Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Great Mortality in Königsberg

The title of this article is derived from The Great Mortality, by John Kelly, a bestselling book about the Black Death. However, the article is not about a natural but about a relatively unknown man-made disaster.

About half the victims of crimes committed by Nazi Germany and its European allies succumbed not to direct hard violence, like shooting and gassing, but to more or less deliberately caused massive die-offs from hunger and related diseases.[1] Most of the about 3 million Soviet prisoners of war who perished in German captivity died from these causes.[2] Up to 1 million civilians in Leningrad died, overwhelmingly from starvation and cold, as the Nazis tried (and fortunately failed) to get rid of the city’s population in order to avoid having to feed it and in line with the General Plan East, according to which the city was to be replaced by a sparsely populated rural area called "Ingermanland".[3] Famines in Greece and the Netherlands were largely the consequence of Axis occupation policies.[4] Famine and disease killed a large part of the population of Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Poland, and would have killed an even larger part had not most of the population been deported to extermination.[5]

The fate of the Polish ghetto Jews, or what would have been their fate if they had not mostly been exterminated otherwise, may have a parallel in what happened to the German population of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) under Soviet rule.

The capital of former East Prussia had a population of about 372,000 in 1937, including about 3,500 Jews. The Jewish population was reduced to less than half by emigration until 1939. The remainder were mostly deported, starting 24 June 1942 when 465 were taken to the Maly Trostenets extermination center. British air attacks in August 1944 destroyed much of the city and rendered about 200,000 people homeless.[6] In April 1945 the city was conquered by the Red Army after a battle that devastated most of the city.[7] The battle, especially the final assault starting on 6 April and ending with the capitulation on 9 April 1945, caused heavy losses among the civilian population. The battle and its aftermath were marked by rape on a large scale and other atrocities committed by Red Army soldiers.[8]

Information about what happened to Königsberg’s German population under Soviet rule comes from documents that became available to historians after the demise of the Soviet Union[9] and from several eyewitness accounts, most notably those of Johann Schubert (writing under the pseudonym Hans Deichelmann)[10], Hans Graf von Lehndorff[11],Wilhelm Starlinger[12] and Michael Wieck[13]. Schubert/Deichelmann was a physician working at the Königsberg central hospital, which the Soviets had transferred to the facilities of the Krankenhaus der Barmherzigkeit, until he was allowed to leave and transported from what by then had become Kaliningrad in March 1948. Graf von Lehndorff was a surgeon who treated wounded and sick soldiers and civilians during the siege and battle for the city, and after the battle and his return from a Soviet internment camp worked at the central hospital until October 1945. Starlinger, also a physician, worked as head of two hospitals for epidemic diseases, Yorckstraβe and St. Elisabeth, until he was arrested by the Soviets and sentenced to 10 years in the Gulag, from where he returned to West Germany in 1954. Wieck was born in 1928 to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father with no ascertainable Jewish ancestry. Raised in the Jewish faith, he was not deported to extermination, as happened to most Königsberg Jews who had not emigrated in time, on account of his partly "Aryan" descent. During Soviet rule he and his parents managed to survive in the ruined city thanks to his and his mother’s resourcefulness, until they were allowed to leave in 1949.

These accounts are valuable evidence of what happened in Königsberg under Soviet rule – Starlinger’s terse account due to the largely medical data contained therein, the other three due to their level of detail, all four due to their comparative objectivity and lack of animosity towards the Soviets. The accounts of Deichelmann, Graf von Lehndorff and Starlinger have the added value of immediacy, as they were written, respectively, in 1948, 1947 and 1955, whereas Wieck’s account was first published in 1989, its particular value lying in that it was written from another vantage point than those of the three physicians. The accounts are essentially corroborative of each other, however Graf von Lehndorff’s is the only one that can be considered independent of all others, as it was the first to be written. Starlinger was familiar with Deichelmann’s account when he wrote his own[14], and Wieck was familiar with Starlinger’s account, from which he extensively quoted.[15]

Most of the city’s inhabitants had fled or otherwise left the city by the time the final Soviet attack began on 6 April 1945. About the number that remained there are various estimates in the range of 90,000 to 130,000.[16] The most detailed of these estimates was made by Starlinger, whose reasoning was as follows[17]:

When the city was encircled by enemy forces on 23 January 1945 and was at first also cut off from the Samland District ports of Peyse and Pillau (which refugees tried to reach to be evacuated from there by sea), the commissioner for the city’s defense stated that the number of civilian inhabitants was around 150,000, according to a communication to Starlinger by the government and military director of the East Prussian province, Dr. Dembowski. A few days before the final assault the city defense commissioner’s public health officer Dr. Sett mentioned the same number to Starlinger. The city mayor’s department in charge of feeding the population, however, issued only 90,000 ration cards at the same time. Starlinger thought the number of ration cards was lower than that of inhabitants because a large part of refugees from rural areas in the city were self-sufficient as concerns food and didn’t apply for ration cards, also in order to avoid the public authorities. After connection to the ports was reopened following a German counterattack, however, a large number of inhabitants, which under the circumstances was not and could not be counted, left the city for the ports and mostly also managed to be evacuated by sea. On the other hand, there had been a considerable influx from neighboring communities already filled with refugees at the beginning of the siege, when the encirclement was still less tight. Besides, as long as the way to and from the ports was open a considerable number of refugees returned from there to Königsberg to escape the misery of the overcrowded port cities. There could be no doubt, however, that population movement was larger outbound than inbound. Assuming that of the difference between 150,000 and 90,000 about two-thirds left the city permanently while one third came back and deducting the balance of 40,000 from 150,000 yields about 110,000 city inhabitants before the fall of the city. According to a Soviet census at the end of June 1945, whose order of magnitude Starlinger considered realistic, there were about 73,000 people in the city at that time.

Wieck wrote that, according to his estimate, of the "allegedly" ("angeblich") 130,000 inhabitants at the time of the city’s fall at most half were still alive by the time he returned to his family from a Soviet camp he called the Rothenstein concentration camp.[18] Deichelmann wrote in his diary entry for 20 April 1945 that according to Russian data 30,000 civilians had died in the battle, and he assumed that 50,000 were in the city at the time while the larger part of the population was still in camps.[19] When in June-July returnees from rural areas and the Reich had again swelled the population, he calculated from the numbers on registration carts that there were about 70,000 Germans in the city at that time. He now attributed 30,000 deaths not only to the battle but also to subsequent forced marches out of the city and back he called "propaganda marches".[20]

The number of civilians killed in the four days of the final battle for the city, between 6 and 9 April, and in the violence that followed the city’s surrender, was certainly enormous. Returning to Königsberg after a forced march of the kind described by Deichelmann, Wieck and other civilians were tasked with burying dead civilians, after the military dead of both sides had already been buried. His description of what he called the Königsberg "cemetery"[21] is impressive. Unburied bodies were everywhere, in houses and cellars, yards and gardens. The first corpse his work team removed was that of a naked young woman lying in a half-burned house, with dried blood on her vagina and mouth. She was thrown into a bomb crater, then a man who had been shot was thrown on top of her. Later the Russians gave them ropes with a noose at one end, so that it took only one person to drag a body to the next bomb crater. Wieck remembered all the murdered women and men he saw, not only their faces but also the objects surrounding them. Young and old, mostly shot, some stabbed to death or strangled. There were also a number of suicides, who had taken poison or hanged themselves in the stairways. In the Auf den Hufen district there was a road with a particularly large bomb crater, into which he dragged people whose bodies had shrunk from the heat of buildings burning above them after, so he claimed, they had been deliberately locked in the cellars. These corpses were thrown into the pit together with the carcass of a horse, after which the pit was closed with a sort of snow plough, a tracked vehicle adapted for this purpose, and by civilians with shovels. Similar scenes were described by Deichelmann in his entry for 20 April 1945.[22] In the Barmherzigkeit hospital a Professor Unterberg was performing a difficult forceps delivery when Russian soldiers burst in and took away his instruments, so that he barely managed to deliver the child. Thereupon they dragged the woman from the operating chair and raped her. Prof. Unterberger committed suicide. Hospital buildings were set on fire, civilian patients forced to move out even if walking on crutches, wounded German officers and soldiers then cruelly massacred. Most of the population was marched out of the city and walked across the countryside for no discernible purpose. They spent the night in barns, where men were called out for interrogatories and women for rape. Many died of exhaustion along the way or committed suicide. In the hospital’s new anatomy building a number of massacred German officers and soldiers was found on the autopsy tables, together with some women whose throats had been cut and bellies slit open. The Pregel river was full of dead bodies. So were the cellars. And so on. Von Lehndorff mentioned ditches by a railway embankment where several hundred corpses from the days of Soviet conquest had been buried in layers.[23]

Notwithstanding these descriptions of mayhem, a civilian death toll in the order of 30,000 seems too high considering the mortality in the much larger city of Berlin due to the battle and to massive rape and associated deaths[24], which claimed the lives of about 22,000 – 100,000 out of about 3 million inhabitants.[25] In Berlin a maximum of about 3.33% of the population perished during the battle for the city and its immediate aftermath. In Königsberg, assuming the lower end of population estimates for the eve of the final battle (ca. 90,000), about one-third of the population would have perished, a death rate ten times higher than in Berlin.

