population by 6,157,950. In other words, either the 1950 census + Saarland figure would include 6,157,950 people who were not actually there, or then the positive migration balance was 9,157,950 instead of 3,000,000.

Table 15

With influx of expellees the only variable, 7,917,950 would have had to enter the four occupation zones, later the two Germanys, between October 1946 and September 1950. Added to the 9,840,000 who were already there in October 1946, this would mean that a total of 17,757,950 ended up in West or East Germany. Which is just 172,050 less than the sum of the prewar population of 1937 Germany’s eastern territories and ethnic minorities outside the 1937 borders and excess births among these populations during and after the war until 1950 (16,940,000 + 990,000 = 17,930,000). This would mean that just 172,050 of this population, less than 1 %, died in military service during the war or stayed in their prewar home territory or died during flight and expulsion, etc. Which is as unrealistic a proposition as can be in this context.

That said, there are also sources more serious than Bacque suggesting a very high excess mortality among the German population in the postwar year, especially in 1945 and 1946.
In an October 1945 letter to the Assistant Secretary of War, U.S. Deputy Military Governor Lucius Clay reported that "undoubtedly a large number of refugees have already died of starvation, exposure and disease.... The death rate in many places has increased several fold, and infant mortality is approaching 65 percent in many places. By the spring of 1946, German observers expect that epidemics and malnutrition will claim 2.5 to 3 million victims between the Oder and Elbe." […] At a Cabinet meeting in London in early October, the participants acknowledged that the overall death rate among German civilians had already climbed to four times the prewar normal, while the mortality rate for children had risen tenfold.[47]

The prewar overall mortality on the territory of the German Reich had been 11.6 %o (1.16 %) p.a. in 1938 according to the German Statistics Office[48], and the infant mortality had been 68 %o (6.8 %) p.a. in 1935[49]. The Cabinet meeting would thus have been contemplating an infant mortality rate of 68 % and an overall mortality rate of 4.64%.

To put this into perspective, in Kharkov (Kharkiv), a city with a population of about 450,000 while under German occupation, there was a famine starting in the winter of 1941/42 that lasted until the end of September 1942. The local administration recorded 19,284 deaths between the second half of December 1941 and the second half of September 1942, thereof 11,918 (59.6 %) from hunger.[50] The Foreign Office representative at Army High Command 6 noted on 25.03.1942 that according to reports reaching municipal authorities at least 50 people were dying of hunger every day, and that the true number might be much higher as in many cases the cause of death was stated as "unknown" and besides many deaths were not reported.[51] The reported cases would signify an overall mortality rate of 4.29 % over a period of 10 months, equivalent to 5.71% p.a.[52] . Another comparison: in the first half of the 14th century (before the Black Death), famine regularly caused mortality rates to jump from a favorable 2.7 % p.a. in the last half of the 13th century to 5 % p.a. throughout Britain, 10 % in towns.[53]

Was it all that bad for the indigenous population of the four Allied occupation zones of Germany in October 1945? Were the Cabinet members referring to mortality among refugees from the German Reich’s former eastern territories and from ethnic German populations of Eastern Europe, like the previously quoted Clay obviously did? Or was their mortality scenario just overly pessimistic?

Whichever applies, an estimate for 1946, when famine was still widespread in Europe and elsewhere, is that the death rate in Germany was double the prewar figure[54], which assuming a prewar mortality rate of 1.16% would be 2.32%. Conditions tended to be best in the U.S. zone and worst in the French and Soviet zones, despite the fact that the latter was traditionally a food surplus region. Urban centers tended to be hardest hit as well, with inhabitants of Berlin and the Ruhr suffering most of all. Small children, university students, and older people were hardest hit by the malnutrition.[55] Though deaths resulting directly from starvation remained rare even during the worst phases of the postwar occupation, there was an increase in the rate of deaths from suicides and diseases like tuberculosis, typhus, diphtheria, and influenza in which malnutrition likely played at least some contributing role.[56]

In the German Statistics Office’s 1939 to 1946 population balance shown above (Tables 1 and 1a) excess deaths from malnutrition and disease would be counted among the 7,130,000 "natural" deaths between 17.05.1939 and 29.10.1946. Applied to the 1939 population of 69,310,000 this would be 1.38% p.a., which suggests that excess mortality in 1945/46 may have been lower than 2.32%. According to the German Statistics Office, as mentioned above, the 1946 mortality rate in what later became the German Federal Republic was 13%o (1.3%).[57] According to a study about the postwar hunger years in Rheinland-Pfalz, in the French occupation zone, the mortality rate rose from 11.3 %o in 1938 to 13.1 %o in 1946, then dropped to 12.9 %o in 1947, 11.7 %o in 1948 and 11.1 %o in 1949.[58] There seems to have been some seasonal variation, as according to the same study the mortality rate jumped from 11.4 %o in November 1946 to 17.4 %o in February 1947, during the dreadful winter known as the "hunger winter" or the "white death", for which the number of excess deaths from hunger and cold has been estimated by historians at several hundred thousand, based on extrapolations from partial data.[59]

In the four occupation zones mortality in 1945/46 seems to have been worst in Berlin[60], largely due to the battle, which may have killed about 22,000 of the city’s inhabitants between 24 April and 2 May 1945[61], and to massive rape and associated deaths after the battle.[62] Additionally there were epidemics. By mid-July 1945 a hundred Berliners a day were said to be dying of typhoid fever and dysentery.[63] In a sermon in Dahlem on 23 July 1945, bishop Dibelius claimed that there were more than 1,000 deaths in the city per day, up from 250 during and 200 prior to the war.[64] Where did he get these figures from? It there were records showing so large an increase in mortality, more would probably be known about it. How long this situation lasted can only be guessed from the available information.[65] Anyway, the baseline figures are unrealistically high.[66]

During the winter of 1945/46, which was not abnormally cold but made worse by a terrible lack of coal and food, about 60,000 Berliners are supposed to have died.[67] The following winter, which according to a White House official was the "rock bottom" of the food supply situation[68], "killed off an estimated 12,000 more when temperatures hovered around thirty degrees below".[69] It seems counterintuitive that the 1945/46 winter should have been much deadlier in Berlin than the far more severe 1946/47 winter, which figures much more prominently than that of 1945/46 in Ruth Friedrich’s diary, where she mentioned horrors like people dying of cold in their beds[70] and a refugee train arriving from Poland with 53 frozen to death, 182 with severe frostbite and 25 having to be amputated[71], which became the talk of the town[72]. Even assuming that the 12,000 mentioned for the 1946/47 winter are excess deaths only whereas the 60,000 for the previous winter are total deaths including 51,990 excess deaths[73], the difference would still be 39,990. How can this be?

Part of the explanation may be the infant mortality rate, which according to Ruth Friedrich was reportedly 80-90 % in the autumn of 1945.[74] According to a recent PhD thesis, infant mortality was around 76 % in the Kaiserin-Auguste-Victoria Haus (KAVH), one of the most important clinics for children in Berlin. The causes were destruction of medical facilities by artillery fire or their unavailability as the Soviets confiscated them for their own wounded, shortage of fresh milk and epidemic diseases like diphtheria, which unusually affected even newborns.[75] In the summer of 1945 a doctor in the Reinickendorf borough stated that if no proper nourishment was provided all newborns would die until the coming spring, and that in some of the city’s districts there were no newborns anymore. As late as the spring of 1946 infant mortality in Berlin, varying among districts, was up to 80 %.[76] Of all children treated at the KAVH, about 30 % died in 1945.[77] Much of the mortality seems to have been related to the presence of many refugees from the east, whose children were considerably worse off than those of the city’s indigenous population, infant mortality among those who reached Berlin – pediatricians assumed that most newborns had not even come that far – being about 20 % higher.[78] The situation gradually improved over the next years, with a temporary reversal during the Berlin Blockade in 1948/49.[79] In the crisis years 1945 and 1946 child mortality was higher in the summer than in the winter months, with up to 72 % in July of each year. In 1947, however, infant mortality was reduced to just 12 %.[80] These figures may refer to the entire Soviet occupation zones and not only to Berlin.[81]

Assuming a 12 % infant mortality rate in 1947 vs. a rate of 90 % in 1945/46, the respective census populations for 1945 and 1946 and an equal birthrate in both years of 16%o or 1.6 %[82], the difference would be as follows:

Table 16

However, 8,561 excess infant deaths less would still leave a difference of 31,429 unexplained. It is therefore likely that the claimed 60,000 number of Berlin deaths in the 1945/46 winter (which would amount to about 2.14% of the August 1945 population of 2,807,405, the per annum equivalent being ca. 8.67%) is much too high. Assuming non-infant excess deaths in the 1946/47 winter (12,000 – 654 = 11,346) and that the non-infant excess mortality in 1945/46 was equal, then adding excess infant deaths in the 1945/46 winter (9,215), yields 20,561 excess deaths that winter, still making it worse than the 1946/47 winter.[83] Adding an assumed 8,010 deaths that would have occurred under prewar circumstances would yield a total of 28,571 deaths in the 1945/46 winter – about 1.02% of the population in this period, equivalent to an annual mortality rate of 4.13%. Bar the summer famine, with a mortality rate of 5.79 – 6.96 % p.a. in July 1945[84] and the days of the battle, this would have been the deadliest period in Berlin’s history since the Thirty Years War.[85]

As to the 1946/47 winter, assuming 101 "normal" deaths per day[86] over 90 days (the winter period from 21/12/1946 to 21/03/1947) and ca. 133 excess deaths per day over the same period[87] for a total of 234 daily deaths yields 9 090 + 11,970[88] = 21,060 deaths, corresponding to a mortality rate of 0.66% in the period and an annual mortality rate of 2.68%. This is lower than the death rate for all of 1947 (29 %o or 2.9 %) claimed by Adenauer in his above-mentioned speech on 23.03.1946, in which he also claimed a birth rate of just 10 %o (1 %) in 1947 and a child mortality rate (Kindersterblichkeit) of 135 %o (13.5 %) in the second quarter of 1946. The term for child mortality covers deaths before five years of age and is thus not identical with Säuglingssterblichkeit (infant mortality), which was down to 12 % by 1947.[89] How can an assumed infant mortality of 12 % be matched with an overall mortality rate of 2.9 %?

