12 Feb 2003 - 15 Dec 2021
Letters to the Editor
A selected selection
Note: I've removed the names and other identifying information for privacy's sake.
REMINDER: I have two FAQs:
Although many of these letters might seem rather abrupt and critical, that's usually because I've trimmed them down to the one or two sentences that I think might interest you, the casual reader. Most of my messages tell me what a great job I'm doing, but, as nice as it is to hear that (thank you!), I'm guessing that that doesn't interest you all that much. (Actually, most of my e-mail is offering me important new ways to consolidate my debts, enhance my manliness or spy on my neighbors; but right after that comes praise and adulation for my work.)
Also, just because I might post a letter here without comment, it doesn't mean I agree. I just think that you might benefit from seeing a second opinion, right or wrong. Also, I have not gone out of my way to clean up the language, so be warned.
The letters are arranged in the order in which I've composed an answer -- newest to oldest, just scroll down -- or, if you'd prefer, here's a topical index:
- Abortion: 1 2
- American Indians: 1 2 3
- Ataturk: 1 2
- Atomic Bombs: 1
- Bengal Famine: 1
- British: 1
- Bulgaria: 1
- Century, Worst: 1
- Christians: 1 2 3
- Communism 1 2 3 4 5 6
- Civil Rights (racial, US): 1, 2
- Civil War: 1
- Democracy: 1, 2, 3
- Death Tolls: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1011 12 13 14 15
- Disputed Sovereignty: 1, 2, 3
- Dunkirk: 1
- East Timor: 1
- Famines: 1 2 3 4 5
- Finland: 1
- Flags: 1
- Hitler: 1 2 3
- Holocaust: 1
- Hunger: see Famine
- Indonesia: 1 2
- Iraq: 1 2
- Ireland: 1
- Kurds: 1
- Monarchy: 1 2
- Muslims: 1 2
- Iraq: 1
- Netherlands: 1
- Newfoundland: 1
- Overrated/Underrated: 1 2 3 4
- Pakis: 1 2
- Poland: 1 2
- Portugal: 1
- Race: 1 2 3
- Sovereignty: 1, 2, 3
- Stalin: 1 2 3 4
- Starvation: see Famine
- Tangshan Earthquake: 1
- Thailand: 1
- Thuggee: 1
- Tobacco: 1
- Truman, Harry: 1
- Truth and Reconciliation Committees: 1
- civil rights: 1
- atrocities by: 1 2 3 4
- Vocabulary: 1 2 3 4
- Vietnam War: 1
- Warsaw Pact: 1
- World War II: 1 2 3 4 5
3/11/2008 Your data and charts depicting the 30 Worst Atrocities of the 20th Century is incorrect. It doesn't portray the 800,00 civilians dead in Iraq because of the massage genocide committed by foreign policies, bank cartels and the elite. Get your fucking facts straight Pal!
2/28/2008 Mass Murderer tyrants of the twentieth century. Missed key tyrant on your list
[Quoting Wikipedia:] The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks during World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States at the order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman.... The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945...
- Even if the atomic bombings were murder (which is debatable)...
- 220,000 is small change compared to the other people on that list.
- It probably was less than 220,000 anyway. Most unbiased sources estimate around 140,000 killed at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and some estimates go as low as 105,000 for both cities.
"In fields which are considered more ladylike, such as literature,..." Oh, please, please, please, tell me it ain't so! Has the world truly become so deliriously misadrynistic as to suggest that the likes of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Khayam, Milton, Tolstoy & Tagore were all effeminate?
Ladylike: "befitting a woman of good breeding; appropriate for or becoming to a lady."
8/30/2007 "ALL atrocities" I couldn't find a final tally, but...abortions @ 50 million a year from "Roe" is 1.7 billion +.
8/28/2007 I notice you have decided to omit anything that the English are responsible for, like slaughtering thousands of defenceless native aboriginals in Australia, or the refusal to give the Falklands back to Argentina, how about all the deaths caused by the greedy English not wanting to let America become independent??? You must be English because only the English can be as ignorant and arrogant as yourself!
Black Book of Communism
In your very interesting articel "Deaths by Mass Unpleasantness: Estimated Totals for the Entire 20th century" you quote "The Black Book of Communism" for "85-100M" victims. The calculated 100 million is on page 20 in my danish version, but where do you get the 85 million? I hope you can help me on this.
I think that different editions might have different numbers. My own copy of the BBOC says 100 million, but before I bought it, I looked in the Library copy and it said 85-100. Unfortunately, I'm not near that library anymore.
I'm not making it up. If you google "Black Book of Communism" and 85 million you get other people who saw this.
Indians and Stalin
12 June 2007: Darling you are a complete fool. Filled with so much left wing, communist hate that you are blinded. The "annihilation" of the American Indian? There are none left? That's what the word means. Or do you not read that well. But it does sound so good. I suppose Stalin was your hero, he only killed 60,000,000 people for the good cause. Kisses in all the right places
I know what annihilation means. That's why I used the word. I live in a land that used to be inhabited by Indians, but when I look around, there are no Indians. None. Even in countries where the native gene stock has survived, their descendants have adopted Western languages and religions.