The city’s Soviet administration following its capture was in the hands of a "Military Headquarters of the Königsberg City and Fortress". The Headquarters’ administrative organization was the "Military Headquarters Administration". It was subdivided on 10 May 1945 into departments for passport matters, commerce, industry, communal matters, living conditions and public health. Analogous departments were set up in each city district. The Passports Department was tasked with the registration and employment of the local population. It was simultaneously a registration authority and labor administration. The Commerce Department included an "Agricultural Task Group" whose task it was to create a food supply basis for feeding the city’s local population, more precisely to plan the local population’s needs and meet them with food supplies and to conduct agricultural work. The German population was subdivided into sections led by a section elder (starosta) presiding over elders in charge of every street. The German population was expelled from its dwellings and concentrated in segregated districts, like Kohlhof, Charlottenburg and Rothenstein.[26]

The first Soviet report about the number of Germans in the city was issued by the Passports Department on 26 April 1945. Until that day 23,247 Germans had been registered there. As the number was considered much too low, the local headquarters, together with the military counterespionage organization SMERSH, conducted inquests in the dwellings occupied by Germans that led to an estimate of about 40,000 nonregistered persons, and thus the Passport Department assumed that 63,247 German were living in the city in late April 1945. Its report pointed out that an increasing number of people from other parts of East Prussia, namely from Pillau, were entering the city. The available documentation shows subsequent estimates throughout the year 1945, which are rendered in the table below from Fisch and Klemeševa’s article.[27]

"Paβabteilung" = Passport Department
"Landwirtschaftsgruppe" = Agricultural Task Group
"real versorgt" = actually fed
"geschätzter Bedarf" = estimated requirement
"Quelle" = source.

The Passport Department (hereinafter "PD") counted or estimated 63,247 in April 1945, "about" 60,000 in June, 68,014 in September and 60,642 in November. The Agricultural Task Group (hereinafter "ATG") estimated 82,000 inhabitants to feed in June and 80,000 in July, vs. 51,000 inhabitants actually fed in June, "over" 65,000 in July and 59,120 in October.[28]

The differences between the numbers actually fed according to the ATG and the numbers given by the PD are not so large, but the differences between the numbers to feed and actually fed according to the ATG are, as are the differences between the numbers to feed according to the ATG and the PD’s numbers: 82,000 to feed (ATG) vs. 51,000 actually fed (ATG) and 60,000 (PD) in June, which would mean that 22,000 – 31,000 inhabitants did not receive any food. In July the difference between inhabitants to feed (80,000) and inhabitants actually fed (65,000) was 15,000 according to the ATG. While the available documentation provides insight into how the PD arrived at its figures, the same does not apply to the ATG’s figures for inhabitants to feed. Fisch and Klemeševa assumed that these figures were related to Soviet planning methods and can therefore be ignored.[29] A report by the PD from November 1945 shows the following figures reproduced by Fisch and Klemeševa, regarding the status and migration movements of the German population:

"Bestand" = Population status
"Zugug" = In-migration
"Wegzug" = Out-migration
"Wegzug ohne Registrierung" = Out-migration without registration

The figures are not connected to each other in that the status figure for one month plus in-migration minus out-migration does not yield the status figure for the next month.[30] The orders of magnitude for June/July and 20 October are also not consistent with the above-mentioned figures in other PD documents. There is an almost exact match, however, between the figures for September in the above table and the figure for the same month (68,014) in another PD document. The order of magnitude of the June/July, August and September figures also coincides with the above-mentioned estimate of about 70,000 by Deichelmann, and is not much lower than the census figure for the end of June 1945 mentioned by Starlinger (73,000). For the whole of northern East Prussia (the part of East Prussia that later became part of the Soviet Union), Fisch and Klemeševa calculated a number of 140,114 German inhabitants based on other PD figures, thereof 68,014 in Königsberg and 72,100 in other communities of the region.[31] Higher figures are stated in an official Soviet document apparently issued by an authority other than the Königsberg PD on 1 September 1945: 174,125 in the whole region, thereof 84,651 in Königsberg[32], 16,637 more than according to the PD. What would explain the difference? Maybe (this is my conjecture) the higher figures drew from Soviet planning sources like the ATG’s figures for inhabitants to feed? Or did the figures also include Soviet civilians living in the city?[33] Or were the PD’s figures too low?

Whatever their number was, the life of Königsberg’s German inhabitants was beyond bleak. The misery vividly narrated by Deichelmann, von Lehndorff and Wieck was tersely described by Starlinger.[34] The physical and mental burden, he wrote, fell especially on women and children, as the men, where they had survived the final battle, had been moved out of the city soon after its fall. The first irregular and insufficient food supply got going only in May 1945 and benefited only the working population. The bread, 400 g with much water in it, was until the summer of 1946 the only food handed out by the Soviet authorities. Most people lived from rye grain collected in fields outside the city. Much meat of dug out decomposed animal carcasses was eaten. In the 1945/46 winter there were ascertained cases of cannibalism.[35] People were crowded into tiny spaces, and in the winter they had barely enough water to cook. In the 1946/47 winter whole families died on some nights from cold and exhaustion. At the height of the typhoid fever[36] epidemic in the autumn of 1945 Königsberg’s inhabitants got water only out of mostly contaminated wells and bomb craters, they washed in the water of bomb craters as the way to the Pregel river was too long and dangerous[37], and they could rarely change clothes. The sewer system had broken down, latrines were insufficient and badly maintained, yards and cellars accordingly soiled. Electric light became available in some districts only in 1946, and then only few could use it. In the summer of 1945 flies became so numerous that every receptacle, every piece of bread, every sick person and all fresh excrement was instantly covered by them. The rat population reached such numbers that rats sometimes attacked people sleeping. The population received no disinfectants and rarely had even soap. The city’s cleanup was limited to opening the traffic alleys. Even corpse disposal was weeks delayed.

Regarding his own medical specialty, epidemic diseases, Starlinger wrote that these hit a population concentrated in a small area that had not been immunized by previous vaccination or epidemic experience, could not be protected by sanitary-hygienic measures other than often belated isolation, and suffered from such an excess of physical and psychological stress that any individual susceptibility was bound to result in an infection. It seemed to him that fate and nature meant to test what human beings can endure while protecting themselves against rampant epidemics.[38]

The stage seemed set for epidemics of historical proportions, and according to Soviet records this was what happened. Soviet authorities recorded a death wave between September 1945 and May 1946, with 1,799 deaths outside and 881 deaths in hospitals on 20 September, respectively 2,933 and 901 deaths on 20 October and 21,111 deaths in the whole 9-month period. The two epidemics of typhoid fever that visited the city in this period were stated as the main cause for this enormous mortality, and these epidemics were in turn solely attributed to the crowded conditions in which the Germans lived, oblivious of Soviet records showing that in October 1945 the city’s 42,000 inhabitants counted as non-workers (children, invalids and other people unable to work) received a mere 200 g of bread per day if they paid for it, and that malnutrition was thus the obvious main cause of mortality.[39]

An epidemic taking the lives of about 31 % of the at-risk population[40] would have a place among the deadliest epidemics in history.[41] However, according to Starlinger’s detailed figures mortality from typhoid fever and other epidemic diseases was not that high. In the hospitals for epidemic diseases under his direction about 2,700 out of 13,200 patients died. The case fatality rate was 24 % for typhoid fever (1,850 out of 7,700, with 6,150 cases occurring from May 1945 to June 1946 and 1,300 from April to October 1946) and 25 % for typhus (300 out of 1,200). Depressing though these figures were, the typhoid and typhus case fatality rates didn’t look so bad, considering the lack of immunity and vaccination, the difficult environment and the reduced means of medical attendance, if compared with case fatality rates from these diseases elsewhere and at other times (23 % for typhoid according to statistics of the Vienna General Hospital for 1846-61, 40 % in a World War I frontline hospital, 23.4 % for typhus in the Moabit district of Berlin in 1876-79, among other examples).[42] According to Starlinger’s calculations, mortality in the hospitals for epidemic diseases accounted for less than 4 % of total mortality among the German population in 1945-47. Violence, hunger, cold and exhaustion were far more prolific killers than all epidemics together.[43]

This comparative success was not just the merit of Starlinger and his medical and nursing staff, according to Starlinger. An important factor, already in the first and by far the larger typhoid epidemic, was that that the "extirpation through death" (Todesausmerze) from non-epidemic causes robbed typhoid of its prey by removing the less resistant specimens before they had a chance to get typhoid, and leaving the more resistant ones to contract the disease, which these also had a better chance to survive due to their resistance. Another factor frequently observed was that the reduction of vital functions from pre-existing dystrophy surprisingly put a brake on the development of infectious disease. Typhoid in turn contributed to an "extirpation through death" that helped to keep typhus mortality comparatively low.[44]

Starlinger’s assessment of the relative importance of epidemics vs. other causes of death (starvation, exhaustion, cold and injuries) is borne out by the accounts of von Lehndorff and Deichelmann, written before Starlinger’s account. The below translated excerpts from some of their entries show what people mainly died from. They also show that the Soviets were reluctant to call the cause of most deaths by its proper name, starvation.