A birth rate of 10 % and an infant mortality rate of 12 % would mean 31,871 births and 3,824 infant deaths in 1947 as shown below, thereof 1,657 in excess of an assumed baseline mortality of 6.8 %.[90]

Table 17

A death rate of 2.9 % in 1947 among 3,187,114 inhabitants would mean 92,426 deaths, that is 55,455 more than the 36,971 that would correspond to the above-mentioned 1938 baseline of 1.16 %. Only 1,657 of these 55,455 excess deaths would be accounted for by infant mortality exceeding the assumed 6.8 % baseline, leaving 53,798 other deaths. Most 1947 excess deaths would probably have occurred during the 1947 portion of the murderous 1946/47 winter. Assuming 133 per day as per the above calculations, there would have been 10,640 such deaths in the 80 days from 01/01/1947 to 21/03/1947. This in turn would imply 55,455 minus 10,640 = 44,815 excess deaths in the friendlier periods of the year, 157 per day vs. 133 per day in the hunger winter. What would have caused these?

Unless and until a plausible answer to this question is found, Adenauer’s claim (or the statistics supporting it) should be regarded with suspicion, especially as Adenauer produced these figures in the same speech in which he also claimed a very exaggerated number of expellee and refugee deaths as mentioned before (6 million, an exaggeration by a factor of about 3).

That’s how bad things got, or may have got, for the inhabitants of Berlin.[91] What about other places in the four occupation zones?

I have already mentioned Rheinland-Pfalz, where the mortality rate was 13.1 %o (1.31 %) in 1946 and peaked at 17.4 %o (1.74 %) p.a. in February 1947, up from 11.4 %o (1.14 %) in November 1946, and the average rate for 1947 and 1948 was respectively 12.9 %o (1.29 %) and 11.7 %o (1.17%).[92]

Bavaria, according to Schenck[93], had its mortality peak in April 1945, 37.9 %o (3.79 %), almost as high as in November 1918 when it had been 40.2 %o (4.02 %). The annual average for 1945 was 19.6 %o (1.96 %). In 1947 it was down to 11.9 %o (1.19 %) due to "mortality anticipation" (Vorwegnahme der Sterblichkeit). I presume this means that periods of high mortality are followed by periods in which mortality is much lower as the population would have a higher proportion of more resistant specimens. In the years 1940 to 1945, according to Schenck, a quarter of a million people more had died in Bavaria than would have died under normal circumstances.

For other regions in the four occupation zones no overall mortality rates are provided by Schenck unless I missed something. However, Bacque himself referred to a British Army report whereby the death rate in North Rhine province in 1946 was about 12%o p.a. (1.2 %) and fell during the year until it hit only 8%o p.a. (0.8 %) in September. The death rate in Hamburg in 1946, according to official British Army reports, was 14.9%o (1.49 %) p.a. on average. Having started near 20%o p.a. in January, it had declined to only 12.63%o (1.263 %) p.a. by the end of the year.[94] Considering the figures for Rheinland-Pfalz and Bavaria mentioned above, this seems quite realistic.

As concerns the Ruhr region, there was a study whereby in Wuppertal there was no actual famine, and the weight loss of the inhabitants between 17 and 23 %.[95] Wuppertal is close to Essen, where both my parents come from and where in I interviewed my mother’s elder sister and some of her friends on video in 2008, about their experiences during and after WWII. Their accounts are rendered in my answer to a question on Quora, Did you know any World War II survivors? What was their story?. They told me about bombing attacks during the war and about hunger in the postwar years, but none of them told me anything about having seen or heard about or known someone who succumbed to starvation or to malnutrition-related diseases like tuberculosis, typhus or typhoid fever. No one told me anything about cemeteries being enlarged to cope with increased mortality, about having seen vehicles loaded with corpses taken away for burial, about having witnessed or heard about mass burials. Privation in the postwar years increased mortality, but not to the extent required to make everyday death as visible to the common citizen as would correspond to a die-off on the scale claimed by Bacque. The only member of my family who died between 1946 and 1950 was my maternal grandfather. He died in 1949 at age 62, of throat cancer. Malnutrition may have hastened his death, but the likeliest reason why he got cancer in the first place was that he was a trumpeter and a heavy smoker. My aunt’s arms and legs puffed up from malnutrition, but she was never hospitalized let alone in risk of dying. Her condition soon improved after she got a better diet. My mother, like many German children at the time, benefited from the quaker feeding, a charity initiated by Herbert Hoover, the hero of the "mercies" part of Bacque’s book.

None of these accounts looks to me like the narrators had been living under conditions as bad as those in Berlin, let alone in a country where there was anything like 5.7 million unrecorded deaths in excess of "normal" mortality from 29 October 1946 to 13 September 1950. My afore mentioned relatives were not of a privileged class, they were ordinary people who lived in a city that had been heavily destroyed by bombs. Hunger there was, yes, but nothing they told me suggests mass dying due to hunger and/or related diseases.

In the first years of my study in Konstanz am Bodensee, which had been in the French zone of occupation, I talked about the war and postwar years with my first landlady and an older woman for whom I mowed the lawn to earn some extra money. Again, privation yes (my landlady had a bone problem in her lower jaw, presumably a consequence of malnutrition in her youth), anything to suggest mass death from privation, no.

How about the Soviet occupation zone? My maternal grandfather’s family was from Bad Dürrenberg in Saxonia, and my aunt spent some time there at the end of the war and thereafter. Again, no accounts that would suggest people dying at a much higher rate than during the war. None of my mother’s relatives died from malnutrition related causes.[96]

The postwar period in West Germany was also described in what was known as "Trümmerliteratur", which literally means rubble literature of literature in the rubble.[97] I have read the works of Heinrich Böll and Wolfgang Borchert related to the war and postwar period. Böll mentioned nothing in his short stories or novels that would suggest a situation as dramatic as to cause the gigantic leap in mortality that Bacque’s figures suggest.[98]

Borchert died in 1947 in Basel, Switzerland, from complications of an infection he had contracted during the war as a soldier on the Eastern Front. His most famous work is the drama Drauβen vor der Tür, about a homecoming soldier who finds that his wife, his home and hopes are gone.[99] Borchert also wrote a number of short stories including Das Brot (The Bread)[100]. An older woman wakes up in the dark of the night and catches her husband who is eating an extra slice of their rationed bread. They don't talk about what happened and a perplexed conversation takes place. They end up with the fact that there was nothing and they both woke up because of the wind outside and the sound of the rain gutter. They go back to bed. While they are trying to sleep, she hears her husband secretly eating more bread. The next evening, she prepares dinner and gives him an extra slice of her ration of bread under the pretext that in the evening she can't take the bread all that well. They avoid eye contact, after a while she sits down at the table.

That’s the postwar hunger years in a nutshell, according to Böll[101], a story that says more about the subject than any erudite commentary, in which the entire misery and the entire greatness of a human being is incorporated. It is set in a dire situation of food rationing. But not in a situation that would cause millions of unrecorded excess deaths within a few years.

A German docudrama available on YouTube shows how bad it was in Germany in the winter of 1946/47.[102] But again, none of the witnesses recalled anything that would suggest the kind of catastrophe that Bacque’s figures would imply. Nothing comparable to the situation in Berlin, where according to Margret Boveri’s diary people fainted from hunger in the metro or while queuing for food in July 1945.[103]

Maybe some of the witnesses quoted by Bacque recall apocalyptic scenarios of people dying like flies? Not from among the refugees, whose situation was much worse than that of the indigenous population, but from among the indigenous population or someone who observed first-hand how these people were living and dying. What does Bacque’s book offer by way of such evidence? Not someone’s morbidity or mortality estimates, not doomsday predictions of what would happen or might happen if …[104], but descriptions of how people lived and died before the eyes of the observer. Unless I missed something, Bacque offers only two such direct eyewitnesses regarding the four occupation zones, Probst Heinrich Grüber and Victor Gollancz.