Also -- well, someone has to say it -- Stalin didn't kill 60 million people. He just didn't. The only informed and reasonable person who has ever accused Stalin of killing 60 million was Solzhenitsyn, who was certainly a valuable eyewitness to everyday oppression, but he made his guess long before we had access to the Soviet archives. You can call me names if you'd like, but every other scholar in history (including Conquest, Medvedev, Davies, Antonov-Ovseyenko, Dyadkin, Werth, Courtois, Rummel -- anti-Communists all) who has investigated Stalin has come up with lower numbers.
Hitler and Democracy
8 June 2007:
Hi, One of your correspondents takes issue with you for suggesting that the Nazi PArty achieved power in Germany in 1933 by more or less democratic means. He cites the fact that the Nazi Party only got 43.9% of the vote in 1933.
In this context, it's perhaps worth comparing the UK experience. Between February 1974 and May 2005, there were nine General Elections in the UK (our equivalent of the US Presidential Elections). In only one of these did the winning party poll 43.9% of the votes cast (this was the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher in 1979). In every other election, the winning party polled less than 43.9% of the votes cast. The population of the UK today is nearly 61 million. The population of Germany in 1933 was 66 million. Therefore, you could argue that 43.9% of a slightly larger electorate provided the Nazi Party in 1933 with a more democratic basis for assuming power than almost all the British Giovernments since 1974!
Holocaust? What holocaust?
25 May 2007: Subject: Ilya Ehrenburg is The one Who Invented the 'Six Million' figure based on the Babylonian Kabbala
FW: The Man Who Invented the 'SIX MILLION': Ilya Grigoryevich Ehrenburg, January 27, 1891 — August 31, 1967
He was a prolific writer, celebrated author of various novels and other works of fiction. He was the top Soviet propagandist during the Second World War. He was a notorious liar and a pathological monster. He was a Jew.... In one leaflet entitled "Kill," Ehrenburg incited the simple Russian soldier to treat the Germans as subhuman. The final paragraph concludes: "The Germans are not human beings.... If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day ... If you cannot kill a German with a bullet, then kill him with your bayonet...." The crowning achievement of Ehrenburg's career came on December 22, 1944, when this hate-crazed fiend became the first person to mention the kabbalistic figure of Six Million alleged Jewish victims of National Socialism, and then proceeded to introduce that figure into Soviet propaganda. After the war he joined with co-racial and fellow propagandist Vasily (Iosif Solomonovich) Grossman to produce a fictitious "Black Book" and lay the foundation for what has come to be known as "The Holocaust."....
*sigh* The first problem with this is that no one claims that "six million" Jews died in the Holocaust. Different researchers have come up with various estimates by studying captured German records and pre-war population figures, etc. Gerald Reitlinger estimated that between 4,194,200 and 4,851,200 Jews were killed. Gutman's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust estmated 5,596,029 to 5,860,129. The Nuremberg indictment estimated 5,700,000. After scholars had published a variety of well researched estimates, popular writers rounded those estimates to "six million".
The second problem, is gosh, you mean that a country at war encouraged its troops to kill the enemy without hesitation?
Third, well, just Google Ilya Ehrenburg and get a second opinion.
9 May 2007: Calculations of your estimate of Thuggee make one false assumption that these gangsters were operating for 600 years. These outlaws started operating in ernest the twilight of the Mughal power and the Maratha power. Both of them were weakened in the late 18th century leading to serious deterioration in the law and order maintenanceduring these years. Mughal power declined badly around 1760 and Marathas lost much of their power in 1799 to British. So thugs flourished most during the late 18th and early 19th century in the power vacuum, until British took action in 1830s. Here is what a respected historian of India has to say.
From: British Paramountsy and Indian Renaissance; History and Culture of Indian People, vol. IX, Edited by R.C. Majumdar:
Under Thugs and Dacoits p. 381
"It is difficult to fix any date when this kind of crime originated or first attained general notoriety. Isolated instances of this may be traced to the thirteenth century A.D. But thugs were a great terror almost all over India early in the ninteenth century. It was well-known to both the people and to the government that hundreds, if not thousands, among those who left for journey abroad never returned to their home and left no trace of their fate. The nature of thugs' activities was also no longer a a secret or mystery. But it was not till the thirties that the British government took any serious steps to suppress this foul crime....
I hope you will make proper corrections to your web site in order to retain its credibility.
There's no point in threatening my credibility because you know damn well I don't have any.
My guess is, admittedly, a wild guess, but until someone publishes a contrary estimate, I'm keeping it -- if only to provoke all the innumerate historians out there into making guesses of their own. Anyway, your source agrees with me that Thuggee can be traced back to the 13th Century. "Isolated incidents" are still incidents. They may appear isolated only because we have so few records from that period.
I probably need to clarify my rules. Unless I misquote or misinterpret my source, I don't make "corrections" to my statistics. I don't consider any single number more or less correct than any other number. I won't remove a statistic; the most I will do is dilute it with a contradictory statistic. Complaining about a statistic doesn't work. You have to offer me a published statistic that contradicts it.
My reason is simple. I want to force historians to think numerically. See the FAQ: Do Numbers Matter?
