How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?
Since 1945-46, the most commonly quoted figure for the total number of Jews killed has been an estimate of approximately six million. This figure, first given at the Nuremberg Tribunal, has been broadly confirmed by later research.
The Holocaust commemoration center, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, comments:
There is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. The figure commonly used is the six million established by the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946 and repeated later by Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official. Most research confirms that the number of victims was between five and six million. Early calculations range from 5.1 million (Professor Raul Hilberg) to 5.95 million (Jacob Leschinsky). More recent research, by Professor Yisrael Gutman and Dr. Robert Rozett in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, estimates the Jewish losses at 5.59-5.86 million, and a study headed by Dr. Wolfgang Benz presents a range from 5.29-6.2 million. The main sources for these statistics are comparisons of prewar censuses with postwar censuses and population estimates. Nazi documentation containing partial data on various deportations and murders is also used. We estimate that Yad Vashem currently has somewhat more than four million names of victims that are accessible.
Raul Hilberg, in the third edition of his ground-breaking three-volume work, The Destruction of the European Jews, estimates that 5.1 million Jews died during the Holocaust. This figure includes "over 800,000" who died from "Ghettoization and general privation"; 1,400,000 who were killed in "Open-air shootings"; and "up to 2,900,000" who perished in camps. Hilberg estimates the death toll in Poland at "up to 3,000,000". Hilberg's numbers are generally considered to be a conservative estimate, as they typically include only those deaths for which some records are available, avoiding statistical adjustment. British historian Martin Gilbert used a similar approach in his "Atlas of the Holocaust", but arrived at a number of 5.75 million Jewish victims, since he estimated higher numbers of Jews killed in Russia and other locations.
One of the most authoritative German scholars of the Holocaust, Wolfgang Benz of the Technical University of Berlin, cites between 5.3 and 6.2 million Jews killed in Dimension des Völkermords (1991), while Yisrael Gutman and Robert Rozett estimate between 5.59 and 5.86 million Jewish victims in the Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust (1990).
There were about 9.4 million Jews in the territories controlled directly or indirectly by the Nazis. (Some uncertainty arises from the lack of knowledge about how many Jews there were in the Soviet Union). The 6 million killed in the Holocaust thus represent about 64% of these Jews. Of Poland's 3.3 million Jews, over 90 percent were killed. The same proportion were killed in Latvia and Lithuania, but most of Estonia's Jews were evacuated in time. In Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia, over 70 percent were killed. More than 50 percent were killed in Belgium, Hungary and Romania. It is likely that a similar proportion were killed in Belarus and Ukraine, but these figures are less certain. Countries with notably lower proportions of deaths include Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy and Norway. Finally, of the 750,000 Jews in Germany and Austria in 1933, only about a quarter survived. Although many German Jews emigrated before 1939, the majority of these fled to Czechoslovakia, France or the Netherlands, from where they were later deported to their deaths.
The number of people killed at the major extermination camps is estimated as follows:
Auschwitz-Birkenau: 1.4 million; Belzec: 500,000; Chelmno: 152,000; Majdanek: 78,000; Maly Trostinets: 65,000; Sobibór: 250,000; and Treblinka: 870,000.
This gives a total of over 3.3 million; of these, 90% are estimated to have been Jews. These seven camps alone thus accounted for half the total number of Jews killed in the entire Nazi Holocaust. Virtually the entire Jewish population of Poland died in these camps.
In addition to those who died in the above extermination camps, at least half a million Jews died in other camps, including the major concentration camps in Germany. These were not extermination camps, but had large numbers of Jewish prisoners at various times, particularly in the last year of the war as the Nazis withdrew from Poland. About a million people died in these camps, and although the proportion of Jews is not known with certainty, it was estimated to be at least 50 percent. Another 800,000 to 1 million Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied Soviet territories (an approximate figure, since the Einsatzgruppen killings were frequently undocumented). Many more died through execution or of disease and malnutrition in the ghettos of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary before they could be deported.