Grüber is supposed to have described an end-of-the-world scene in the forest around Berlin where mothers buried their children by the wayside and "countless" corpses, presumably suicides, were hanging from trees. I say "supposed to" because, although his reference to Grüber ("wrote that") suggests otherwise, Bacque did not quote from any writing of Grüber’s, but from someone who quoted Grüber, American Senator Wherry in a speech at Congress.[105] Assuming that Wherry was quoting Grüber correctly, what Grüber would have been describing is irrelevant as evidence regarding the occupation zones’ indigenous population. High suicide and child mortality rates in Berlin cannot be gainsaid, but unless Berliners went to the forests outside the city to bury their kids and then hang themselves instead of doing that in loco, what Grüber described was the plight of refugees or expellees, not that of indigenous inhabitants.[106] Besides, as shown above, Berlin was much worse off than other parts of the occupation zones.

That leaves Gollancz, who Bacque quoted for a harrowing account from a tour of dwelling places in the ruins of Düsseldorf and other information collected in Germany.[107] The integrity of this witness is beyond question. Gollancz's campaign for the humane treatment of German civilians involved efforts to persuade the British government to end the ban on sending provisions to Germany and ask that it pursue a policy of reconciliation, as well as organizing an airlift to provide Germany and other war-torn European countries with provisions and books. He wrote regular critical articles for, and letters to, British newspapers, and after a visit to the British Zone of Occupation in October and November 1946, he published these in his book In Darkest Germany in January 1947.[108]

Gollancz visited hospitals in the British Zone of Occupation where he saw and photographed severely malnourished patients including children and interviewed doctors about subjects like the alarming increase of tuberculosis and other diseases related to malnutrition and other misery. Gollancz also visited and described in graphic detail the squalid conditions in which many bombed-out Germans lived in destroyed cities in the British Zone. Except on one occasion when he got carried away into writing that there must be hundreds of thousands of dead beneath the ruins of Hamburg[109], I consider Gollancz’s descriptions to be accurate. He is the best eyewitness that Bacque had as concerns conditions in the four occupation zones, so why didn’t Bacque use more of his testimony? Maybe because Gollancz’s comparatively sober observations don’t fit into the apocalyptic predictions that Bacque was fond of quoting. Take for instance hunger oedema. Bacque made it look as if 100,000 people in Hamburg suffering from hunger oedema were "in the last stages of starvation", about to die.[110] Gollancz mentioned (and defended) the same figure, saw and photographed severe cases of hunger oedema in hospitals. But he wrote nothing about all these people being on the verge of death. In fact, he mentioned only one patient dying of starvation, unless I missed something. Here’s some of what he wrote:

Though, say, 80 per cent, of the town population in our zone of Germany supplements the official ration by a few hundred calories—through the black market, which is keeping people alive, or from other sources—the condition of millions is indescribably wretched. One expert whose job it is to make an assessment of such things estimates that in the city of Hamburg some 100,000 people are suffering from hunger oedema or the equivalent; and according to figures given to me by the German public health authorities 13,000 people in Regierungsbezirk Düsseldorf were being treated for this illness in hospitals or by private practitioners during the month of September. I saw at a hospital in Hamburg a starving man who had been brought in a few hours before: his death-rattle was beginning. I had a photograph of him taken—with me by his side, to save myself from the charge of exaggeration. I saw another man in the same hospital whose swollen scrotum reached a third of the way to the floor. I have a photograph of him also.*
* I have decided at the last minute, after a great deal of hesitation, to suppress the photographs of these two cases, except that of the second man’s face (Plate 4). I have similarly suppressed all other photographs of really bad cases of oedema where the water is still present, as I cannot bear to perpetuate a visible record of these horrors. (In hunger oedema the body swells, sometimes abominably, with water.) I have retained a photograph of a less terrible case of emaciation, and one or two of oedema where the water has gone.[111]

It is not a question of old ladies with varicose veins. I have personally seen only two women with hunger oedema, though I have seen many who are painfully emaciated. Some indication of the true position is provided by a survey recently made (under British auspices) of the nutritional state of about 1,000 employees of the Reichspost Direktion, Hamburg. In males of all ages the incidence of hunger oedema was found to be no less than 17 per cent., and in females of all ages 9 per cent. These are horrifying figures. “This is a clinical assessment,” says the report, “in which there was always a higher incidence among persons examined in the afternoons, and this regardless of whether or not theirs was a sedentary job. The incidence of this cardinal sign of malnutrition must therefore be even higher in fact. Further, it should be borne in mind that among large numbers of persons in the same general state of under-nourishment necessitating hospitalization little more than half do manifest this sign.” It was to the latter fact that I referred when I wrote “hunger oedema or its equivalent”. No less than 52 per cent, of the males and 34 per cent, of the females in the same group showed “marked loss of flesh”, and 24 per cent, of the males and 22 per cent, of the females “looked positively ill”.
Finally, your correspondents question the figure of 13,000 officially given by German public health authorities as the number of people in Regierungsbezirk Dusseldorf being treated for hunger oedema in hospitals or privately during September. This scepticism is not shared, apparently, by responsible British officials on the spot. “Recent surveys by Public Health in the Regierungsbezirk Dusseldorf,” reported the Colonel commanding R.B. Dusseldorf to the Deputy Regional Commissioner in June, “showed that the number of hospitalized cases of people suffering from hunger oedema was comparatively low, the reason being shortage of beds. The number of nonhospitalized cases is high—-in the region of 25,000.”
Allow me to add a word in conclusion. The most horrible of my experiences has been a visit to the camp at Belsen, where I saw the tattoo marks on the arms of the Jewish survivors. I am never likely to forget the unspeakable wickedness of which the Nazis were guilty. But when I see the swollen bodies and living skeletons in hospitals here and elsewhere; when I look at the miserable “shoes” of boys and girls in the schools, and find that they have come to their lessons without even a dry piece of bread for breakfast; when I go down into a one-roomed cellar where a mother is struggling, and struggling very bravely, to do her best for a husband and four or five children—then I think, not of Germans, but of men and women. I am sure I should have the same feelings if I were in Greece or Poland. But I happen to be in Germany, and write of what I see here.[112]

Within a few days of my arrival I had a remarkable interview with a British medical officer of fair importance. He started by advising me always to see English doctors; he was so emphatic on the point that I realized at once how important it was for me to see German doctors as well. He agreed that “there wasn’t enough penicillin”, but his own explanation— “the Germans can’t pay for it” appeared, in his view, to dispose of the matter once and for all. I was to remember what he said when I saw a man a few days later at the University Hospital of Hamburg, in agony because there was no penicillin for him—you can see his face for yourselves on plate 5. This doctor also suggested that the German authorities had falsified the V.D. figures—penicillin at that time being permitted only for cases of gonorrhoea—“to get more penicillin”. As to insulin, hospitals, he said, had 100 per cent, of their requirements—“and bad cases presumably go to hospital”. I was to remember this too, when I was told by a German doctor whom I learned to trust that people forced their way into hospitals when the coma was about to come on in order to compel admittance. I next learned that all the people suffering from oedema, for instance in the Hamburg hospitals, were oldish—and so they might really be suffering from other kinds of oedema, such as cardiac or renal. So indeed this one or that one might; but the general impression that the remark might have conveyed to the unwary would have been wholly false, as I shall presently show. I ended the interview by asking whether any drugs etc. were in seriously short supply, and if so what, and in what order of priority. I got a satisfactorily categorical answer—penicillin, insulin, fiver extract, cod-liver oil and malt, vitamins A and D.[113]

As to hunger oedema in Hamburg, there is little to add to what I have written in The Times. I am satisfied that the estimate of 100,000 is a reasonable one; and it must be remembered that the survey of post-office workers was carried out under expert British auspices, and that but for it the existence of the majority of such cases would probably never have been known. The survey makes nonsense, of course, of the “old people with renal and cardiac oedema” argument. When the reader looks at the photographs of cases of oedema and emaciation which I took in various hospitals,* he must bear in mind that doctors are sometimes in error, and that this case or that may in fact be due, for instance, to kidney trouble or cancer. But the point is that this is what bad cases of oedema and emaciation look like, and that a very high percentage of them are unquestionably caused by starvation. I will give further proof of this later on.[114]