20 April 2007: just one point on your tobacco and the Indians comment. The tobacco they smoked was not laden with pesticides and manipulated as an addictive cancer stick like the end product that Phillip Morris et al put on the market. please.
12 Jan. 2007: I have one question:I came across another web site that disputes that the 20th century was the bloodiest.In fact they say that the seventeenth century saw more die in combat.And they use the correlates of war founders to back their assertions up.Is there any truth to this???I suspect that even if there is some truth to it,It is also construed to their side of the arguement.
I'd have to see the web site to be sure. The 17th C might be worst as a percentage of the population, but it probably wasn't worst in absolute numbers. The 2 worst wars of the 20th C were WW1 + WW2 (15 million and 55 million killed). In the 17th C you had the 30 Years War and the Manchu conquest (7M and 25M).
I'd doubt there were more deaths "in combat" because technological changes have tended to affect soldiers more than civilians. Soldier deaths went from 350,000 in the 30 Years War to 20 million in WW2, 60 times as many. Civilians deaths (disease, hunger, massacre) went from 7M to 35M, 5 times as many.
Pakis, round 2
20 Feb. 2006:
One small point: in one of your letters to the editor, on the 11th Jan 2006, you dismiss the complaint about the term "Pakis". I think this might be example of "two nations divided by a common language". In the UK, coming from a whitey, this is about the equivalent of "nigger". Racially motivated violence in the UK is sometimes called "Paki bashing" by the perpetrators. I've seen "Paks" used as an abbreviation by Indian newspapers. Perhaps this constitutes an acceptable abbreviation although, given the source, worth checking!
This is one of those Serb-Croat things, isn't it?
It's a dilemma. On the one hand, you've asked nicely, but on the other hand, British politics is none of my business. Back when I started this atlas, I kept getting messages from Greeks who were upset that I referred to one of their neighboring countries as Macedonia. They insisted I call it FYROM. I never really understood what their problem was -- something about Alexander the Great and the Huns. Whatever. I guess they worked it out because I don't get complaints anymore. The thing is, there are hundreds of little conflicts all over the world, and I can't get dragged into every single one of them. So my rule is pretty simple. I write solely for Americans and solely as an American. Since this is Internet, the rest of the world eavesdrops, but still, my target audience is Americans. Non-Americans should proceed at their own risk. I stay out of the internal politics of other countries, and I don't take sides in ethnic conflicts.
Christian vs. Muslim, round 2
9 Feb. 2006: I'm curious to know, what group of people killed the most between Muslims and non-Muslim countries/regimes? My poor sources (CNN, FOX NEWS, etc) lead me to believe Muslim countries, but after reviewing your site, I think I might be wrong.
Hard to say (How's that for vague?) Here's my quick guess.
I'm looking at my list of 21 worst things ever, and the Muslims did two of them completely (Timur and the Mideast slave trade) and contributed to at least four of them (World War 1, Thuggee, Atlantic slave trade, Time of Troubles) so that's (2+(4/2))/21 or 19%. According to Adherents.com the world is 21% Muslim so they're probably no better or worse than everyone else. -- MW
Subject: Civil War figure
is actually closer too 900,000
Thank you for your e-mail with no source cited and only a first name as a sender. I'll change it right away. Which civil war are you talking about?
11 Jan. 2006: On your "war between democracies" page you use the word "Pakis" to describe the people of Pakistan. Either this is a deliberate racial slur on your part or you are unaware that the correct term is "Pakistani" for a person from Pakistan or some rephrasing of the aforementioned word to form the plural (ie Pakistani - singular, and a group of Pakistani people). I suggest you correct this as soon as is possible.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.
11 Nov. 2005: Who are you mr.? How can you define Ataturk as an evil dictator ? How many people he killed, can you say? I hope you know he was a great commander and defended his country.
28 Oct. 2005: Would the assertion that more people died in Vietnam after the American pullout than in the war itself be correct, based on your researcH?
Probably not. About 1.7M died in Vietnam during the American War. Maybe 0.2M died in the 2 years of war after the Americans left. Then there's ca. 0.4M Vietnamese who died after the War in purges or fleeing. -MW
29 Oct. 2005: So, the American pullout didn't cause a huge number of deaths at all, and theoretically might have led to less deaths?
Well, "cause" is debatable, and "huge" is relative, but yeah, maybe. While the Americans were in it, 200,000 people were dying each year. After we left, it went down to around 100,000 per year through the rest of the 1970s. Obviously, winning the war instead of losing would have caused fewer deaths. Abandoning the war a lot earlier would also have caused fewer deaths. Continuing to fight and still losing would have caused more deaths unnecessarily. Who are you arguing with?
30 Oct. 2005: I'm trying to liken Vietnam to Iraq. Mind you, I wasn't too supportive of the intial war, but I'm trying to argue against those people who favor an immediate pullout before any semblance of stability or at least a replacement force is in place yet.
Wait, I forgot to ask you if this is all of Indochina, total, after the U.S. pullout.