Graf von Lehndorff’s diary

About fifteen hundred people are staying in this house. A thousand patients and at least five hundred nursing personnel, female and male. Many of them have never had anything to do with nurse work, but they try as they can to remain linked to the hospital as they thus have more protection and possibilities to live. Outside they are exposed to any arbitrary acts. For the same reason it is also hardly possible to release any of the patients. As they no longer have a home, death from starvation is what usually will come to them soon. We thus try to somehow include them in the hospital’s routine. The need to do so seldom occurs, however, for just about all who are received as patients die sooner or later without having seen any improvement. Every day there are thirty to forty dead, who in the morning are carried down wrapped in blackout paper and piled up by the rear gate. From there they are taken in batches with a two-wheeled wooden cart to the area by the destroyed Altroßgärter Church, where under the supervision of Father Leitner they are buried in mass graves.[45]

The people they bring us are almost all in the same state. Above they are skeletons, below heavy sacks of water. On shapeless swollen legs they come, sometimes still walking, and settle in front of the door, where there are already lots of similar figures lying on improvised stretchers or on the floor. When it is their turn, they often mention some minor ailment, like an infected finger, as the reason for their coming, because the main problem, their legs, they don’t even feel anymore. We notice this when we lie them on the table and slit open their greasy glassy skin, without them reacting in any way. We then often ask ourselves if it still makes sense to amputate the legs, or whether one should rather let the people die as they are. Mostly we opt for the latter.
Death from hunger is a strange death. No revolt. The people give the impression that they already left death proper behind. They still walk upright, one can still talk to them, they grab a cigarette butt – rather than a piece of bread which they no longer have any use for – an then they suddenly collapse, like a table bearing a maximum of weight until the additional weight of a fly causes it to break down.
Besides these legs we mainly treat heavy and heaviest phlegmons, including many neck carbuncles that sometimes go from one ear to another. If they are filled with maggots, we consider this a good sign because then there’s still a chance of healing.[46]

Besides we get to see things that otherwise hardly exist anymore, for instance Noma disease, in which a section of the face with jaw bones, teeth, lips and cheeks falls out within days, leaving an enormous hole.[47]

Only in winter – but no, we don’t want to and cannot go through that here. It simply cannot be. The people are all dying already as it is. And then the cold, and many months when nothing grows, not even weeds – one simply cannot think of that.[48]

Deichelmann’s diary

10 May 1945[49]
For about 200 patients requiring surgery there is only one fully qualified surgeon, who must operate from early in the morning until late at night. Every day new wounded are brought in, mostly women with heavy gunshot wounds in chest and belly. They often lie for days in cellars until someone finds them. Usually they die in the hospital, if not earlier, and are buried somewhere in empty air-raid pits and combat dugouts.

15 July 1945[50]
Mortality is immense. The grave digger detachment has its hands full. The number of purulent wound infections is enormous. Due to lack of proper nourishment the patients’ resistance diminishes in an unexpected manner. If they then get diarrhea on top of that, they die within a few days.
The situation of the children is appalling. The children’s ward with 120 patients including infants gets 3.5 liters of milk per day. Mortality among the latter already runs at 90 to 95 percent. Only those survive for the time being whose mothers’ breasts can provide nourishment. The children are lying two in each bed. It is impossible to prepare special meals for the children’s ward. They receive the same food as the whole house – rotten Fleck in thin groats soup.
[…] In the children’s ward lie the first cases of hunger oedema. Two, three children 8 to 12 years old. Face and limbs deformed by swelling, the body puffed up and full of water. The sight is shattering. As the disease according to previous experience is caused by lack of protein, the children receive the rest of protein preparations; small strips of meat are fished out of the buckets in which the meals for the whole ward are brought and fed to the oedema patients. One tries to save, even if one must open one gap to fill another.[…]
Some have already eaten dogs and cats, other brag that they have.[…]
Assault victims with heavy gunshot wounds still come in almost daily. From the various camps prisoners of war and internees, men and women, are brought in incredibly disheveled, always accompanied by a Russian guard, sometimes also male and female officers are present. The prisoners are mostly exhausted to the point of dropping down, covered by scabies, eaten by lice, abscesses and furuncles everywhere. Many fall victim to these infections, and not rarely to the dysentery-like diarrhea they bring along. Psychologically they are numb, without will, just finished. The hospital for infectious diseases is also filling up. In the city typhoid and paratyphoid fever rage on such a scale as has probably not been seen in a German city since the Thirty Years War.

30 July 1945[51]
The horror around us increases. The morgue’s occupancy still grows every day. Among the about 400 occupants there are 30 typhoid patients.[…]
The number of typhoid victims in the city continues growing. In the York(epidemics) hospital there may be already 1,400 patients. They are now lying two each in the small air raid beds. There are almost no medications anymore, especially heart medications that might save many a life are completely lacking.

15 August 1945[52]
Still more typhoid, still more diarrhea. Now there are reportedly about 1,600 typhoid patients lying in the York hospital. Also among our personnel the number of cases constantly grows.

2 September 1945[53]
Every day two, three bundles wrapped in packing paper lie at the children’s ward. Thus, the mothers can take the mortal remains home more easily. People with oedema dying of starvation are no longer a rarity.

5 September 1945[54]
Physicians are no longer allowed to mention hunger disease. The Russians want it to be called "dystrophy", which literally means "nutritional disturbance". It is discussed in detail in medical conferences, studied, autopsies show the self-consumption of the inner organs and the muscles. Everyone would know what could be done to help, no one knows how to help. Besides there are other nutritional disturbances, especially scurvy. Here there are better possibilities to show or give the patients help. There are lots of green vegetables around. Now malaria is also showing up throughout the city, only individual cases for the time being. But it is only August. Every day in the city’s garbage heaps and ruins there are enormous clouds of the dangerous mosquitoes that transmit the disease. East Prussia had been free from malaria for 50, nay 80 years, now yet another scourge visits the land.
The general mortality in the hospital may be 40 percent. The dead are brought to the morgue barely clothed. Care for the living comes first, the hospital needs every piece of clothing.

5 November 1945[55]
Now one still finds potatoes along the way, and one can sleep outside if need be, but winter is approaching and hunger is here already. Typhoid has barely diminished. In the York hospital the number of patients has sunk to 1,600, but now typhus is coming around. It is already showing its teeth here and there in the city.

Entry of 19 December 1945[56]
Yes, it takes strong muscles to dig mass graves day after day in the heavy, wet soil. It still works, and so far we only had strong frost for short times and the frost layer quickly melted into the soil due to the current very rainy weather. With strong frost bomb craters must serve as mass graves.

Entry of 31 December 1945[57]
However, all memories come back on this day, wounds that have barely scarred reopen. Thus, this Christmas is a Christmas of suicides. Quite a few quietly disappear in the ruins.[…] In our hospital alone two young people try to put an end to their lives. A young nurse succeeds, another is brought back to life by timely help. When he regains consciousness he is angry at the doctors for having saved him.[…]
The year’s statistic of our grave diggers is shattering in its simplicity. Since the resuscitation of our hospital at the end of June they buried 3,989 dead in the small cemetery behind the Frischbier School. Our hospital’s occupancy is between 1,300 and 1,400 patients. So this year every bed supplied three dead.

Entry of 8 January 1946[58]
Outside there is strong cold and the thick snow screeches hard under the soles. The frost bites the feet of anyone whose shoes are worn out. Many a half-starved person has died from this. The water-swollen feet burst and get infected, and once an infection gets hold it often overruns the water-swollen body. All medications at our disposal can no longer help then. Some tie rags of sacks around their feet or walk in crude wooden clogs. Yet I saw no one as poor as two ragged, barefoot Russian kids who searched some rubbish in the ruins.

Entry of 10 January 1946[59]
Hunger and cold have become beasts of prey. Every day the corpse carriages rumbles twice through the gates. Our dead number 40 per day.

Entry of 6 February 1946[60]
Typhus is already making the rounds among us. Two doctors, on medical assistant and two women got it already. Nobody has died of it yet.

Entry of 16 February 1946[61]
The doctor in charge of the transferred tuberculosis ward informs the Antifa-Club of its balance. Since taking over the ward he has had about 240 patients. Of these about 150 have died. 60 were turned over to the St. Catherine’s Hospital, of which 10 at most will survive, and 30 were released as cured to ambulatory treatment. So in about half a year there were 200 deaths or death candidates out of 240 patients. 83.5 %. Commentary superfluous.

Entry of 28 February 1946[62]
Between us and our homeland the Iron Curtain has descended. We are prisoners of war, except that our barbed wire enclosure is a little wider. On the other hand, the prisoners of war have their food, if little. Here anyone can starve to death, even those who work.

Entry of 13 April 1946[63]
Concern about a repetition of the previous year’s typhoid tragedy causes the hospital’s management to vaccinate the personnel.

Entry of 07 May 1946[64]
Much more important is the fight against the rats, which have become a plague that no one thought possible. Everywhere, day and night, one sees giant specimens of these grey long-tailed creatures. Every nightguard counts thirty, forty within half an hour. The steal the bread from the table, gnaw through beds and walls, devour the corpses in the morgue and spread their fleas everywhere. Of course this pest is most numerous around the trash sites. And there are hardly any cats left.

Entry of 18 May 1946[65]
Hunger oedema continue in the foreground of all diseases. The doctors are unanimous in that this disease is caused by lack of protein in the first place. In the scientific conversations all means and possibilities to make good for this deficit are considered and discussed. But where to take it from? Professor Böttner suggests to regularly take blood from the hospital’s only two cows, which are as good as dry anyway, in order to help at least the neediest among the oedema patients. The problem with this suggestion, among others, is that the Russians would see it as sabotage against their cows.[…] What is left is one doctor’s suggestion to recover proteins from the liquid obtained through punctures in the breast and belly, add it to the meals properly prepared and feed it back to the patients.