Back in Düsseldorf, I spent a morning (November 5th) at the Town Hospital. I saw a few very badly underweight children there—the trouble was, the doctor said, that they had to be sent home without proper shoes and clothes, and so got ill again. I also saw a child of ten with heavy TB—the kind of TB, I was told, that you find normally only in babies. The disease was spread over the whole body, and bandages could be changed only under morphia. Such cases, it appeared, were today much commoner in older children. Previously there had not been enough to fill the building; now another building, as well as this, was full. Photograph on plate 18.
One of the patients at this hospital was its own lady doctor. She lived alone, was too busy to get food from the Black Market, and couldn’t queue up; so she had had no bread for weeks. She was now recovering slowly from hunger oedema.
At the baby clinic attached to this hospital I was told that only one in three mothers could feed her baby properly; the breasts of the others were dry within a week.
Later in the day I had a talk with Dr. Arnold, the Burgomaster of Düsseldorf and one of the half dozen best Germans I met. During the last few weeks, he said, he had been visiting factories and workshops, and had personally examined people in Stadtkreis and Landkreis Düsseldorf, as well as in Essen, Bochum and the Ruhr generally. The condition of the men was so bad that their working capacity was on the verge of collapse. He had noticed that when miners and metal workers were bathing at a distance of 8 yards he could count their ribs. He had been told by factory doctors that within a period of three months there had been losses of 15 to 20 lbs.
Dr. Amelunxen, the Minister-President of North Rhine- Westphalia, spoke in a similar sense. He was convinced that during the next few years two or three million would die as a direct result of present conditions—old people, the tuberculous, and a very large number of young children who would fail to overcome the normal childish diseases. Many senior British officials are equally alarmed. “There is a general deterioration in the health of the population” wrote the Colonel commanding Regierungsbezirk Düsseldorf to the Deputy Regional Commissioner on June 25th, and in their ability to resist disease, which is having an adverse effect on their morale. There is a considerable increase in the number of cases of hunger oedema in the larger towns in the R.B., notably among women and old people and business men who are at work all day. Stillbirths are on the increase. . . . Simple ailments, such as colds, boils, carbuncles etc., which would normally be treated at home, have now to be treated in hospital, and complications often follow. People have been seen collapsing while waiting in queues, and for the Dusseldorf ferry. He proceeds to give some particulars from Essen, Wuppertal, Oberhausen, Solingen, Dusseldorf, Mulheim and Remscheid. “In Dusseldorf on 19th May there were 145 cases of hunger oedema in one hospital (Grafenberg). Of 934 persons reported to one of the Stadtkreis Medical Officers, 206 were found to be suffering from hunger oedema, and only 70 were in normal health.” “In Mulheim average loss of weight in hospital 20%. Increase in number of hospital patients in one year 18% to 20%.” “In Remscheid definitely undernourished in April 6,648, in May 7,259. Suffering from lack of albumen April 1,732, May 1,792.” Then follows the estimate of 25,000 as the number of persons in the R.B. suffering from hunger oedema, which I quoted in my letter to The Times.
I thought I would round off the whole investigation by having a talk with a world-famous British expert on nutrition, who was doing special work in the neighbourhood on hunger oedema. He was as cautious as a scientist no doubt should be, and he had a poor opinion of the veracity of Germans in general and of German scientists in particular. Nevertheless, the upshot was substantially to confirm my own conclusions. He could not say whether the prevalence of spots and sores was due in some degree to malnutrition. He agreed that the majority of adults you saw about looked yellow (as well as thin); but the reason, he said, was not clear to him. If I understood him aright, he thought that the yellow, parchmenty appearance might be caused by a failure of the blood to flush the skin. “A sort of defence mechanism” suggested one of his assistants. But when I put a direct question, the answer was a frank “Of course, it’s connected in some way with malnutrition”. As to oedema, he explained, as so many others had explained already, that only some of it was hunger oedema, and that this type could easily be identified by its quick response to extra food. Later on in the conversation, when I was asking another question about oedema, “You’d be surprised” I was told “how many of the cases that pass through my hands improve very rapidly when quite a small amount of additional food is given.” These cases, then, must have been hunger oedema.[115]

As I mentioned before, my aunt’s condition improved as soon as her food intake got better. She therefore had hunger oedema. But she wasn’t hospitalized let alone in risk of dying, and she didn’t tell me about having known anyone who died or almost died of malnutrition. Gollancz’s accounts go in the same direction. Much hunger, much misery, but Gollancz rarely mentioned having witnessed deaths from malnutrition or related disease, and where he did it was individual cases he saw.

Regarding infant mortality in the areas he visited, Gollancz wrote the following[116]:
Infant mortality in Schleswig-Holstein for the first six months of 1946 was at the rate of 116.1 per 1,000 live births, against the 1 936 figure (for the Reich as a whole) of 66. But in the zone generally infant mortality is at the moment declining: it was 136 per 1,000 live births in January 1946 against 61 in January 1938, but only 75 (provisional figure) in August 1946 against 57 in August 1938. It is to be hoped that the winter will not see another rapid increase.
There was an improvement in the infant mortality rate for Hamburg similar to that for Schleswig-Holstein. It was (approximately) 50 per 1,000 live births in 1938, 145 in 1945, 125 in January 1946, 77 in March 1946, 114 in April 1946, 82 in June 1946, and 84 in July 1946. Miscarriages, on the other hand, which according to statistics of the Hamburg Health Authority were 12.2 per cent of reported pregnancies in 1940 and increased about cent, a year till the end of 1945, when they reached 17.7 per cent, jumped during the first six months of 1946 to 20.1 per cent.

The mentioned rates were outrageous for a developed country like Germany, but a far cry from the 1945/46 rates in Berlin.

Gollancz did not describe anything like seeing hospital patients, let alone persons outside hospitals, being taken for burial much of the time. He even expressly pointed out the following[117]:
All this doesn’t mean, as I said at the beginning, that people are dropping dead in the streets. The crude mortality rate has been improving and in August was normal. The point is that a very great number of people feel wretchedly weak and ill, and that the health of the population as a whole is being undermined with such startling rapidity that, unless radical measures are taken to effect an improvement, the toll in one, two or three years’ time will be appalling. It must be remembered that mortality from tuberculosis did not reach its climax until five years after the last war.

People were not dropping dead in the streets[118], a crude mortality rate improving up to normal, appalling mortality (whatever Gollancz meant by that) within "one, two or three years’ time" if nothing radical was done about it but not happening at the time to which this writing refers (October 1946) – none of this goes down well with Bacque’s monumental mortality claims. Neither does the optimism occasionally displayed by Gollancz, for instance on his visit to the devastated town of Jülich[119]:
All this was the dreadful side Jülich: and it wasn’t exceptional, as you’ll appreciate when you remember that seven thousand people are living there, and hardly a house even partially standing. But there was a happy side too. I had been getting friendly with my Stadtdirektor, who turned out to be a Social Democrat, and to have been “on the run” continuously from 1933 right up to what he still called, in spite of everything, the liberation. He was a gentle little man, and when he found me sympathetic asked if he might come in my car as far as Düren (on the way to Aachen) so as to be able to talk a little longer. As we were leaving the rubble for the green fields, I noticed a longish bungalow of wood that seemed somehow to gleam and glisten in that awful desolation: and over the door the words, in bold lettering, “Hotel-Restaurant Kaiserhof”. I looked at my comrade with a gesture of enquiry, and he replied with a smile, half proud and half deprecating, Es beginnt (“Something’s beginning”). I got out to have a look. Two or three men were drinking a glass of beer in the vestibule-restaurant, and we sat and talked with them for a moment or so. Then we went down the corridor. The rooms that opened out of it on both sides were small, overcrowded, and furnished with the minimum of necessities; but they were bright and clean, and the people seemed contented. In one room there was a mother with the three most beautiful children I have ever seen. (Plate 54.)

Certainly not the kind of descriptions that Bacque would want his readers to read.

With even this key witness not supporting his contentions and figures as concerns the indigenous population, what did Bacque have to show in support of these by way of first-hand testimonies describing what things looked like on the ground? I didn’t find anything. Bacque referred to Canadian Army General Maurice Pope, Head of Mission in Berlin, who in April 1947 wrote that "the death rate is high, and the suicide returns do not show much improvement", and a few weeks later reported five "authenticated" deaths from starvation in Hamburg.[120] Horrible, but those five starvation deaths seem to have been outstanding enough to merit special mention of the cause, and apparently Pope did not report starvation deaths on more occasions (if he had Bacque would probably have let his readers know).[121]

Bottom line, no contemporary witness I know recalled anything that would suggest an apocalyptic scenario of unrecorded mass mortality. Neither did Pope, and neither did Gollancz in his accounts from "darkest Germany". Like all the above figures in this section, these accounts show that Bacque’s claim of 5.7 million unrecorded deaths among the indigenous inhabitants of the four occupation zones between 29 October 1946 and 13 September 1945 is just phantastic nonsense.

Again, I’m referring to the situation of the indigenous population of the four occupation zones, not to the refugees from the eastern territories of the former German Reich and from outside the 1937 German borders. These were often in situations like the ones that become apparent from Grüber’s account, from other accounts that Bacque reproduced with apparent relish, from Ruth Friedrich’s diary and other sources. But if you want to know what things looked like on the ground for the worst-off among the indigenous population of the four occupation zones other than in Berlin, forget about Bacque. Read Gollancz’s In Darkest Germany, which I highly recommend. And if you know any people who lived in the four occupation zones in the 1946-1950 period, try to collect their accounts about what life was like in Germany at that time. Soon these valuable contemporary witnesses will all be gone.