That's different. To the Vietnam numbers add these for Cambodia: 0.6M killed in the war. 1.7M killed after the war. Unfortunately Cambodia might be a better analogy to Iraq. There wasn't much of a war in Cambodia until we invaded, and even though we sort of intervened on the side of the government, our escalation did them more harm than good. The war undermined the government and they fell to the Khmer Rouge. Then the massacres began. This is different from Vietnam where there was already a major civil war going on when we intervened so our involvement probably didn't do much more than delay the inevitable for seven years.
23 Oct. 2005: I like your map on the evolution of communism. I was wondering, however, why it did not show Chile as one of the countries that fell to Communism in the early 70s. I had thought that that was what the U.S.-supported coup was all about.
I considered it, but Chile was never restructured as a communist country.
3 Oct. 2005: How many Roman Catholic Poles died in WWII?
A very simple question with a very complex answer. About 5 or 6 million Poles died in WW2, about 3 million of them Jewish. Most of the remaining 2 or 3 million were nominally Catholic, but included Protestants and Communists as well.
It seems simple, but the political implications are complex. I've seen these numbers get twisted to prove that almost as many Polish Catholics as Polish Jews died, so what's the big deal about the Holocaust?
The big deal is this: The standard Jewish experience in occupied Poland was that they were segregated from the main population, isolated into ghettos, then shipped off to death camps, where they were gassed. At each stage, random massacre, overwork, and hunger thinned the population so that only about half made the full trip to the gas chambers. In any case, they were specifically targetted as Jews, and there's was no escape.
The standard gentile civilian experience was being brutally oppressed in a war zone. A half million died in the crossfire as the war rolled over top of them. Many starved as the Germans requisitioned food, transport and supplies, or drove them off their land to make room for German settlers. Many were executed in an attempt by Germans to crush resistence, either in retaliation, or (in the case of intellectuals) preemptively. But for the most part, non-Jewish Poles died because they were in the way or a specific threat, not for being Catholic or Polish.
Christian vs. Muslim
26 May 2005: I was wondering if you have the figures on which religion has been responsible for more deaths in the last 2000 years, Christians or Muslims?
I have no numbers. My guess would be Christians, just because there are more of them and they've been around longer.
19th Century Democracy
31 Dec. 2004: I was wondering if you had any information about the democratic situation in the 19th century, particularly 1800 and 1850. If you could send me any information or places I might want to look, I would be immensley grateful.
15 May 2005: there is a big mass-murder forgoten in your lists: abortion
it's now 50 million killed a year, let's take 25 as a mean throughout the century, that makes 2.500.000.000 killed for the complete century.
You may think that there weren't real people being killed, but then again, neither the nazis thought the jews were humans, nor Apartheid with blacks, nor communists with capitalists.
If you don't think so maybe a sidenote would be enough, maybe then when the "moral standard" increase in the future they will have the numbers to judge us.
I get this question a lot. Over the seven years I've maintained this site, I've tested a number of different answers. Here are some:
- I follow conventional definitions of human rights. When the current President of the US -- who claims to be opposed to abortion -- lists evil countries, he includes Iran, where abortion is prohibited. But if abortion is evil, wouldn't that make Iran less evil than, say, Great Britain? After all, by that definition, Britain is murdering tens of thousands of people each year, while Iran isn't, so why is Britain our buddy, while Iran is one pole on the Axis of Evil? In fact, if abortion is murder, then your average Western country (where abortion is legal) has committed more state-approved murders than did Saddam Hussein (who prohibited abortion), so why did we invade Iraq and not Canada? [Canada has oil too.]
- I follow the Golden Rule and only count things that I, personally, hope never happen to me. I would not like to be executed, starved, blown apart or shot --- but aborted? It can't be done to me.
- I never count the unborn. Period. If you check the calculated demographic impact of, for example, the Great Leap Forward [see Becker], the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia [see Wüscht], or the Russian Civil War [see Figes], you'll see that most major population upheavals show both increased mortality and reduced births; however, the size of an atrocity is always calculated by the deaths of breathing, named, motile individuals alone. The fact that millions of potential Chinese, Yugoslavs or Russians failed to be born during these periods doesn't count as deaths, regardless of whether these missing births were caused by abortion, miscarriage, deliberate contraception, reduced fertility or the separation of husbands and wives.
- I do calculate abortions. Check the index between 9/11 and Abyssinia.
- It doesn't matter what Nazis, White Supremacists or Communists would consider human. It only matters what I consider human.
1 April 2005: Dear Michael, You forgot to mention George Bush (Senior & Junior) & Tony Blair on your list of Tyrants and unneccesary killing site. The deaths that they have caused are unjust as well.
And a happy April Fool's Day to you too!
As much fun as it is to pick on Bush, Bush and Blair, they're not 20th Century. And even if we blame them for the most outrageously high death toll that we can possibly pin on them, AND blame it ENTIRELY on each of them alone, it just barely passes the minimum necessary for inclusion on the list. Jees, the whole point of my statistical tables is to give you a sense of perspective. For example, the likeliest death toll of the two year conquest and occupation of Iraq is about the same as a few days at Babi Yar. As Jon Stewart said the other night (and I've been waiting for an excuse to use this): "The Nazis worked very hard to be evil, and to just throw that label on every Tom, Dick and Harry that walks along - that is an insult to the Third Reich, to say nothing of the First and Second Reichs, or other Reichs that may follow."