Entry of 08 June 1946[66]
A generation that can inspire horror is growing up here. The hard struggle for survival, far from any education, has probably nipped in the bud the more noble sides of humanity already. Despite this, or better inevitably, these wild children have also remained far behind in their physical development. Our pediatrists have already seen, especially in children, the gruesome, almost invariably fatal Noma, the ulcerous hunger disease whose aspect could be seen only in medical treatises since decades ago in Germany.[67]
Hungry children roam the hospital and the Frischbier School. In front of each door the same monotonous chant, the tone of which I won’t forget as long as I live. "Uncle, please give me a piece of bread." You give gladly to the first, reluctantly to the second, the third already goes empty-handed. After all you want to live yourself, you have to live.

Entry of 15 June 1946[68]
Starvation is a strange matter. Even if oedema is very advanced already and there is heavy diarrhea, it is sometimes possible to save the patient by improving nutrition. But few of our patients are that lucky, for where would the hospital get the additional food? To be sure, the hospital’s food has improved now that the personnel itself gets ration cards and may no longer share the patients’ food, but the rations are still barely sufficient to maintain a bedridden person’s weight, let alone to restore the weight of one dying of starvation. Only if by chance an acquaintance takes care of the patient it may be possible to save him. Yet there is a moment after which no however good nutrition can save such oedema patients; the entire digestive system is so damaged that it can no longer dissolve and transform the nourishment offered. Unstoppably these patients fade into death without help having any effect. […]
Also in other respects the doctors gain new, surprising knowledge. The tendency to develop purulent wound infections increases. Every splinter in a finger, every scratch on the skin flaming red with scabies, and especially every sting of a louse may become a furuncle. It this becomes a phlegmon, the patient, especially if sick with oedema, is inevitably lost. Now however extensive drainage, no however high amputation, no however intensive inner and outer application of modern chemotherapeutic agents may arrest the deadly outcome. The skin of the affected body part becomes so worn that even slight prodding with a finger or a pincer penetrates it. Withing four, five days a whole leg is affected by a needle-sized infection spot. If the conditions for scientific processing of these findings are already lacking, the treatment possibilities are quite desolate. Even bandaging material, gauze bandages are hardly available despite greatest parsimony; in the operation room sheets are used as bandages.

Entry of 15 December 1946[69]
Within about half a year the Russians have managed to reduce our hospital occupancy by about 600 patients, where we Germans thought an increase by double or triple necessary.
Hunger is growing in the city. Cold on top of it has a horrible effect.

Entry of 23 December 1946[70]
Our pathologist is complaining about constant overwork. It is terrible what hideousness is brought to him. Murder, murder, murder – mainly in the Junkerstraβe. The relation between Germans beaten dead and murdered Russians is at least 6:1. To be sure, the Germans are more defenseless, without strength, undernourished; unarmed as they are they make easy prey. But who can at the same time expect to find much booty with them? Is it robbery or sheer bloody murder that is happening here?

Entry of 31 December 1946[71]
So now on new year’s ever we have a total of 859 patients. 200 of these are Russians. The health department has achieved its goal. Since summer we have lost 850 sickbeds for Germans. Our cemetery, according to our burial book, holds about 7,000 mute sleepers …

Entry of 15 January 1947[72]
People are freezing to death on the street, in apartments and beds. Who seeks acquaintances finds dead in every cellar, starved or frozen to death. Who walks to work in the morning through the dark streets occasionally stumbles upon dead covered with a merciful blanket by the night snow. Almost every morning dead are found on the stairs of the Raiffeisen House in the former General-Litzmann-Straβe, now called Sovestskij-Prospekt. Mayors and command headquarters don’t keep up with burials. The soil is frozen solid, and no German is so well fed as to endure the hard work. Thus corpses pile up in many places.
"Simple dystrophies may no longer be taken in." In practice this means barring hospital access to Germans in general. Mercilessly the emaciated, exhausted, ragged figures are chased out into the street. With fading senses, trembling knees and titillating pulse the rejected ones stumble on to their desolate end. […] The next day the hospital no longer denies them access.
Sometimes they collapse right next to the hospital. If they then lie unconscious, rattling on the cold snow, maybe medical assistants are sent out with a stretcher to take them into the hospital for their last hours. But those are the only two exceptions for "simple dystrophies", dying or dead.

Entry of 23 January 1947[73]
I’m horrified every time I enter the morgue. There they lie in their dozens, in the positions in which death surprised them, stiff from the cold and rigor mortis, in their miserable rags, face and hands eaten by rats who still find plenty of food on the streets and in the morgue. The causes of death are almost always the same: murder, hunger, cold. Hardly ever a suicide among the Germans.

Entry of 21 February 1947[74]
In the autopsy room a Russian is now working as a pathologist and forensic doctor, a small, elder man who speaks German quite well. The German doctor he kept as assistant.[…]
Only in exceptional cases the term dystrophy shows up in the pathologist’s vocabulary. […] One the street people beaten to death are found, the skull smashed into shapelessness with heavy iron bars. Every day there are 5 to 6 autopsies on average.

Entry of 25 February 1947[75]
The misery keeps growing. We only receive murder cases and unknowns (starved, frozen) for autopsy. Everyone who dies in the hospital is supposed to also be autopsied, but we simply cannot manage.

Entry of 27 February 1947[76]
They say that in Ponarth corpses are sprayed with gasoline and burned as one can no longer get rid of them otherwise. In other parts of the city they are simply thrown onto the old cemeteries.[…]
It is an infernal martyrium. Hunger burrows into the entrails. Cold eats up the limbs.

Entry of 28 February 1947[77]
Hunger drives people mad. A man I knew well, about 36 years old, beat his twelve-year-old daughter to death in a bout of hunger insanity.[…]
Our pathologist has gradually given up resisting the dystrophy diagnosis. He now states this cause as often as the German doctor would if he were to decide. After all it makes no sense to deny starvation if people start eating each other. The Russians watch the starvation of the Germans with curious indifference.

Entry of 18 March 1947[78]
Actually the number of dead at our hospital is low now, compared with the previous year. But this reduction, which is surely reported as a success to Moscow, is merely due to reducing our number of beds and barring access to the starving.

Entry of 05 April 1947[79]
A locksmith I was acquainted with, who during the winter had worked in Schichau, collapsed at the vice, dragged himself halfway home and collapsed with exhaustion in a ditch by the road. After some hours his wife and grown-up daughter finally found him, unconscious, frozen in the snow which was still deep at that time.
They had to leave him lying, had to first go back home to borrow a handcart somewhere, as even the poor emaciated body of the dying man was too heavy for their faded strength. In the dark of the night that had meanwhile come down they barely found the starved man. It was a tremendous effort for them to lift him onto the cart, even more to keep him there. It was a relief for the women that the man finally died when dropping from the unsteady cart. But transporting the corpse was still difficult enough.
It is horrible to hear the women say how relieved they felt by this death. But who has seen people in the last stages of hunger can understand that.

The primacy of literal starvation over epidemic disease as a cause of death makes the Königsberg famine into what Irish economist and famine expert Cormac O’Grada would call a "modern" famine.[80] Where mortality from infectious diseases is high even in non-crisis times (as was the case throughout the world before the 20th century and is still the case in some poor countries, especially in Africa), famine will cause a massive die-off from such diseases before actual starvation takes hold, so most of those who die will not actually starve to death. Where such diseases have been brought under control in non-crisis times through advances in medicine and public health, where people live in relative prosperity and measures that prevent the spread of diseases have become part of their daily routine, a famine will primarily kill by literal starvation. The Bengal famine of 1943 was still one of the "traditional" category, as were 1918-1922 famines in the Soviet Union. The Soviet famine of 1931-33 may have marked the beginning of a transition from "traditional" to "modern" famine as concerns the main causes of death: while there was a big rise in recorded cases of typhus and typhoid fever, the proportion of all deaths due to infectious diseases was lower in 1933 than in the immediate wake of the crisis in 1934.[81] The Leningrad blockade famine of 1941-43, also thanks to the cold weather and the city administration’s public health efforts (like ordering the population to clean up all breeding grounds where infectious disease might start) was a "modern" famine as well. While about a third of the city’s population perished, few of the 0.8 million or so victims died of contagious diseases. In fact, the numbers succumbing to typhoid fever, typhus and dysentery – the "classic" famine diseases in temperate climates according to O’Grada – were actually fewer in December 1941 than in December 1940. A clear primacy of starvation over disease was also observed in western Holland during the "hunger winter" of 1944, in Axis-occupied Greece, and – perhaps most remarkably – in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the death rate rose four-fold between 1940 and 1941-42, but the proportion attributed to literal starvation shot up from 1 to 25 percent.[82] So the experience of Königsberg was not unique.

Why did the Soviet authorities in Königsberg, which as of 04.06.1946 was named Kaliningrad, let the German inhabitants die like flies, mostly from starvation?