Update, 17.01.2023

Due to a formatting error the text of Table 1a in the last line before "Total Losses", which reads "Others: Germans emigrated until 1946 (without Jews), prisoners of war who voluntarily stayed in the countries of custody, German concentration camp victims (without Jews), etc.", did not show completely. While this is without relevance to my argument, below is the rightly formatted Table 1a for the sake of correctness.


[1] James Bacque, Crimes and Mercies. The Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation 1944-1950, Little Brown and Company (Canada) Limited, 1997.
[2] Crimes and Mercies (hereafter "C&M"), p. 131.
[3] James Bacque, Other Losses 1991 edition, Prima Publishing, page 2. Bacque’s claims of mortality in German and French captivity have been amply refuted. I added some considerations of my own in my answer to the Quora question What were the Eisenhower death camps and how did he get away with them, politically?
[4] C&M, pp. 76 ff. The Soviet figures (450,600 out of 2,389,600 prisoners taken) are mentioned in G.F. Krivosheev, Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, 1997 Greenhill Books, p. 278.
[5] Higher figures are given by Rüdiger Overmans in Deutsche Militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg. However, Overmans‘ estimates don’t stand up to a cross check against other evidence (including claims by Nazi Germany’s opponents) regarding German casualties, especially but not only as concerns the year 1945. So, there is no reason to assume an order of magnitude above ca. 4.3 million.
[6]Narben bleiben. Die Arbeit der Suchdienste - 60 Jahre nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (a publication of the Search Service of the German Red Cross about the work of the various search services), p. 216.
[7] Copies of these records are available on the website Human Losses in World War II, Wehrmacht Monthly Casualty Reports, 1945 The records are kept in the German Federal Archives/Military Archives (Bundesarchiv/Militärarchiv), the archival reference being BA/MA RM 7/810.
[8] BA/MA RH 2/1355, 2/2623, RW 6/557, 6/559, figures copied under Heeresarzt 10-Day Casualty Reports per Theater of War, 1945.
[9] Giles MacDonogh, After the Reich. The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, 2007 Basic Books , p. 421, citing Erich Maschke, ed., Zur Geschichte des Deutschen Kriegsgefangenen des Zweiten Weltkrieges, vol. XV: Die deutschen Kriegsgefangenen des Zweiten Weltkrieges – Eine Zusammenfassung, Munich 1967; Wikipedia page Kriegsgefangene des Zweiten Weltkriegs, citing Rüdiger Overmans, "Die Rheinwiesenlager 1945". In: Hans-Erich Volkmann (Hrsg.): Ende des Dritten Reiches – Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Eine perspektivische Rückschau. Herausgegeben im Auftrag des Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamtes, München 1995, S. 278. Other figures are about 1.1 million PoW deaths in "eastern" and 0.3 million in "western" captivity (E.G. Schenck, Das menschliche Elend im XX Jahrhundert, 1965 Nikolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung Herford, p. 94). According to Schenck, whose book was published before the before the Maschke Zusammenfassung, about 1 million died in Soviet, 80,000 in Yugoslavian, 15,000 in Polish and 5,000 in Czechoslovakian captivity. The death toll for French captivity was 19,118 according to the French government, but unofficial sources mentioned about 115,000. PoWs in Great Britain had low mortality except for one abnormal case in which 3,000 died in one camp in the first postwar winter. PoW mortality in the US was also low. About camps on German, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian and Danish territory no figures had been published, but at least in Germany and Belgium the death toll was assumed to be high. The camps on the Rhine Meadows until the summer of 1945 and some others in Northwest, Central and Southern Germany and in Belgium could, according to Schenck, be compared with concentration camps and with camps in Eastern Germany, Poland and the USSR as concerns living conditions, diseases and extraordinarily high mortality. There’s no information, however, about how deaths at these camps would add up to at least 185,000 (assuming 115,000 deaths in French captivity) of the 300,000 deaths in "western" captivity claimed by Schenck.
[10] Narben bleiben, p. 216.
[11] Christian Streit, "Deutsche und Sowjetische Kriegsgefangene", in: Wolfram Wette/Gerd R. Ueberschär, Kriegsverbrechen im 20. Jahrhundert, 2001 Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, pp. 178-192 (p. 178).
[12] Christian Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg Front und militärisches Hinterland 1941/42, p. 544, quoted in my article Scrapbookpages on Subhuman Cannibalism.
[13] David Crossland, "Germany Still Locates 40,000 War Casualties a Year", SPIEGEL International 08.05.2012; Crossland, Germany Still Burying Eastern Front Dead, SPIEGEL International 31.07.2013; Zita Ballinger Fletcher, Burying Germany’s war dead with dignity is a delicate work of mercy, America Magazine January 14, 2020; Fletcher, "Germans and Russians Work Together to Discover Fates of War Dead", Historynet July 11,2020; Vermisste des Zweiten Weltkriegs: Verloren und wiedergefunden, Deutsche Welle, 06.05.2020.
[14] Arthur L. Smith, Die "vermiβte Million", Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Band 65, p. 86.
[15] Keine deutsche Opferarithmetik, interview by Deutschlandfunk published on 29.11.2006. Regarding lower figures see Rüdiger Overmans, Zahl der Vertreibungsopfer ist neu zu erforschen, Deutschlandfunk 06.12.2006, Historiker: Vertriebenen-Verband nennt falsche Opferzahlen (interview with Ingo Haar, Deutschlandfunk 14.11.2006) and the page Die Flucht der deutschen Bevölkerung 1944/45 on the Lebendiges Museum Online website of the Deutsches Historisches Museum. German historian Ingo Haar’s contention that the number of refugee and expellee deaths was in the order of about 600,000 rather than two millon, and that the latter had been an exaggeration for political reasons, brough bitter recrimination from Erika Steinbach, head of the German Expellees‘ Association (Bund der Vertriebenen), which she expressed i.a. in her memento „Haar“-sträubende Zahlenklitterung des Historikers Ingo Haar ("Hair"-raising numbers quivering by historian Ingo Haar, a word-play on Haar’s name). Haar’s argumentation heavily relies on Overmans‘ problematic study about German military casualties (Ingo Haar, "Die deutschen ›Vertreibungsverluste‹ – Forschungsstand, Kontexte und Probleme", in: Rainer Mackensen, Jürgen Reulecke, Josef Ehmer (editors), Ursprünge, Arten und Folgen des Konstrukts „Bevölkerung“ vor, im und nach dem „Dritten Reich“. Zur Geschichte der deutschen Bevölkerungswissenschaft, pp. 363-380 (p. 371)).
[16] 23. März 1949: Rede vor der Interparlamentarischen Union in Bern
[17] C&M, pp. xv, 109, 119; Konrad Adenauer, Erinnerungen 1945-1953, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt Stuttgart 4. Auflage 1980, pp. 182-192 (p. 186).
[18] Wirtschaft und Statistik, Heft 10, Oktober 1956, hereinafter "WiSt 1956/10".
[19] The population count of the census on 29 October 1946 was about 65,911,000 (Office of Population Research, "The Demography of War", Population Index Vol. 14, No. 4 (Oct., 1948), pp. 291-308 (p. 299)). Prisoners of war, displaced persons and interned civilians on occupation territory were counted by the occupation authorities while all other inhabitants were counted by the local German authorities (p. 297). It is not clear whether the total also included non-Germans, though the article refers to "65.9 million Germans enumerated in October, 1946" on p. 300. On the same page it is pointed out that "The possibility of incompleteness and inaccuracy in enumeration is high, for conditions were disorganized in many areas. There is also the strong likelihood that illegal migrants from one zone to another were not reached by census enumerators". The German Statistics Office’s figure of 65,310,000 was arrived at by deducting non-Germans (which suggests that these were included in the census figure of 65.9 million) as well as births and deaths among refugees/expellees from abroad after arrival on territory of the four occupation zones (WiSt 1956/10, p. 494). A 1985 publication of the German Statistics Office, Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, states a population figure of about 64,457,000 for the occupation zones in 1946 (p. 12).
[20] Note 1 in the text below Table 1 reads "Wehrmachtstote einschlieβlich Kriegsgefangene ohne nach 1946 in der Gefangenschaft Verstorbene" ("Wehrmacht dead including prisoners of war without deaths in captivity after 1946"), which is confusing. However, in the text of the article (WiSt 1956/10, p. 495) it is clearly stated that deaths in captivity after 1946 are included in the number of Wehrmacht dead (3,760,000) and not in the number still in captivity abroad in 1946 (1,750,000).
[21] Figures in the Wikipedia article Liste der Volkszählungen in Deutschland.
[22] WiSt 1956/10, p. 494.
[23] Demographic History of the Saarland
[24] A slightly higher total, 11,730,000, is mentioned in Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, A Terrible Revenge. The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944-1950 (1993 St. Martin’s Press, New York), p. 152, citing the German Federal Ministry for Expellees, 1967. Of these 6,944,000 are stated to be from the eastern territories of the German Reich, 2,921,000 from Czechoslovakia and 1,865,000 from other countries.
[25] De Zayas, citing the German Federal Ministry of Expellees, 1967, mentions 2,111,000, thereof 1,225,000 from the eastern territories of the German Reich, 267,000 from Czechoslovakia and 619,000 from other countries (A Terrible Revenge, p. 152).
[26] WiSt 1956/10, p. 496.
[27] This number corresponds to the order of magnitude expected by US occupation authorities a year before the 1946 census. On 18 October 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a telegram to Washington, stated that the total number potentially involved in westward movement to the Russian zone of Germany and Czechoslovakia was in the range of 10 million (quoted in de Zayas, A Terrible Revenge, p. 113).
By July 1, 1947, more than 9.5 million German refugees were reported in "rump Germany".
[28] The total number of stay-behinds according to WiSt 1956/10 is 2,460,000, thereof 1,030,000 from the eastern territories of the German Reich and 1,430,000 from outside the Reich’s 1937 borders. De Zayas, citing the German Federal Ministry for Expellees, 1967, mentions 2,645,000, thereof 1,101,000 in the former eastern territories of the Reich, 250,000 in Czechoslovakia and 1,294,000 in other countries (A Terrible Revenge, p. 152).
[29] WiSt 1956/10, pp. 496-497.
[30] WiSt 1956/10, pp. 497-498.
[31] C&M, pp. 109, 129.
[32] 23. März 1949: Rede vor der Interparlamentarischen Union in Bern
[33] Narben bleiben, p. 12.
[34] WiSt 1956/10, p. 494.
[35] C&M, note 26 on page 250.
[36] "The Last Soldiers of the Great War": Article from Die Zeit (October 13, 1955)
[37] Peter Antill and Peter Dennis, Berlin 1945. End of the Thousand Year Reich (Osprey Publishing Limited, 2005), p. 85.