--Michael (Oh, damn! Now you have me doing it!)
22 Feb. 2005:
On your list of 20 horrible things humans have done to one another in the 20th century, you overlook the Holocaust, at least 11 million killed.
That's because the Holocaust never happened. It's a Zionist myth.
I kid, of course. If you look at the top of that list you'll see something called World War 2, of which the Holocaust was part.
19 March 2005: I came across your site while searching for current info on Darfur and the Congo. In reading through the page http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat2.htm I didn't see a specific reference to Indonesia. I would like to provide a reference to you for 500,000 deaths in about 1965. That page only includes death tolls over 600,000. Indonesia '65 is on page warstat3.htm
Truth and Reconciliation Committees
3 March 2005: Wondering if you can help me. I want to research the topic of states themselves conducting investigation into civilian deaths after an armed conflict. Could you direct me to some good sources?
Hmmm. I don't know exactly. Maybe someplace like this:
28 Jan. 2005: The information about death toll on the page [war-2000] about kurds are wrong. As you may well know that there is a terrorist organization "PKK", which is widely accepted by many countries including US, European countries, Russian Federation etc. There is no number such as 3 million but few thousand terrorist. On the other hand, almost 30.000 innocent citizens were massacred by the terrorist organization in order to voice their demands. I think you have gotten wrong information from somewhere. Otherwise, people may be suspicious about the information you are providing on your page.
19 Jan. 2005: What I'd like to see is the background starvation-related death rate plotted against your master year-by-year hemoclysm diagram of warfare. Starvation is one of the most hideous examples of man's inhumanity, indifference and/or deliberate brutality to man -- so I think it really does belong on the same chart (if only to put direct vs indirect forms of inhumanity in proper perspective).
Shocking factoid: In the past few years, about 25,000 people have died from hunger-related causes every day (about 9 mil / year). Thus: The 8 years of WW II claimed 55 M; the same number starve every 6.1 years.
US: Civil Rights and Democracy
17 Dec. 2004: I would suggest that you define the United States as a limited democracy until the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Until then, most southern blacks either couldn't vote, or were successfully intimidated into not voting. If you can define the US as limited until 1920, until when there was not a federal law restricting women's suffrage (so far as I know), then surely you would be justified to add the next 44 years.
I considered it, but I have to draw the line somewhere. No democracy is perfect, and most countries disenfranchise a few percentages here and there for one reason or another -- immigrants, DC, felons, teenagers, overseas dependencies, etc. Women make up 50% of most populations, while, in 1930, southern blacks were 9.4M out of a national population of 122.8M. That's 7.6%. Only eleven of the (then) forty-eight states imposed a poll tax or literacy test to keep blacks from voting. To put it more positively, over 90% of adult Americans had full civil rights, and over 75% of the states had no significant impediments to voting.
Bacque and the German POWs
6 June 2003:
On your site, you say that you don't believe James Bacque's accusation that the United States killed over a million German prisoners of war after the end of WW2. Last summer I read three books on the subject -- Bacque's Other Losses, Ambrose et al's response Eisenhower And The German POW's, and Bacque's retort Crimes And Mercies. Despite having read those books, I still have no idea how many people were killed by the Americans. Being vaguely patriotic (at least when it comes to WW2) I'd like to believe it was closer to 56,000 than 1,000,000, but I have no idea.
What is your rationale for dismissing Bacque's claims? Have you considered Bacque's evidence from the USSR's files, which leaves room for 1,000,000 missing POW's that (according to the files) weren't killed by the Soviets?
If you have a lot of time, what about the supposed 9,000,000 German civilians starved by the Allied occupation from 1945-1950? I want to believe Bacque is an idiot but I'm not sure.
It actually sounds like you've read more on the subject than I have. Because the only online refutation of Bacque is Stephen Ambrose's short essay, I've considered researching the subject more deeply and putting together my analysis of it, but I'm still a long way from being able to do that. If I were to debate Bacque tomorrow at the Civic Center, he'd wipe the floor with me. All I can say is that the quality of proof that I've encountered for Other Losses is considerably less that the proof I've seen for other alleged atrocities.
Bacque's principle line of evidence shows that a million POWs disappeared from the Allied records after the war. He calls it an atrocity. I call it sloppy bookkeeping.
For me, the unanswered question is "where are the bodies?" One million dead POWs is 75,000 tons of human tissue and bone. What happened to all of it? For comparison, when I open The Unquiet Ghost, a study of Stalinism by Adam Hochschild, I find a description of the excavation of a mass grave at Kolpashevo. Norman Davies describes a mass grave at Vorkuta. Solzhenitsin gives us a first-hand account inside the Stalinist prison system. This is the kind of strong proof that is missing from
Another question is where are the widows and orphans? Why has no one raised a fuss until now? I find it hard to believe that a million POWs could starve after hostilities had ended, and not one of them had a family member who tried to discover how this happened. Compare that with Argentina, where some 20 or 30 thousand prisoners disappeared in the 1970s, and their mothers still camp out in protest in the public square.
6 June 2003: I had a question -- in http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/ww2stats.htm, why are the 1.5-3 million deaths resulting from the 1943 Bengal famine listed as World War II casualties?