Lack of means is part of the explanation. The Königsberg famine happened at a time when the Soviet Union could barely feed its own population. At the time the Soviets entered Berlin, famine in Central Asia had reduced families there to cannibalism.[83] In 1946/47 famine killed about 1 million people throughout the Soviet Union.[84] Many German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union recognized that the Soviet civilian population had it just as bad or worse than them.[85]

Wieck acknowledged that the Russians in Königsberg were themselves supplied very poorly and had nothing to give away, and that the Russian administration barely managed to feed even the Russian population arriving in the city.[86] Deichelmann noted the misery of the Russian settlers who came to Kaliningrad from all parts of the Soviet Union, often sent there against their will or tricked by promises. He mentioned a 14-year-old Russian boy who had come from Sakhalin, traversing the whole continent, arrived sick in Insterburg in the winter, and was sent onwards after eight days in the hospital. The boy arrived in Kaliningrad feverish and full of lice, with a heavy pleurisy.[87] The arrivals were living in utmost poverty, the kind of people, according to Deichelmann, who would call a piece of bread and a handful of salt an excellent meal.[88] Child mortality among them must have been very high, for Deichelmann mentioned "countless" autopsies of Russian children.[89] A young Russian female worker earned 360 Rubel per month, of which she spent 240 on milk for her baby and 60 on bread. Russians also starved to death on occasion.[90] Deichelmann recalled having talked to people from all parts of the Soviet Union, who unanimously told him that nowhere it was as bad as in Kaliningrad.[91]

Corruption and incompetence of Soviet authorities were also to blame. Deichelmann reckoned that the Soviet rulers of Königsberg/Kaliningrad were hardly a Soviet elite, perhaps even a negative selection – people who were of no use where they came from and who hoped to get rich quickly.[92] The hospital’s Russian director is supposed to have bought himself a house from what he skimmed off.[93]The director of an old-age home at Tilsit-Neukirch, where some of the Kaliningrad central hospital’s elderly German patients had been shipped, was reportedly a brutal young Russian whose large family was the main recipient of the food meant for the home’s occupants.[94]

However, lack of means, corruption and incompetence cannot have been the only reasons for the great mortality in Königsberg/Kaliningrad. If they had been, a mass dying on this scale might also have happened in other parts of Germany conquered by the Soviets, but that wasn’t the case.[95] In the Soviet Occupation Zone rations were incomparably better. Among the urban population of Brandenburg, as of 01.11.1945, the lowest-ranking consumer group officially received not only 200 g of bread like non-workers in Königsberg/Kaliningrad, but also 300 g of potatoes, 15 g of sugar, 30 g of marmalade and 10 g of other nutrients per day. Children received that plus 15 g of meat and 10 g of fat per day.[96] In Königsberg/Kaliningrad, where in practice the large majority of the German population got just about nothing, the Soviet authorities seem to have acted with a malignant indifference to the Germans that was not present elsewhere. At least that was how it looked like from the receiving end perspective. Wieck had the impression that the Russians wanted all Germans to starve and to this effect tried to hinder their efforts to survive by work, black-market trading or otherwise.[97] Deichelmann considered some official measures – reducing the number of hospital beds at a time when they should have been increased, barring people with "simple" dystrophy from hospital treatment, chasing away begging children – to be nothing short of sadistic.[98] He left it open whether this sadism was a matter of the local administration only or the Soviet central state was also behind it. A commission from Moscow is supposed to have been horrified about the living conditions of the German population.[99]

How many Germans died under these conditions?

Again, the most detailed estimate comes from Starlinger, who reasoned as follows[100]:

Assuming about 110,000 inhabitants before the fall of the city and about 73,000 according to the Soviet census at the end of June 1945, the city’s population diminished by about 35,000 between the two dates. Of the loss about 10-15,000 were mostly adult males deported to camps in East Prussia or further east, while 20-25,000 were deaths. Assuming about 12,000 deaths in each of April and May, the number of inhabitants at the end of May 1945 would have been about 85,000 to 90,000. In October 1945 the population was between 60,000 and 55,000, in March 1946 it was between 45,000 and 40,000, in October 1946 between 40,000 and 35,000 and in March 1947 it was 25,000 at maximum. As there was no reduction by migration, this would mean that out of about 100,000 inhabitants (110,000 minus 10,000 deportees) about 75,000 died, a death rate of 75 %. Of these about 50,000 out of 75,000 died after the Soviet census at the end of June 1945, that is about 65 %.

Deichelmann estimated that about 30,000 had died in the battle and the subsequent marches across the countryside and back to the city, and that in June/July 1945, after some replenishment by returnees from the countryside, there were about 70,000 Germans in the city. Of these 50,000 died until the end of 1947 (edit, 23.08.2021: replaced "1945" by "1947"), for a total of about 80,000 dead, and 17,000 to 20,000 survived to be deported.[101] Of the dead about 9,000 died in the central hospital according to Deichelmann and 2,700 died in the hospitals for infectious diseases under Starlinger’s direction.[102] Most deaths occurred outside the hospitals, which is also what becomes apparent from the above-mentioned records of the Soviet administration.[103]

The highest death toll estimate comes from Wieck, according to whom there were about 130,000 Germans in the city at the time of its fall and of these at most 20,000 survived to be deported.[104] This would mean a death rate of about 85 %.

Soviet sources vary as concerns the German population. According to the already mentioned document regarding the population of the Soviet parts of East Prussia as of 1 September 1945, Königsberg had 84,651 and the whole region 174,125 inhabitants.[105] Following the integration of northern East Prussia into the Soviet Union as the "Kenigsbergskaja oblast" on 7 April 1946, an improvised census counted 45,120 Germans in the East Prussian capital and 114,070 in the whole oblast as of 1 May 1946, besides 41,029 Soviet citizens including forced laborers from NS-times. Kossert considers the number of Germans too low as many were not registered.[106] 45,120 out of 84,651 would mean 39,531 losses in the interim, and as the number of the oblast inhabitants also diminished these 39,531 could be all considered deaths. As mentioned above, Soviet city authorities recorded 21,111 German deaths in the city between September 1945 and May 1946. The misattribution of this mortality to typhoid rather than starvation seems quite obvious in the light of the German witnesses’ accounts, but would the Soviets city authorities have failed to record 18,420 deaths, almost half the total?

Starlinger’s figures regarding the death toll from the city’s fall to the end of June 1945 are at odds with the aforementioned estimate from the Soviet passport department in Königsberg, whereby there were about 63,247 German inhabitants in the city at the end of April 1945. It seems improbable, even considering the intensity of the battle and the subsequent mayhem and forced marches, that 47,000 out of 110,000 inhabitants, thereof 32,000 deaths assuming 10,000 – 15,000 deportees as per Starlinger, should have been lost in the interim. The ca. 63,000 can however be reconciled with Deichelmann’s ca. 70,000 for June/July 1945 following some in-migration from the countryside. They can also be reconciled with the end of June census figure of about 73,000 mentioned by Starlinger, the 69,055 inhabitants in June/July and the 68,014 German inhabitants counted/estimated for September 1945 by the Soviet PD, assuming in each case that people returned to the city after the April 1945 Soviet count/estimate. They can furthermore be reconciled with Deichelmann’s claim of about 30,000 losses in the battle and the subsequent forced marches (which according to Deichelmann were all deaths), assuming the minimum figure of 90,000 German inhabitants on the eve of the final Soviet assault on 6 – 9 April 1945, mentioned by Lasch, which coincided with the number of ration cards mentioned by Starlinger.[107] The difference to the ca. 63,000 counted/estimated by the PD for the end of April 1945 would be 27,000. Assuming 10,000 to 15,000 deportees as per Starlinger’s estimate, this would leave about 12,000 to 17,000 civilian deaths in the battle and subsequent mayhem, about 13.33 – 18.89 % of the population. As mentioned above, a maximum of about 3.33% of Berlin’s population perished during the battle for Berlin and its immediate aftermath, so the losses of Königsberg’s population would be at least 4 to 6 times higher in proportion than those of Berlin’s population.

Contrary to what Starlinger assumed, population changes in the city after June/July 1945 were not wholly deaths, if one is to give credence to the PD’s aforementioned report of November 1945 whereby 4,390 people entered and 13,480 left the city in July, August, September and October 1945. One can speculate, though not prove, that the outbound figure consists wholly or mostly of deaths rather than out-migrants. As mentioned before only the September population status figure of 68,019 in Fisch and Klemeševa’s Table 2 matches other PD figures whereby in September 1945 there were 140,114 Germans in the region, thereof 68,014 in Königsberg and the remainder in other communities. How many people migrated into and out of the city and how many died between April and September 1945 cannot be established on hand of the available numbers. In the following I will assume for good measure that the difference between the April 1945 PD figure in Fisch and Klemeševa’s Table 1 (63,247) and the June 1945 figure of "about" 60,000 in the same table were deaths, that in the months June to September there was a positive migration balance into the city in the order of 13,000, yielding the end of June census figure of 73,000, and that of these 68,014 were still alive at the beginning of September 1945. This would mean 8,233 deaths between the end of April and the beginning of September 1945, a figure consistent with the hospital horrors described by von Lehndorff and Deichelmann if one assumes that, as Soviet records suggest, most deaths occurred outside the hospitals. Adding this to the above 12,000 – 17,000 deaths from the battle and subsequent violence in April 1945 would yield about 20,233 -25,233 deaths between early April and early September 1945.

The next PD figure in Fisch and Klemeševa’s Table 1, 60,642 in November 1945, is a little higher than Starlinger’s figures (60,000 to 55,000) for October 1945. Assuming that the difference between the PD’s September figure of 68,014 and the November figure of 60,642 is accounted for by deaths alone, there would be an additional 7,372 deaths, for a total of 27,605 to 32,605 deaths so far since early April 1945.

As mentioned above the city’s German population was 45,120 according to a Soviet census as of 1 May 1946. Klemeševa calculated a lower figure (43,617) for the spring of 1946.[108] Assuming this lower figure and no out-migration, this would mean 17,025 deaths since November 1945, for a total of 44,630 to 49,630 deaths so far. The total of deaths between September 1945 and May 1946 would be 68,014 minus 43,617 = 24,397 deaths, 3,286 more than the 21,111 recorded by the Soviet city administration for the period between 1 September 1945 and 1 May 1946. The difference is in accordance with Fisch and Klemeševa’s reckoning that many deaths were not reported[109], and while high it seems more realistic than assuming that almost half of all deaths were not recorded.

