Colossal Kills on All Fronts in 1944/45, World War II

Michael Roberts

In venturing into reflections on VE Day commemorations, by pure chance I stumbled on You Tube reviews of the ways in which German POWs were dealt with in Britain during and after the war. This data base also provides partial information on the enormous loss of life on the various moments in the Western front as the Allied forces advanced on Germany after D Day in June 1944.

 Hitler Germany’s greatest reach 1942

Besides the dramatic beachfront struggles after the D-Day landings,[1] some of us are familiar with the tales of the “Battle of the Bulge.”[2] My recent Your Tube find also brought up stories about the “Death Factory” occurring at Hürtgen Forest in the Northern Eiffel region of Germany.

Do absorb this summary description capped by Ernest Hemingway’s recollections:  the decision to advance into the thick forest in September 1944 proved to be a fatal mistake. The Americans completely miscalculated North Eifel region’s rugged terrain. They became disoriented in an area the German forces, the Wehrmacht, had crisscrossed with trenches and peppered with anti-personnel mines, making the wood into a veritable fortress. Continual rain and fog, followed by snow and frigid temperatures, turned the battle into a scene of dystopian butchery. Author Ernest Hemingway spent 18 days on the front in the Hürtgen Forest. He wrote later, “It was a place where it was extremely difficult for a man to stay alive even if all he did was be there.”

It is well-known that the death toll on both sides (Russian and German) on the Eastern Front was monumental and loomed even larger. That is, the collapse of Germany in 1944/45 was principally due to the situation on that front, though the efforts of the Allies in the west of Europe were also of consequence.

German infantry in Russia, June 1943

Soviet sniper Roza Shanina in 1944. About 800,000 women served in the Soviet Armed Forces during the war.

When one adds the fighting in Burma, East Asia and the Pacific theatre, the gigantic scale of human slaughter takes one’s horror into the cumulus clouds – even before we add the colossal figures pounded out by the atomic bombs. It is not simply a story of fighting men dying in the fighting. One has to add (A) the instances of rape and murder on civilians inflicted by troops on all sides; (B) the scales of civilian death in Vietnam and China in 1944/45 because the Japanese armies therein were not supplied from home and therefore pursued a programme involved the seizure of crops cultivated by the resident villagers.[3]

I restrain my numerical illustrations to just two fields.

ONE: the Eastern Front warfare between Germany and its Allies on one side and the Russians and their allies on the other

Germans plus =    5.1 million dead ……………….4.5 million captured

Russians plus =    8.7-10 million dead …………… 5.7 million captured

Civilian casualties all told = 18-24 million civilians dead

The stark evidence of guesswork in this data-base highlights the enormity of the carnage and the tale of humankind’s ferocity towards their fellow-beings. Some photographs provide glimpses of just a few scenarios from this ‘stage’. Do they implant lessons in our puny minds?

Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks — film imagery that is said to convey the horrors of war

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END NOTES

[1] A recent evocation of these moments in Saving Private Ryan (Starring Tom Hanks) was presented in evocative realism by that master Film director Steven Spielberg.

[2] This famous struggle resulted from a remarkable German counterattack during the winter of December 1944 which enforced a retreat on the advancing US forces. Wikipedia figures indicate that the Americans suffered some 75,000 casualties whereas the Germans lost 890.000 to 100,000 (see ………… ………………….. https://history.army.mil/html/reference/bulge/index.html

[3] Information conveyed orally by Brian Victoria of Adelaide and Japan – an American who speaks Japanses fluently and has been domiciled in Japan for years.

1 Comment

Filed under accountability, European history, Fascism, historical interpretation, Hitler, human rights, life stories, military expenditure, photography, politIcal discourse, power politics, security, self-reflexivity, the imaginary and the real, trauma, unusual people, vengeance, war crimes, war reportage, world events & processes, World War II

One response to “Colossal Kills on All Fronts in 1944/45, World War II

  1. Chandra Wickramasinghe.

    What a colossal decimation of human lives! A THIRD WW would mean –
    APOCALYPSE!

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