[38] Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945 (Viking-Penguin Books, 2002), p. 337.
[39] Cornelius Ryan, The Last Battle, 1966 Simon and Schuster, New York, p. 337: "Even twenty years later no one knows with any certainty what the civilian losses were during the battle of Berlin. Even yet, bodies are being unearthed from ruins, in gardens, in parks where they were hurriedly interred during the battle, and from mass graves. However, based on statistical studies, probably close to 100,000 civilians died as a result of the battle. At least 20,000 succumbed to heart attacks, some 6,000 committed suicide, the remainder were either killed outright from shelling of street fighting or died later from wounds."
[40] C&M, pp. XVII
[41] C&M, p. 115
[42] C&M, p. 128
[43] C&M, p. 202
[44] C&M p. 200
[45] Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, p. 15.
[46] As above, p. 21.
[47] Richard Dominic Wiggers, "The United States and the Refusal to Feed German Civilians after World War II", in: Vardy, Steven Bela; Tooley, T. Hunt (eds.), Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe, pp. 274 – 288 (p. 280).
[48] Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, p.21.
[49] As above, p. 29.
[50] Document USHMM, RG-31.010M, R.7, 2982/4/390a, transcribed in Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskriegs, Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, p. 346.
[51] Document PAAA, R60763, transcribed in Verbrechen der Wehrmacht, p. 345.
[52] According to Soviet estimates, about 70-80,000 people died of starvation in Kharkov during the Nazi occupation, a figure that British journalist Alexander Werth thought was "slightly, but not greatly, exaggerated" (Alexander Werth, Russia at War 1941-1945, 2000 Carroll & Graf Publishers New York, pages 607/608). 70,000 famine deaths would be 15.56% of the population.
[53] William Rosen, The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century.
[54] Wiggers, as above p. 287.
[55] The infant mortality rate nevertheless declined throughout 1946 (Wiggers, as above p. 284).
[56] As above.
[57] Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, p.21. According to Wiggers (as above p. 287) the mortality rate by 1948 (the second full year of the massive die-off claimed by Bacque) was 30 % higher than the prewar level, which assuming a prewar mortality rate of 11.6 %o (1.16%) would mean 15.1 %o (1.51 %). It was also 35 % higher than in the US, where according to US government statistics it was 10.1 %o (1.01 %) in 1947 and 9.9 %o (0.99 %) in 1948 (Federal Security Agency and Public Health Service Surgeon General, Vital Statistics of the United States 1948 Part I, Table II – Crude Death Rate per Place of Occurrence, page 5). The rates refer to the estimated mid-year population. 35 % above these rates would be 13.6 %o (1.36%) for 1947 and 13.4 %o (1.34%) for 1948. It is possible that Wiggers assumed a lower prewar mortality rate in Germany than the 11.6 %o (1.16 %) in 1938 according to the German Federal Statistics Office.
[58] Karl-Heinz Rothenberger, "Die Hungerjahre nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg am Beispiel von Rheinland-Pfalz", in Geschichtliche Landeskunde - Band 46
Note that the mortality rate in 1947, 1948 and 1949, the three complete years of the massive die-off period claimed by Bacque, the mortality rate was respectively 12.9 %o, 11.7 %o and 11.1 %o.
[59] Der "weiße Tod" im Hungerwinter 1946/47, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, 07.05.2020.
[60] It was worse in the eastern territories of the former German Reich that became part of Poland or the Soviet Union, especially in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), but deaths there are included in the numbers of refugee/expellee deaths.[Reference to HC article about Königsberg added on 05.09.2021]
[61] Antill and Dennis, Berlin 1945, p. 85. Cornelius Ryan’s figure in The Last Battle (about 100,000, thereof 20,000 due to heart attacks and 6,000 suicides) refers to the whole area of the Battle of Berlin, not the city alone.
[62] About 95,000 to 130,000 Berlin women were raped during or after the battle. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in Berlin, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide (Beevor, Berlin, p. 414). Some women were killed because they resisted or out of sheer sadism. German journalist Margret Boveri recorded in her diary entry on 03.05.1945 a particularly horrible case that occurred in the Dahlem district towards the end of the battle. A woman and her four child daughters, who she personally knew, and another woman with her daughter were found hanging in a cellar. They had been raped and badly mangled before their deaths. A snoring Russian was lying beside them. Boveri assumed that this had been a case of lust murder (Margret Boveri, Tage des Überlebens, Munich 1985, p. 106).
[63] Boveri, as above p. 195. Boveri assumed that about half the city’s population suffered from dysentery and diarrhea, which sometimes took horrible forms. She came down with it herself for four days. The German term "Typhus" designates a disease caused by salmonella bacteria that is usually contracted by consuming contaminated water or food but can also be transmitted from person to person. It is known in English as typhoid fever. The English term typhus, on the other hand, designates a disease that is mostly transmitted by body lice. The German term for this disease is "Fleckfieber", spotted fever. As Boveri mentioned "Typhus" along with dysentery, I assume she was referring to the term in German usage, i.e. to typhoid fever.
[64] As above, p. 251. Boveri wondered how many of these deaths were from hunger and disease and how many were suicides. How to commit suicide was a frequent conversation topic among Berliners and one of Boveri’s own preoccupations (as above pp. 136-137). Boveri mentioned suicides, not necessarily related to rapes, on a number of occasions, like when an actor named Paul Bildt poisoned himself together with 20 others including his daughter and survived while all others died (p. 239). Suicides are also addressed in the diary of Ruth Andreas Friedrich, a journalist and member of the German resistance during the war, which was published as Schauplatz Berlin. Tagebuchaufzeichnungen 1945 bis 1948 (Suhrkamp, Berlin 1985). Suicides are also a subject in the celebrated anonymous diary A Woman in Berlin, written by a woman who suffered repeated rapes until she managed to obtain the protection of Soviet officers (first a 1st lieutenant, then a major) by becoming their mistress. Berlin was the only city in the four occupation zones that saw a marked increase in the suicide rates, from 50-100 to 250 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1945 (Schenck, as above p. 66).
[65] While deaths from the battle and suicides are repeatedly mentioned in the diaries of Ruth Friedrich and the anonymous diarist, there is little there that would suggest a high excess mortality from malnutrition and disease in the 1945/46 period. Margret Boveri’s diary contains more information in this respect. The most critical month seems to have been July 1945, when food rations were shortened due to differences among the occupying powers about how food supply in the various occupation sectors of the city was to be handled. That month Boveri only managed to buy, besides bread, 2 kohlrabi, 1 small lettuce, half a pound of cranberries, 600 g of sugar and 300 g of meat. Potatoes, fat, salt and vinegar were not to be had. Even for bread Berliners now had to queue up (p. 244). A friend of hers was getting thinner every day and somehow managed to feed a husband with a stomach ailment (p. 245). Instead of 24 pounds of potatoes that she was entitled to in July, Boveri got only 8 pounds and 400 g of potato wedges. She still considered herself comparatively fortunate as she was occasionally given vegetables. The less fortunate fainted in the metro or while queuing for food or died at home. Men looked worse than women even though all women known to her went hungry so their men would have more to eat. Shoulder blades and bones could be seen through clothing (p. 253, entry for 29 July 1945). In posterior annotations to her diary Boveri cited a correspondent of the Times mentioning a woman who had not eaten potatoes or any form of fat for a month and expressing the conviction that many would die of hunger. On 30 July Soviet general Gorbatov gave an interview to the British and American press addressing the dire food situation. He stated that the cause was Nazi sabotage but admitted that, except for bread, ration values were not being complied with. Bread could be provided in relatively large quantities due to Soviet flour shipments (pp. 253-254).
It should be mentioned in this context that the Soviet occupiers had to feed the Berlin population under their control at a time when famine in Central Asia had reduced families there to cannibalism (Beevor, Berlin, p. 392). The first Soviet city commandant, General Berzarin, who went out and chatted with Germans queuing at Red Army field kitchens, soon became almost as much of a hero to Berliners as he was to his own men. His death in a drunken motorcycle accident on 16 June 1945 provoked widespread sadness and rumors among the Germans that he had been murdered by the NKVD (as above, p. 409). Berzarin is commemorated in Berlin by a street bridge named Nikolai-E.-Bersarin-Brücke in 2006. There is also a Bersarinstraβe in the city’s Friedrichshain district. Berzarin was made an honorary citizen of Berlin in 2003, after some controversy due to accusations that he had participated in deportations from the Baltics and done nothing to curb excesses by his troops in Berlin. A monument honoring Berzarin was inaugurated on 16 June 2020. Berzarin’s popularity among Berliners is also mentioned in Boveri’s diary (p. 211).
[66] Berlin is believed to have had 4,338,756 inhabitants in 1939, 2,807,405 inhabitants on 12.08.1945 (registered population "present in the city"), 3,187,114 inhabitants on 29.10.1946 (census data) and 3,336,026 on 13.09.1950 (census data), see Bevölkerungsentwicklung in Berlin. In April 1945 the population was "anything between 3 and 3.5 million people, including around 120,000 infants" (Beevor, Berlin, p. 177). 200 deaths per day in "normal" times would mean 73,000 deaths per year, which applied to a 1939 population of 4,338,756 would mean a mortality rate of 16.8 %o or 1.68 %. Such mortality would be higher than the mortality rate in Germany in 1910 (16.2 %o or 1.62 %, according to Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, p. 21) and is thus implausible. Assuming the 1938 mortality rate of 11.6 %o, the last figure for "normal" times available for the German Reich, the "normal" equivalent for the lower August 1945 census population of Berlin (2,807,405) would be 89, and the quintuple thereof (assuming that the death rate quintupled as claimed by Dibelius) would be 445 (thereof 19 suicides assuming the rate of 250 per 100,000 according to Schenck, as above). This would correspond to an annual mortality rate of 57.9 %o or 5.79% (that is, 57.9 %o or 5.79 % of the population would have died if this mortality situation had lasted one year). Schenck (as above p. 68) mentioned a study by physician F. Raedeker whereby mortality in Berlin in July 1945 was about 6 times higher than before the war, which assuming a prewar mortality rate of 11.6 %o would mean a mortality rate of 69.6 %o (6.96 %). In her diary entry of 1 August 1945 (as above p. 267) Margret Boveri wrote that, if a famine was predicted for the winter, she wondered what the current situation would be called.