About the number of German inhabitants in the city of Kaliningrad when the deportations to the Soviet Occupied Zone began there are no Soviet figures. What becomes apparent from the available documentation is that a total of 102,407 Germans were deported from the Kaliningrad oblast in 6 stages between April-June 1947 and May 1951.[110] The difference of 37,707 can be safely assumed to have died since September 1945. If, as Starlinger estimated, no more than 25,000 of Königsberg’s inhabitants were left to deport, this would mean 77,407 deportees from other towns and villages in the region – more than the 72,100 that had been estimated by the Soviet Passport Department as of September 1945. This in turn would mean a negative migration balance of the city’s population in favor of the countryside, even under the unrealistic assumption that the rural population had no demographically significant losses from hunger, disease, cold and violence. A more realistic assumption might be that the rural population lost about 10 % of its stock, which is quite conservative.[111] This would mean that 64,890 of the 102,407 deportees were from rural areas and 37,517 were from Kaliningrad, and that out of 68,014 German inhabitants of the city in September 1945 a total of 30,497, about 44.84%, had perished.[112] Adding 8,233 deaths between the end of April and the beginning of September 1945 and 12,000 to 17,000 deaths from the battle and subsequent violence in April 1945 yields a total of 50,730 to 55,730 deaths, about 56.37% to 61.92% of the assumed population of 90,000 before the final Soviet attack on the city. Deaths among the deportees in Soviet camps in East Prussia or elsewhere would have to be added. These camps were highly lethal. According to Starlinger the death rate there was in the order of 60 %[113], but Starlinger assumed the same for the Gulag camps in the first postwar years, which is far too high.[114] According to the German Federal Archives’ 1974 report about expulsion and expulsion crimes from 1945 to 1948, the death rate in Soviet camps in northern East Prussia was between 20% and 50%, and in the prison at Preuβisch-Eylau about half of the about 12,000 – 14,000 inmates died of typhoid fever and other hunger-related diseases.[115] Assuming that about half of the 10,000 to 15,000 deportees (5,000 to 7,500) died in Soviet camps, the total death toll of Königsberg’s population would be 58,230 to 60,730 out of a baseline population of 90,000, that is 64.70% to 67.48% of the total.

This death rate is beyond what the Stalinist regime inflicted on any other civilian population under its rule. The deadliest year in the Gulag camps was 1942, when 248,877 out of 1,415,596 prisoners died[116], a death rate of about 17.58%. The average annual death rate in 1945-1947 was much lower, about 4.30 %.[117] Under these circumstances a sentence to Gulag imprisonment, like the one handed to Starlinger, might have been a life-saving stroke of good luck for Germans perishing in Königsberg/Kaliningrad. Even the most unfortunate of the Soviet Union’s repressed ethnicities, the Kalmyks, suffered a lower mortality rate than these Germans.[118]

What is more, the mortality rate among Königsberg’s German population also exceeds any mortality rate that Nazi Germany inflicted on civilian populations outside the context of deliberate mass extermination. Even the famine in besieged Leningrad was less deadly in proportional terms, though that was so not because of any restraint on the German side but because the Wehrmacht didn’t manage to wholly cut off the city as intended.[119] My above mortality rate estimates for Königsberg place this demographic catastrophe about half-way between the siege of Leningrad and the Nazis’ mobile killing operations (one of which took place in neighboring Lithuania in 1941[120]) and extermination camps. Assuming the higher mortality rates estimated by Deichelmann, Starlinger and Wieck it would be closer to the latter two than to Leningrad. Michael Wieck, the half-Jewish survivor of both Hitler’s and Stalin’s regimes, mentioned it alongside the Holocaust.[121] In its effects on the affected population, if not necessarily in its intent, the great mortality in Königsberg was as close as Stalin’s USSR got to the worst crimes of Hitler’s Germany.

Update, 25.08.2021: It was brought to my attention that Verlag Bublies, the publisher of the edition of Deichelmann's diary I used for this article, is associated to the German extreme right. While I don't think they went to the lengths of falsifying what Deichelmann wrote, I don't want to promote a right-wing publisher. Therefore, I would encourage readers interested in Deichelmann's diary to not order it from Amazon as I did, but obtain it (if available) from the source referred to in Andreas Kossert, Ostpreußen. Geschichte und Mythos (München, Siedler Verlag, 2008), p. 440, which is the journal Altpreußische Geschlechterkunde, Vol. 25 (1995). Deichelmann's diary is reproduced there on pp. 180-346.

Update, 02.09.2021: The total number of deaths according to my estimate would have to be referred not to the city's assumed population as of 06.04.1945 (ca. 90,000), as I did in the article's original version, but to that population plus the assumed 13,000 refugees returning to the city, i.e. to a total of 103,000 German inhabitants. The proportion of deaths would thus be in the order of ca. 56-59% instead of ca. 65-67%. Assuming a population of 90,000 on 06.04.1945 and 63,247 at the end of April 1945 as per the Soviet passport department's estimate, the loss would be 26,753 inhabitants in April 1945, of which 10-15,000 would be deportees and the remaining 11,753 to -16,753 would be deaths. The city's population would thus have evolved as follows until the spring of 1947:

Set against a population of 90,000 + 13,000 = 103,000, the number of deaths (57,983 to 60,483, the difference to the previous figures being because a round figure of 27,000 instead of 26,753 losses in April 1945 was used in the previous calculation) would be about 56.29% - 58.72%.

Update, 03.09.2021: I got a copy of the volume, mentioned in the 25.08.2021 update, of Altpreuβische Geschlechterkunde, a genealogy journal where Deichelmann's diary is reproduced on pp. 180-346. References to the Verlag Bublies edition of the diary were replaced by references to Altpreuβische Geschlechterkunde, Neue Folge, 43. Jahrgang, Band 25 (1995). I also corrected some dates that were incorrectly rendered in the Verlag Bublies edition, for instance the text that appears there under 1 March 1947 is under 28 February 1947 in the AGK publication, which I presume is the most accurate as it was reprinted from the diary’s original publication.