(I'm not a historian or academic, just curious.)
The famine did not have anything to do with World War II, as far as I know -- am I missing something here?
As far as I knew, the famine deaths could not be properly described as civilian deaths due to wartime activity. In this context this article in Google's cache may be useful: http://shorterlink.com/?Y6GJ2O.
The shortages were largely caused by the economic disruptions of the war. From Keay: India: A History "Rice imports from Burma had ceased with that country's occupation by the Japanese; domestic food-grains were in great demand for the military build-up in eastern India; and hoarding had resulted. Additionally, rail freight was being commandeered by the armed forces while Bengal's riverine shipping had been largely requisitioned for fear of its use by Japanese infiltrators. Yet the shortfall in food-grains was not great, and with foresight, rationing, better distribution and vigorous action against black-market hoarding, it should never have come to famine."
7 Jan. 2003: I just bookmarked your page. You have got a gory subject, but have done good work. Anyhow, you should include in your nineteenth century atrocites an entry for the famine in Ireland. As people starved by the 100Ks, the English were exporting food back home. That was deliberate starvation, just like the Colonial El Nino Famines you have documented.
My first instinct is to resist classifying peacetime famines as full atrocities. Someday, I'll write a FAQ on this, but for now, all I can say is I have to draw the line somewhere.
Atrocities generally run as a spectrum. At one end, you have massive violent killings -- like the trench warfare in WW1 -- and at the other end, you have excess statistical deaths caused by reduced standards of living -- like higher infant mortality in poor districts. Atrocitologists generally draw the line based on the degree of violence that created and maintained the deadly situation. For example:
- Famines and epidemics during war? Yes.
- Famines based on direct oppression, where the food is actually taken at gunpoint, or the peasants are driven off the land? Probably.
- Famines based on economic policy where the food is simply not produced, not distibuted, replaced by inedible cash crops, or sold to highest bidder? Maybe.
- Epidemics of preventable diseases caused by poor nutrition? No.
Most peacetime famines such as the Great Leap Forward, the 19th C El Nino Famines, the Irish Famine, and the Iraqi Sanctions fall between Situations #2 and #3, closer to #3, which ranks them as maybe probably and probably maybe.
But you're right. I should at least mention the Irish Famine. I'll get to it directly. --MW
Hitler Comes to Power
19 May 2003: I do have to differ with you constructively on a couple of points. First of all, you say in your FAQ that "Hitler was constitutionally chosen to be the Chancellor of Germany, a democratic nation." This is not quite right. By 1932, when the Nazis became the largest party in the Reichstag, Germany was not a royal-blue "full democracy." Under Hindenburg and Von Papen, Germany was at best a cyan partial democracy in which democratic left-wing movements were suppressed and right-wing thugs were allowed to terrorize their opposition. Perhaps the best demonstration of the undemocratic nature of 1932 Germany was Von Papen's overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Prussia. Indeed, one can question how democratic the Weimar Republic ever was (especially after Hindenburg's election), since the judiciary, the civil service, the army and of course the business elite were never that supportive of liberal democracy. (For more on this subject, see The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy by Hans Mommsen).
Sidebar: In January 1933, of course, Hitler became chancellor and unleashed a wave of terror on political opponents. Theoretically, the Weimar Constitution, which was supposed to prevent this kind of thing, was still in effect, so already we have a good deal of subversion of constitutional principle. Even after two months of Nazi rule, the party won only 43.9 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. The party's partners, the Nationalists, won 8 percent of the vote, and other right-wing parties won 5.5 percent. The only way for the Nazis to get a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag to abrogate the constitution and carry the veneer of legitimacy was to get the German Center Party on its side. This party was confessional, that is, it was controlled by the Vatican. The Vatican agreed to back the infamous Enabling Act in exchange for the privileges later confirmed in the Reich Concordat. (I figure you're well-versed in the events of 1933, but I just thought they bear mention considering all of the debate over the role of the Church in the Nazi era.)
I don't want to give the impression that I'm exempting the German population from any guilt for the Nazi era crimes, since most Germans eventually supported Hitler. However, they did not do so until after the Weimar Constitution had long been thrown aside.
Confusing Red, White and Blue tricolors.
Or maybe I just misplaced Yugoslavia. Thanks for the correction. -- MW
5 March 2003:
In your section on underrated events, you say that Hitler was worse than Stalin because "Stalin was maxxed out, but Hitler was just getting started. Left unchecked, Hitler would have gotten even worse.)" However, I just read an article which indicated that at the time of his death, Stalin was far from finished.
As Michael Wines wrote in his New York Times article (New Study Supports Idea Stalin Was Poisoned, NYT 3/5/03), at the time of his death Stalin was planning the killing or incarceration of millions of Soviet Jews. [snip]
"[T]he Kremlin ordered the construction of four giant prison camps in Kazakhstan, Siberia and the Arctic north, apparently in preparation for a second great terror — this time directed at the millions of Soviet citizens of Jewish descent.