By May 1946 the mortality rate was down to 3 times the prewar level (Schenck, as above), which would be 34.80 %o (3.48 %). This roughly corresponds to the mortality rate in early modern European cities in non-crisis years (see my article Friedrich Jansson responded …, reference to Vanessa Harding, The Dead and the Living in Paris and London, 1500-1670, p. 17).
[67] MacDonogh, as above, p. 497. The source given is Cyril Buffet, Berlin, Paris 1993, p. 359.
[68] Wiggers, as above p. 284.
[69] MacDonogh, as above. The source given is Alexandra Richie, Faust’s Metropolis – A History of Berlin, London 1998, p. 638.
[70] General mention in the entry of 30 December 1946, specific named cases published by the press in the entry of 31 January 1947.
[71] Entry of 24 December 1946.
[72] Entry of 2 January 1947.
[73] The other 8,010 would be deaths that would also have occurred under "normal" circumstances (89 per day, see note 66, for 90 days from 21/12/1945 to 21/03/1946, the winter period).
[74] Entry of 3 October 1945.
[75] Dissertation "Kinder-und Heilkunde in Berlin. Zwischen Fürsorge und Forschung (1945-1965)". Zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades Doctor medicinae (Dr. med.) vorgelegt der Medizinischen Fakultät Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin von Lea Münch, 18.09.2020. Pages 27-29. Münch cites one of the clinic’s physicians at the time, Gerhard Joppe.
[76] As above, pages 30-31.
[77] As above, page 34.
[78] As above, pages 37-39.
[79] As above, page 41.
[80] As above, p. 62.
[81] The source given is the publication Das Deutsche Gesundheitswesen, issued by the Deutsche Zentralverwaltung für das Gesundheitswesen in der Sowjetischen Besatzungszone.
[82] This is the last known birth rate for the German Reich (1943) according to Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, p. 15.
[83] According to MacDonogh (as above, p. 535), the 1948/49 winter of the Berlin Blockade, in which up to 2,000 Berliners died of cold and hunger, was "second only to the winter of 1946-7."
[84] See note 66.
[85] Berlin disasters from the 1576/77 plague (believed to have killed half the city’s population) via the Thirty Years War (about one third of the population) to the Battle of Berlin (64,000 deaths in the city itself, including 22,000 civilians) are mentioned in Simone Donovan et al, Berlin’s apocalyptic past, EXBERLINER December 18, 2012.
[86] Based on the 1938 mortality rate of 11,6 % (1.16 %) and the 1946 census population of 3,187,114.
[87] Based on 12,000 excess deaths in the period, rounded figure.
[88] The difference of 30 towards 12,000 is due to rounding of the daily figure for excess deaths.
[89] Münch, as above, p. 62.
[90] Figure for 1935 in Bevölkerung gestern, heute und morgen, p. 29. This is the last figure available for the German Reich. For the territory of the later German Federal Republic there is a 1938 figure of 60 %o or 6.0 %.
[91] Death rate estimates, especially for the 1945/46 period, may also include refugees from the East. Although they were not supposed to enter the city, many so did and "thousands" died in the streets (Richie, Faust’s Metropolis p. 636, citing British Captain Marples).
[92] Rothenberger, as above.
[93] As above p. 65.
[94] C&M, p. 214.
[95] Schenck, as above p. 71. It’s worth mentioning in this context that, except in situations of famine and epidemics, mortality in periods of dearth need not be much higher and may even be lower than in periods of prosperity. The reason is that prosperity brings its own health problems. More cars on the street means more air pollution. Alcohol, cigarettes, fatty foods and sweets may be consumed in larger quantities because they are more available and affordable, leading to a higher incidence of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and obesity. People may also become more sedentary when they can sit at home watching TV instead of having to go out in search of food or wood for heating, which at least implies some exercise. There are studies according to which life expectancy in the US increased during the Great Depression. Then there is the problem of aging populations that plagues some European countries. Poor countries with a younger population may have much lower crude death rates than prosperous countries where the population is older on average. For example, the death rate in Venezuela, a country known to be in dire straits, was 6.953%o in the 2015 – 2020 period whereas in Germany it was 11.158%o in the same period, according to the United Nation’s database Crude death rate (deaths per 1,000 population) (consulted on 17.07.2021).
[96] In conquered Dresden the Soviets "showed some genuine concern" for the welfare of the German population. On May 16, 1945, the Red Army released thirty thousand tons of potatoes, ninety-five hundred tons of wheat, and eleven hundred tons of meat and other provisions to cover the Dresdeners’ emergency needs. By May 20, hundreds of food stores and bakeries had reopened for business, and a rationing system was initiated to avoid outright starvation. (Frederick Taylor, Dresden Tuesday, 13 February 1945, HarperCollins e-books, p. 385).
[97] Characteristics of this literature are explained in the article Trümmerliteratur (1945–1950): Das sind die typischen Merkmale. For an explanation in English see What are the characteristics of German Trümmerliteratur.
[98] Some of Böll’s works have been translated into English, e.g. The Casualty (the reviewer unfairly chides Böll for his focus on what Germans suffered rather than what Germans did), A Soldier’s Legacy, The Train was on Time, And Where Were You, Adam?.
[99] The play was translated into English as The Man Outside
[100]The short story can be read online in German. Probably the shortest short story ever written, it is also one of the most powerful.
[101] Afterword of draußen vor der tür und ausgewählte erzählungen, a collection including Drauβen vor der Tür and selected short stories.
[102] Hungerwinter 1946/47.
[103] As above, p. 253. Another comparison to put Bacque’s claim into perspective would be a hypothetical scenario of the current pandemic in which 5,700,000 ÷ 4 = 1,425,000 people per year died of Covid-19 in Germany alone. As of 13.07.2021, according to Worldometers, the reported death toll from the pandemic in all of Europe was 1,115,017, and Germany had reported 91,799 deaths from Covid-19. Imagine what Germany would be like if (at least) 1,425,000 had died there from Covid-19 so far.
[104] Invoking someone’s predictions of mass dying as evidence that such mass dying must have happened is about as fallacious as invoking predictions about the possible death toll of a pandemic as evidence that such death toll occurred, or invoking the Nazis’ apocalyptic scenarios whereby 30 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union would die as a consequence of Nazi exploitation policies (see my articles Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder and A Critique of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, and the reference thread The Nazi Hunger Plan for Occupied Soviet Territories) as evidence that this many actually died. There was no mass dying of Soviet civilians under Nazi occupation on the scale predicted by Nazi officials. Except in besieged Leningrad, among Soviet prisoners of war and to a lesser extent in some other hotspots like Kiev and Kharkov, there is no evidence of people in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union having died like flies from famine and disease, to the point where disposing of their bodies alone would have become a major problem.
[105] C&M p. 35 and note 43 on page 230.
[106] Ruth Friedrich’s diary contains harrowing accounts of encounters with refugees from the east, one with expellees from Königsberg who looked more animal than human and more dead than alive (entry of 10 September 1947), and one with a wretched procession of refugees outside the city that included a sobbing boy trying to walk on his bleeding naked feet, a woman gone mad who repeated a phrase again and again and an elder woman visibly about to die (entry of 15 June 1945). This sight led to a conversation with her companion about whether Berliners should help these people by receiving them in their homes, which they concluded would only create unbearable tension and conflict among persons crammed into a tiny space with just eight square meters per person.
[107] C&M, pp. 33-34.
[108] This book can be read online and downloaded as a PDF.
[109] In Darkest Germany, p. 93. The actual death toll from bombing was in the order of 35,000 in the July/August 1943 attacks and 45,000 throughout the war according to Hans Brunswig, Feuersturm über Hamburg (Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart, 1992) p. 402.
[110] C&M, p. 32.
[111] In Darkest Germany, pp. 25-26.
[112] As above, pp. 28–30.
[113] As above, pp. 39–40.
[114] As above, p. 47.
[115] As above pp. 51–53.
[116] As above pp. 42 and 45/46.
[117] As above p. 53.
[118] In June 1946 a relief worker testifying before the US Senate stated the following (Wiggers, as above p. 283): "Starvation is not the dramatic thing one so often reads and imagines... of people in mobs crying for food and falling over in the streets. The starving... those who are dying never say anything and one rarely sees them. They first become listless and weak, they react quickly to cold and chills, they sit staring in their rooms or lie listlessly in their beds... one day they just die. The doctor usually diagnoses malnutrition and complications resulting therefrom. Old women and kids usually die first because they are weak and are unable to get out and scrounge for the extra food it takes to live." However, even if starvation was not a public spectacle, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors of the deceased person would know about it, and the relief worker obviously assumed that each death diagnosed as being due to "malnutrition and complications resulting therefrom" was recorded by a doctor.
[119] As above p. 110-111.
[120] C&M, p. 215.
[121] Schenck (p. 70) mentioned that according to one study 6,325 cases of hunger oedema were reported in Hamburg from mid-May 1946 to Mid-January 1947, of which 275 = 4.3 % died. The author of the study, H.W. Bansi (apparently a physician at a hospital), counted 944 patients suffering from malnutrition in his section between the start of 1946 and July 1947, of which 58 = 6.1 % died. Only 25 of these were actual starvation deaths. Other studies mention 36 deaths of people with hunger oedema in 2,300 autopsies, thereof 13 starvation deaths, 82 starvation deaths including many elderly people in 1,310 autopsies, and 3 starvation deaths among 93 autopsies of severely malnourished persons.