[1] See my article Nazi killing methods.
[2] See my article Scrapbookpages on Subhuman Cannibalism and the reference thread The Fate of Soviet Prisoners of War.
[3] Jörg Ganzenmüller, "Ein stiller Völkermord", Die Zeit 15 January 2004. Translation in the reference thread The Siege of Leningrad.
[4] Regarding Greece see Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece. The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44 (Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 23-53. The Dutch Famine of 1944/45 is addressed in, among other publications, William I. Hitchcock, The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe (New York: Free Press, 2008), Part I Chapter 3.
[5] In the Łódź ghetto alone, 45,000 out of 200,000 inhabitants died throughout its existence. In the Warsaw ghetto the number was 83,000 out of 470,000 inhabitants between the end of 1940 and September 1942 (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Revised and Definitive Edition, 1985 by Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. New York, page 269). On August 24, 1942, after having decided that of the 1.5 Jews still alive all but 300,000 working for the Germans would no longer be fed, Hans Frank noted by the way that 1.2 million Jews had been sentenced to die of hunger and that should the Jews not starve to death he hoped for a speeding up of anti-Jewish measures (Christian Gerlach, Krieg, Ernährung, Völkermord, p. 220). The months August, September and October 1942 were the most intensive killing period of the Aktion Reinhard camps (see my article A nightmare with no way out).
[6] "Königsberg/Kaliningrad", article of the Online-Lexikon zur Kultur und Geschichte der Deutschen im östlichen Europa. HC articles related to the mentioned extermination center are collected under the label Maly Trostenets.
[7] For a narrative of the Battle for Königsberg see Pritt Buttar, Battleground Prussia. The Assault on Germany’s Eastern Front 1944-45 (2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford), pages 293 to 308.
[8] The best-known of many such atrocities occurred in the Königsberg suburb of Metgethen and were discovered after a German counterattack temporarily reconquered the area. The most gruesome description of these atrocities is that of a former captain in the Fortress Königsberg command staff, Hermann Sommer, whose account is partially transcribed in English translation in Alfted-Maurice de Zayas, A Terrible Revenge. The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944-1950 (1986 St. Martin’s Press, New York), pp. 40-41. Sommer claimed that, after the discovery by German troops of "several mounds of corpses situated quite close to one another", the fortress commander General Lasch had ordered a commission to investigate these discoveries. The commission, according to Sommer, reported that "many similar piles of bodies were strewn throughout the area; but in two cases there were virtual mountains of bodies made up of ca. 3,000 women, girls, children and only a few men". Sommer claimed that a special commission of doctors, forensic investigators and foreign journalists was formed to establish identities and the circumstances of the deaths, that many of the dead were photographed, and that the pictures "graphically showed the often savage circumstances under which these people had been murdered". A large number of bodies, according to Sommer, "had the breasts cut off, the genitals stabbed through and were disemboweled". Sommer claimed that the testimonies of surviving witnesses along with the photographs were on file in his department. He also claimed that on February 27, 1945 he had himself witnessed the carnage, which he described in some detail. Fortress Commander General Otto Lasch, upon returning from Soviet captivity, wrote a decidedly anti-Soviet account of the battle, in which he highlighted the bravery and prowess of the city’s defenders and described his own role in favorable terms. Lasch didn’t mention having ordered an investigation or that huge mounds or "mountains" of bodies had been found, just horrible finds of atrocities including one in which 32 civilians had been blown up with an electrically detonated mine in a tennis court (General Otto Lasch, So fiel Königsberg, 4. Lizenzausgabe 1991 des Motorbuch Verlags Stuttgart, p. 74). He also quoted an unnamed commander of a grenadier regiment, who recalled having seen Germans killed in masses in the retaken villages, some women still having ropes around their necks they had been dragged to death with, and others with their heads in the mud or in fertilizer pits and traces of bestial mistreatment on their bodies. The US Library of Congress possesses an album with the title "Bildbericht über von den Bolschewisten ermordete und geschändete Deutsche in Metgethen" ("Photo Report about Germans defiled and murdered at Metgethen"), which consists of 13 pages with two captioned photographs on each (the images are very graphic and should not be viewed by sensitive readers). 12 of these pictures show single corpses, 9 show more than one corpse (two women and three children, a woman and two boys, a woman, an amputated soldier and a little girl, a couple, a female and a male corpse). Some corpses were photographed several times, from different angles or distances. 5 pictures show bodies and body parts of people killed by an explosion, which must be the one mentioned by Lasch as 31 male and female corpses were counted around the explosion crater according to one caption. One picture, captioned as having been taken inside a house where two women and three children were found shot, shows "two dead Bolsheviks killed by German soldiers as atonement for their foul deeds" ("zwei tote Bolschevisten, die von deutschen Soldaten als Vergeltung für ihre Schandtaten erschossen wurden").
[9] Bernhard Fisch and Marina Klemeševa, "Zum Schicksal der Deutschen in Königsberg 1945-1948 (im Spiegel bislang unbekannter russischer Quellen)", Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung Bd. 44 Nr. 3 (1995) (hereinafter "ZOMEF 44-3"), pp. 391-400; Andreas Kossert, Ostpreußen. Geschichte und Mythos (München, Siedler Verlag, 2008), p. 345.
[10] Hans Deichelmann, Ich sah Königsberg sterben. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Arztes von April 1945 bis März 1948. Update, 03.09.2021: The diary was first published in 1948/49 in the periodical Aachener Nachrichten. The copy used for this article is an authorized reprint published in the genealogy journal Altpreuβische Geschlechterkunde, Neue Folge, 43. Jahrgang, Band 25 (1995), pp. 180 to 346. The journal will in the following be referred to as "AGK 25/95"
[11] Hans Graf von Lehndorff, Ostpreussisches Tagebuch. Aufzeichnungen eines Arztes aus den Jahren 1945 – 1947. The copy used for this article is the 6th edition published in 1961 by Biederstein Verlag, Munich. Lehndorff’s diary was published in English translation as Token of a Covenant: Diary of an East Prussian Surgeon 1945-47.
[12] Wilhelm Starlinger, Grenzen der Sowjetmacht im Spiegel einer West-Ostbegegnung hinter Palisaden von 1945-1954. Mit einem Bericht der Deutschen Seuchenkrankenhäuser Yorck und St. Elisabeth über das Leben und Sterben in Königsberg 1945-1947; zugleich ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis des Ablaufes gekoppelter Groβseuchen unter elementaren Bedingungen. Edited in 1955 by Holzner-Verlag Würzburg.
[13] Michael Wieck, Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs. Ein "Geltungsjude" berichtet. Mit einem Vorwort von Siegfried Lenz. The copy used for this article is a 2nd edition published in 2009 by C.H. Beck oHG Munich. The book was translated into English and published as A Childhood Under Hitler and Stalin: Memoirs of a "certified" Jew, University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.
[14] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, p. 18.
[15] Zeugnis, pp. 294-296.
[16] Lasch, p. 116.
[17] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, pp. 36-37.
[18] Zeugnis, p. 264. The Rothenstein camp was described as a lethal hellhole by both Wieck (Zeugnis, pp. 243-255) and von Lehndorff, who was detained there between the end of April and mid-June 1945 (Tagebuch, pp. 109-144).
[19] Königsberg, AGK 25/95, p. 199.
[20] As above, pp. 333-334.
[21] Zeugnis, pp. 238-240.
[22] Königsberg, AGK 25/95, pp. 192-201.
[23] Tagebuch, p. 148.
[24] 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 (Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945, Viking-Penguin Books, 2002, p. 414). The city’s population was "anything between 3 and 3.5 million people" (as before, p. 177). 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).
[25] Peter Antill and Peter Dennis, Berlin 1945. End of the Thousand Year Reich (Osprey Publishing Limited, 2005), p. 85. A higher figure was given by 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." However, Ryan’s 100,000 estimate referred to the entire area of the battle of Berlin and not to the city alone. About 10,000 civilians may have died in the Halbe encirlement outside the city (Beevor, Berlin, p. 337). According to Alexandra Richie (Faust’s Metropolis – A History of Berlin, London 1998, p. 756), when the Western Allies entered the city many of the "100,000 civilians who died in the Battle for Berlin" still lay unburied, US General Clay described Berlin as a "city of the dead", and US Colonel Sheen wrote that the stench of unburied dead was almost overpowering.
[26] Fisch and Klemeševa, ZOMEF 44-3, pp. 392-393.
[27] As above, p. 394.
[28] As above. The number 51,000 appears in the column of inhabitants to feed in the article but logically belongs in the column of inhabitants actually fed, as 82,000 inhabitants to feed are mentioned for June and 80,000 for July.
[29] As above, p. 395.
[30] The results of this calculation would be 68,431 instead of 68,686 in August, 67,223 instead of 68,019 in September and 64,103 instead of 65,810 on 20 October 1945.
[31] As above. The figures for the other communities are: Labiau 8,184; Pillkallen 4,254; Insterburg 1,317; Heiligenbeil 5,915; Friedland 2,544; Kranzburg 2,395; Gumbinnen 2,024; Tilsit 4,651; Heinrichswalde 3,988; Königsberg Land 7,754; Samland 20,893; Stallupönen 947; Wehlau 3,985; Darkehmen 1,146; Gerdauen 2,103. The PD mistakenly added up the figures for these communities and the 68,014 for Königsberg to 139,614, a difference of 500 in relation to the mathematically correct sum of 140,114.
[32] Kossert, as above. The title of the document is translated as "Bevölkerung in den Kreisen Ostpreußens, die an die UdSSR fielen (ohne Memelgebiet), am 1. September 1945" ("Population in the Districts of East Prussia that fell to the USSR (without Memel region), on 1 September 1945"). Kossert’s source is Eckhard Matthes (Hg.): Als Russe in Ostpreußen. Sowjetische Umsiedler über ihren Neubeginn in Königsberg/Kaliningrad nach 1945. Ostfildern 1999, p. 312.
[33] The first such civilians were returnees from forced labor under the Nazis who chose to stay in Königsberg. On 24 May 1945 the City Commandant ordered the city’s district commandants to provide the numbers of repatriated Soviet citizens, local inhabitants who could be used for qualified work, locals who could be used for other work and non-working people and children in families without food supply. Patients in local hospitals were not to be counted as they received food from other sources. (ZOMEF 44-3, p. 394)
[34] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, pp. 24-26.