"But the terror never unfolded. On March 1, 1953, two weeks after the camps were ordered built and two weeks before the accused doctors were to go on trial, Stalin collapsed at Blizhnaya, a north Moscow dacha, after the all- night dinner with his four Politburo comrades." Does this indicate that if it weren't for his death, Stalin, like Hitler, would have continued his killings? I don't know how accurate this information is, but I was reminded of your article when I read it, so I wanted to bring it to your attention.
You know, as soon as I wrote that, I was sure that someday I would be taking it back. I guess what I was trying to say is that Hitler would have kept conquering until actively stopped, while Stalin was more opportunistic and only grabbed new lands when someone else offered.
On the other hand, if Stalin really was poisoned, it may prove my point. If he had gotten so dangerous that even his own inner circle realized that they had to get rid of him, that might count as "maxxed out", right? -MW
Atrocities -- USA
5 May 2003: I am a bit troubled about a web page I found called "30 Worst Atrocities of the 20th Century http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/atrox.htm" that appears as copyrighted to you.
The reason is that significant massacres don't appear on that page, specially those done or supported by what I understand is your country, USA, which is the top agressor in our times. Obviously, one of most important in these weeks is the USA-UK agression against Irak 1991-2003 (Gulf War 1991, embargo, Irak War 2003), that have a estimated casualties of 1.500.000, most of them small children.
Some other data about USA supported wars (Vietnam, Iran-Iraq) seems to be underestimated compared with the sources I use. Other wars, guerrillas financement and support of state terrorism in many parts of the World should also be considered (Latin America, Africa, Middle East, Asia), as if some of them are treated as a unique conflict (as many historicians agree), then the total casualties will be also very high (for instance, fascist dictatorships in Latin America during seventies). I am interested in what criteria do you use for including a massacre in your 'top list'.
It's a lot easier for me to make changes if you give me details about where and why I'm wrong. Until then, however, I decided to link to an estimate of American-caused deaths. I figure I point to enough right wing rants; maybe I should balance it with a few more links to left wing rants. -- MW
26 Apr. 2003:
Your WW2 Alliances map show Thailand as an Axis power after 1941 - I can't seem to find this verified anywhere else. Can you tell me where you found this out?
According to Palmowski's Dictionary of 20th Century History, Thailand declared war on the US and UK in 1942. -MW
2 Apr. 2003: In all of your work or in the work of others isn't there a simple table comparing the total Military, Civilian and Total deaths by conflict?
Maybe someday. I hesitate to break death tolls down into their constituent parts because it implies that some killings are more acceptible than others.
31 March. 2003: What I would like to see is statics that couples the numbers of deaths involved to the percentage of the various populution involved as a whole at the times of the large scale deaths that you've chronicled. That would lend a clearer perspective on the actual impact of events on particular communties and nations.
20th Century Mortality
3 March 2003: In the table of deaths by decade in the 20th Century, you list the 1940s as having the fewest deaths of the century: viz., 318 million, or 7.7 percent, the lowest amount of all the decades, in spite of the World War II occurrence. Am I reading the table correctly?
Sorry for the confusion. I was trying only to get a final estimate of the total number of deaths in the 20th Century. I made rough estimates for each decade based on ordinary, peacetime mortality rates. WW2 isn't included in the death rate of the 1940s, nor is it specifically excluded. It's just sort of swallowed up in the margin of error.
I've added a more detailed explanation of my methods on that page. -MW
USSR & Axis
8 Apr. 2003: just a quick question regarding your WWII map--why do you have the Soviet Union as a member of the Axis nations in 1941 but then a member of the Allies in 1943? I can guess why you have it as an aggressor nation in 1940, but the 1941 map confuses me.
At the beginning of 1941, the Allies (a group that pretty much had been whittled down to just the British by that time) calculated the USSR as a strategic ally of the Germans. The two of them had cooperated in the partitioning of eastern Europe, after all. It wasn't until Operation Barbarossa that the Soviets were pushed into the Allied camp. Churchill (as always) said it best concerning his new ally: "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." -MW
19 Feb. 2003: How did you come to the conclusion of using the term 'non-white' to classify all people of color / ethnic folks?? the fact that our identity is only validated in relation to the White / Caucassian race is just another manifestation of White Supremacy; that being said, I really liked your website and simply wanted to point out that I am only hoping to encourage your own awareness process.
I could only find one page where I used "non-white", and I was simply repeating the term used by my Census Dept. sources.
Death Tolls: East Timor
3 Jan. 2003: Jeeves pointed me towards your website and I found it a most interesting and informative read, and a very valuable resource. I feel there is however one glaring omission from your catalogue of 20th century atrocities. It's remarkable that such a thing could happen in almost complete secrecy in such recent times, but the facts are indisputable. At least 200,000 people out of a population of less than 700,000 died under the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.... [numbers and background snipped] .... Perhaps you made a decision before you started that countries with a population of under a million 'didn't count'. There is some logic to this approach, as a war between two sparsely populated pacific islands that claimed a few thousand lives for instance might proportionately have been a greater atrocity than World War 2. If this was your approach, I at least think that East Timor deserves a special mention amongst those that didn't qualify. If you decided to include the figures for East Timor with the vast population of Indonesia this would be quite incorrect. East Timor has never been a part of Indonesia. That's not just my opinion (as if you hadn't guessed I was a supporter of the East Timorese Independence movement). The United Nations (the 'Umpire' on these issues) never recognised Indonesian's annexation. Only Canada and Australia recognised East Timor as a 'de facto' part of Indonesia, whilst acknowledging that a legal union had not taken place. (Quite ironic given Australia's current standing in Indonesia). I acknowledge that the two skulls on your map of 1975-1999 signify 200,000 deaths in East Timor. However, it appears nowhere in the 'charts' as it were for greatest proportionate atrocities, when it should be one of the most prominent.