  1. Hand in the air if you love when Roberto posts new content on HC. ✋

  2. ✋ (With "Hand in the air" you do not refer to the nazi greeting style i presume.) On topic, very detailed article, where do you get the time to investitate all this ?

  3. I'm impressed. I'm speechless. I'm grateful. I'm thrilled. Fantastic work, Roberto.

  4. Thanks, everybody.

    I was wondering why, after all the effort they invested into debunking "Other Losses", historians let Bacque get away with a much bigger red herring, 5.7 million unrecorded deaths that never happened. The good man must have died believing he had won.

    1. My take is that historians considered Bacque completely discredited after Other Losses and would not consider engaging in a very tedious debunking. Historians have careers to take care of, and debunking lunatics does not appear an efficient way of spending their time. Of course they are very wrong and this is a very selfish behaviour (unfortunately condoned if not promoted by institutions that should, on the contrary, help and encourage historians to use their skills in destroying false and lying pseudo-history) and they have been acting the same way with deniers for decades. How come the Jäger report was put online ONLY by amateurs like me, McVay, Ken Lewis, tHHP, Kolthoff and not a single institution linked to history research? Not one. Historians do not play the part they should in society. It's mainly because they are struggling in a very competitive world. But once some have reached comfortable positions, well, now that they would be able to do the job, they are too much gentrified : they don't give a fuck anymore. Except Nick Terry :-)

    2. LOL.

      To be 'fair', the main work of publishing documents has been done by archives and libraries in the past decade, but I agree that in the 2000s there was something of a gap for providing sources, which Nizkor and THHP filled. The Yale Avalon and Harvard Nuremberg Projects were rare 'professional' exceptions at that time, published by law school libraries.

      Most historical fields/eras/topics are not really beset by lunatics, also to be 'fair'.

      One can add: where a historical topic does attract more popular interest, such as the American Civil War or WWII and the Holocaust, then academics have studied collective/cultural memory first and foremost, if they're not simply studying the events. There are now a number of universities with courses on 'uses of the past' or controversial histories, while in research, there is much more awareness of the ways in which memory and public history or past public history have distorted our views. I guess Richard Evans' book on Third Reich conspiracies is one example of a mainstream historian 'debunking' lunatics.

      It should also be obvious that many modern historians, for sure in the US and UK, but also elsehere, intervene in contemporary mainstream political debates, so that would further reduce the time left over to debunk lunatics.

      One gauge of significance is replication and influence, and while Bacque's work has been cited by far right authors, it didn't really prompt further books. So having debunked Other Losses very explicitly, professional historians did indeed ignore Crimes and Mercies.

      There have been enough studies of the Heimatvertreibungen and the occupation era of 1945-49 from mainstream historians - in English as much as in German! - that one cannot say the theme has been ignored, and of course the professionals tell a totally different story to Bacque, while being much more explicit and detailed on themes like the Soviet Speziallager and the fate of expellees both in the USSR and those deported westwards, as well as the experiences of Axis POWs. There have even been multiple popular histories by Giles McDonough and others covering the aftermath of WWII and life in occupied Germany.

    3. It seems that historians did take a look at C&M:

      "Bacque's second volume, Crimes and Mercies, was first published in German by Ullstein in Berlin (a publishing house well aware of the popularity of revisionist scholarship among German veteran circles). A panel of scholars gathered at the annual German Studies Association meeting in Salt Lake City in October 1999 and found the charges of Crimes and Mercies even more extravagant and pig-headed than those proffered in Other Losses. Here Bacque was construing a vast conspiracy about many millions of German refugees perishing in Germany at the end of the war as a result of Allied neglect. The GSA papers were never published, however, since the business of refuting Bacque's claims again and again and in detail gives more credence to his wild conspiracy history. Trying to revive the debate now is yet another attempt by him to gain acceptability in the scholarly community."

      I don't understand this kind of approach. Ignoring Bacque's BS to start with is one thing, holding a conference about it and then not publishing the results feeds the idea that Bacque must have been on to something, "or else they would have ..."

      The publishing house is not Ullstein, by the way. It is Pour le Mérite, which is quite brown indeed.

      German historian Bernd Greiner, author of an excellent book about the US war in Vietnam (War Without Fronts) published a dismissive review of the book's German translation. He didn't provide a refutation of Bacque's figures, just stated that the 1946 census figures were probably unreliable and Bacque's methodology was flawed. I was disappointed by the review. However, it ends with a remark along the lines of what Gilles wrote, about historians tolerating this kind of nonsense:
      "Es ist mehr als erstaunlich, wie Wolfgang Wippermann unlängst zu Recht anmerkte, daß die seriösen Fachhistoriker diesem Treiben noch immer ungerührt zusehen."

  5. Would you made an article about generalplan ost in the future?

  6. I might do that if I should come upon information on the subject that you cannot just look up on Wikipedia (Generalplan Ost) or elsewhere on the internet. I have mentioned the GPO in several articles, namely Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (5,2) and Yet another mention of six million Jews from 1942 …. You'll also find information about it in connection with the The Siege of Leningrad.

  7. Excellent piece of research

    Btw, the identity of "A woman in Berlin" was revealed in 2003.


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