[35] According to Wieck (Zeugnis, p. 301) Klopse (traditional Königsberg meatballs) sold on the black market in the winter of 1945/46 turned out to be made of human flesh, and the Russians found a literal human slaughterhouse in the ruins, where people were tricked to go and then killed for consumption. Von Lehndorff wrote that in October 1945 eating human flesh had been going on for some time here and there. He recalled the horror he had felt during the war when learning about cannibalism among Soviet PoWs, thinking that only "Asians" were capable of such things. Now the Soviets were concerned about cannibalism among the Germans, and one Dr. Rauch was called upon again and again to take part in autopsies, exhumations and examinations of meat chunks to determine if they were of human origin. (Tagebuch, p. 168). Under 19 March 1946 Deichelmann (Königsberg, AGK 25/95 p. 244) noted that a colleague of his appeared in the company of a Soviet "MVD" officer with a covered bucket containing meat that a German "bandit" (in Soviet parlance) had been selling. The buyer had become suspicious and alarmed the MVD. The physician opened the bucket, examined he chunks and found what was unmistakably a human knee. Cannibalism among the German population was also mentioned in official Soviet reports. One such report is cited in the Spiegel article "Zum Schluβ Schokolade", 27.06.1993.
[36] 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.
[37] The danger was violence from Russian soldiers or criminal gangs. Von Lehndorff mentioned a gang of Russian adolescents that attacked women and on account of which people used to walk only in groups. He himself always had a crowbar in hand and made sure that everyone could see it. (Tagebuch, pp. 166-167). In charge of autopsies in the central hospital’s morgue, Deichelmann noted in his diary entry for 18 June 1947 that New York had 365 murders per year and Königsberg had seen that many within half a year (Königsberg, AGK 25/95 p. 305).
[38] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, pp. 23-24.
[39] ZOMEF 44-3, pp. 396-398. Besides the non-workers there were 1,100 skilled workers on the city’s infrastructures who received 600 g per day and 15,900 unskilled workers who received 400 g per day.
[40] Assuming 68,014 German inhabitants as per the Passport Department figures. If the number was 84,651, the mortality rate would still be almost 25 %.
[41] For comparison, the Great Plague of 1709 to 1711 killed about 200,000 to 245,000 people in East Prussia, ca. 30-40% of the region’s population of 600,000 at the time (Kossert, as above p. 99). The Great Plague of Marseille is estimated to have killed about 30 % the city’s population (Christian A.Devaux, "Small oversights that led to the Great Plague of Marseille (1720–1723): Lessons from the past", in: Infection, Genetics and Evolution Volume 14, March 2013, Pages 169-185). The Great Plague of London killed up to 20 % of the city’s inhabitants (Anne Roberts, "The Plague in England", History Today Volume 30 Issue 4 April 1980). The medieval Black Death killed about 30-50% of the population of the affected areas (Mark Cartwright, "Black Death", World History Encyclopedia, 28 March 2020).
[42] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, pp. 33-35, 44, 54.
[43] As above, p. 41.
[44] As above, pp. 47-48.
[45] Tagebuch, pp. 150-151.
[46] As above, pp. 152-153.
[47] As above, p. 153.
[48] As above, p. 166.
[49] Königsberg, AGK 25/95, p. 202.
[50] As above, p. 210. "Fleck" is the inner part of a bovine stomach cut in slices, an East Prussian delicacy when properly prepared. The hospital received these by the barrel, insufficiently salted and stinking so badly in the warm weather that the whole kitchen was polluted. The patients nevertheless ate them for lack of alternative, and so did the staff. Sometimes the staff held the nose shut with the one hand and ate with the other (as above, p. 209).
[51] As above, p. 211.
[52] As above, p. 212.
[53] As above, p. 214.
[54] As above.
[55]As above, p. 225.
[56] As above, p. 232.
[57] As above, pp. 235-236.
[58] As above, p. 236.
[59] As above, p. 239.
[60] As above, p. 242.
[61] As above.
[62]As above, p. 247
[63] As above, p. 250.
[64] As above, p. 254.
[65] As above, pp. 254.
[66] As above, p. 258.
[67] Presumably unknown to Deichelmann, Noma (a cancerous growth, usually fatal, which appears mostly on the face, as the result of starvation and physical debility) was also observed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Rudolf Höss described it in his autobiography (Commandant of Auschwitz. The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess. Translated by Constantine FitzGibbon. Phoenix Press, London, 2000. Page 126): "ln July 1942. the Reichsführer SS visited the camp. I took him all over the gypsy camp. He made a most thorough inspection of everything, noting the overcrowded barrack-huts, the unhygienic conditions, the crammed hospital building. He saw those who were sick with infectious diseases, and the children suffering from Noma, which always made me shudder, since it reminded me of leprosy and of the lepers I had seen in Palestine-their little bodies wasted away, with gaping holes in their cheeks big enough for a man to see through, a slow putrefaction of the living body."
[68] Königsberg, AGK 25/95, pp. 259-260.
[69] As above, p. 278.
[70] As above, pp. 279-280.
[71] As above, p. 281.
[72] As above, p. 282.
[73] As above, pp. 282-283.
[74] As above, p. 285.
[75] As above, p. 286.
[76] As above, p. 287.
[77] As above.
[78] As above, pp. 288-289.
[79] As above, p. 290.
[80] Cormac O’Grada, Famine. A Short History (2009 Princeton University Press), Chapter IV section "What do People die of during Famines" (pp. 108-211).
[81] As above, pp. 110-112 and 114.
[82] As above, pp. 112-113.
[83] Beevor, Berlin, p. 392.
[84] Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands : Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York, Basic Books, 2010), p. 336.
[85] Christian Streit, "Deutsche und sowjetische Kriegsgefangene", in: Wolfram Wette/Gerd R. Ueberschär, Kriegsverbrechen im 20. Jahrhundert (2001 Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt) pp. 178 to 192; Günter Böddeker/Paul Carell, Die Gefangenen. Leben und Überleben deutscher Soldaten hinter Stacheldraht (Ullstein, Frankfurt/Main 1996), pp. 370-371.
[86] Zeugnis, pp. 265, 272.
[87] Königsberg, entry of 31 August 1947, AGK 25/95 p. 318.
[88] Entry of 5 September 1947, as above p. 318.
[89] Entry of 30 April 1947, as above p. 296.
[90] Entry of 31 December 1947, as above p. 336.
[91] Entry of 31 August 1947, as above pp. 318.
[92] Entry of 31 December 1947, as above pp. 336-337.
[93] Entry of 31 August 1947, as above p. 318.
[94] Entry of 31 December 1946, as above p. 281.
[95] For example, the first Soviet city commandant of Berlin, General Berzarin, who went out and chatted with Germans queuing at Red Army field kitchens, 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 (Beevor, Berlin, p. 409). 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).
[96] ZOMEF 44-3, p. 398.
[97] Zeugnis, pp. 268-269, 301.
[98] Königsberg, entry of 31 December 1947, AGK 25/95 p. 335.
[99] Entry of 1 July 1947, as above p. 306.
[100] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, pp. 36-40.
[101] Königsberg, entry of 31 December 1947, AGK 25/95 pp. 333-334.
[102] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, p. 33.
[103] 1,799 deaths outside and 881 deaths in hospitals on 20 September, respectively 2,933 and 901 deaths on 20 October (ZOMEF 44-3, p. 396).
[104] Zeugnis, pp. 264-265.
[105] Kossert, as above.
[106] As above pp. 347-348.
[107] Lasch, as above.
[108] ZOMEF 44-3, p. 399.
[109] As above, p. 400.
[110] As above, p. 399.
[111] According to German Federal Statistics Office (Dr. Werner Nellner, "Die Vertreibungsverluste der Bevölkerung in den Ostgebieten des Deutschen Reiches", Wirtschaft und Statistik, Heft 10, Oktober 1956, pp. 496 to 498), East Prussia had a population of about 2.43 million when the war began and gained 170,000 inhabitants due to excess births over deaths from then until 1950, for a total of 2.6 million. Of these about 290,000, that is more than 11 %, were considered probable deaths during flight and expulsion. Adding about 210,000 wartime deaths among German troops from East Prussia yields half a million, which would mean that nearly 20 % of East Prussia’s population lost their lives during and after the war. 1.94 million were assumed by Nellner to have found refuge on East and West German territory as of 13 September 1950, and about 140,000 were assumed to still be on East Prussian territory under "foreign rule" by Poland and the Soviet Union.
[112] Of these, according to the previous calculations, 24,397 would have died from September 1945 to May 1946 and 6,100 from then until April 1947.
[113] Grenzen der Sowjetmacht, p. 62. Starlinger highlighted how much conditions had improved by the time of his incarceration.
[114]Based on the figures in Richard Overy, The Dictators. Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, Allen Lane, p. 613, it can be calculated that from 1945 to 1947 the average annual population of the Gulag camps was 757,072. The total number of recorded deaths in these years was 97,670 (from Overy, p. 615), that is 32,557 per year on average, a mortality rate of 4.30% p.a.
[115]Vertreibungsverbrechen 1945—1948. Bericht des Bundesarchivs vom 28. Mai 7974. Archivalien und ausgewählte Eriebnisberichte. Kulturstiftung der deutschen Vertriebenen, Bonn, 1989. The figures are on pp. 40-41.
[116] Overy, as above pp. 613, 615.
[117] Calculated from Overy, as above.
[118] According to Pavel Polian (Against their Will. The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR, p. 194) there were 134,400 Kalmyks in the USSR in 1939, of whom 44,125 had died by 1 August 1948 – ca. 32.83%.
[119] Estimates of the number of Leningrad civilian siege victims go up to 1 million or more, but probably the most realistic estimate is that about 800,000 out of an immediate pre-siege population of about 2.5 million perished. This order of magnitude is mentioned in Harrison E. Salisbury, The 900 Days. The Siege of Leningrad. (Avon Books, New York, 1970), pp. 590ff.; Anna Reid, Leningrad. The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 (2011 Bloomsbury, London), Appendix I (pp. 417-418); various sources cited in Blockade Leningrads 1941-1944. Dossiers (a publication of the Museum Berlin Karlshorst in German and Russian), pp. 110-113. For a history of military operations in the Leningrad region see David M. Glantz, The Siege of Leningrad 1941-1944. 900 Days of Terror, Spellmont, UK, 2001.
[120] See my series Mattogno takes on the Jäger Report (well, he tries)
[121] Zeugnis, p. 303, my translation: "The faster one died, the better. In the end, according to my estimate, it was 100,000 out of originally 120,000 to 130,000 civilians who did the Russians this favor. Hitler wanted Europe ‘clean of Jews’, Stalin East Prussia ‘clean of Germans’. Nevertheless, the one can never be compared with the other."


  1. Thanks.

    The article is not about core topics of HC, but we have also published articles about Katyn deniers among others, as we condemn any denial of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

    While I haven't come across deniers of what happened to the German population of Königsberg, I also haven't found a source that puts this man-made catastrophe into what I consider the proper perspective, which is that of comparing it with other Soviet crimes and crimes of Nazi Germany as I did in this article.

    I also consider it unfortunate that crimes against Germans during and after WW II are a topic that is instrumentalized by right-wing extremists and other apologists of Nazi Germany. Addressing the topic in publications that do not serve an ideological agenda is, in my opinion, a useful counterweight to such instrumentalization.

  2. well i know that rule 2 said that we must put things on-topic, but what happened with the black rabbit of inle ? i saw him a lot in these blogs, just by curiosity

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  4. Just wanted to make you aware of a new recordings of Adolf Eichmann , where he regrets not being able to kill 10.3 millions Jews . Not only is it direct confession , but also , contrary to how he tried to describe himself as in the trial as " just following orders ". Or as was described as " the banality of evil ". No , there was no banality here :




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