East Timor wasn't a country when I drew the chart ("© 1998"), so I calculated the proportion killed as a fraction of the parent country's population just as I would with any other seccessionist region such as Chechnya, Tibet, Biafra and Bougainville.
Now that East Timor is a real country, I'll probably tally it separately if I redraw the chart. -MW
31 Dec. 2002: I had one comment or perhaps a question: in several places you compare a death count, often achieved over a period of years, to a point-in-time population number, as in the following excerpt: "...whether it's fifteen or fifty million, it's still a huge number of killings -- but keep in mind that the population of the Soviet Union was 164 million in 1937, so the upper estimates accuse Stalin of killing nearly 1 out of every 3 of his people..."
But to kill 1 out of 3 people would he not have had to kill 50MM in 1937 alone for this statement to be accurate. Comparing apples to appples, it seems to me that from 1924 - 1953 the actual population of the USSR would be the total of all the people who had been alive during that thirty year period and this is the number to which the 50MM death count must be compared.
A back of the envelope calculation (assuming a 60 year life span, and a stable population) would put the population at 3x the 164MM you use here, or around 480MM. And thus the 50MM would result in killing 1 in 10 over the entire period.
Perhaps I have missed something here and my logic is faulty. In any case, you do such an excellent job of questioning statistics, I thought I should question yours -- with great respect.
Good job. That's a valid objection. I was merely trying to give a rough sense of perspective.
Another rough calculation might be to assume a stable population, with 20 births per 1000 and 20 deaths per 1000 per year. This means that our 1937 population of 164M would have already seen 46M deaths during the years 1924-37, and would later see 52M births in the years 1938-53. This would yield a total of 262M living under Stalin at some point, which would mean that 50M murders would be 1 out of 5 -- still rather Polpotian. Of course, both of us are making too many assumptions here, such as a stable population during World War 2, long life expectancies during famines, stable birth rates with every men in the army. The sources I've cited have examined this in much more depth than either of us have room for here. - MW
Death Tolls: Finland
21 Nov. 2002: Hello, In comparing your casualty numbers list with other sources of data, I happened to find one set of numbers that appear to be off, namely the Russo-Finnish war. The numbers I've seen are:
USSR: 230,000 - 270,000 killed, 200,000-300,000 wounded
Finland: 48,745 killed, 159,000 wounded
This includes non-combat military casualties. A lot of the russian casualties were non-combat because of the harsh winter conditions. This comes from two primary sources which I haven't personally checked:
William R. Trotter. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940. Algonquin Books, 1991
Engle Paananen, Eloise Paananen. The Winter War : The Russo-Finnish Conflict. Westview Press, 1985
On a different topic: Rummel's numbers are very hard to credit, based on my own first-hand experience. I grew up in Bulgaria, a mere two decades after the democides (show trials, labor camps) occured. I do not believe there is any way the number of people killed could be as high as Rommel claims, namely 1 person in 40 (or 200,000 killed out of 8 million, the population at the time). Out of all the people I have ever talked to (a few hundred), not one did in fact have a relative or acquaintance who was killed by the communist government. Certainly, many did know people who were harassed or imprisoned, and I have actually talked with a few people who were imprisoned (it was a not-infrequent topic for discussion). Based on that, I would consider likely a number in the 20,000 to 30,000 range, but 200,000?! Are Rummel's numbers always that far off?
Underrated: Tangshan Earthquake
13 Nov. 2002: Matthew, First, excellent website. Second, I saw this today at HistoryChannel.Com, suggesting 500K died in a cyclone in Pakistan this day in 1970. That would make it the worst day, not the earthquake in China. http://www.historychannel.com/tdih/index.html
Death Tolls: USSR
9 Nov. 2002: I read with interest your numbers and scources for 20th Century death tolls as this is an interest of mine. I personally believe that ALL death tolls are EXAGGERATED except for military numbers which are better accounted for. All your scources for Soviet death tolls are virulent anti-communists who multiply and make up communist "massacres" and "famines". For a more balanced point of view I suggest Robert Thurston's Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia. The "Holocaust" numbers also are highly exaggerated. Numbers for China and the USSR are simply unknowable but probably much lower than is thought. Two phenomena operate when historians estimate death tolls: they have a vested interest in making the particular event about which they write important by exaggerating casualties and eye-witness accounts used in research invariably multiply actual victims exponentially. In examples such as the World Trade Center disaster we can see how real life works: at first eyewitnesses and our TVs told us 20,000 probably died- then the more realistic number of around 6,000 was the official toll for quite a while- and finally the true number of about 2,900 was finally worked out. In a war zone or from a massacre witness the first number is the one that sticks, so it is invariably high. If you read a book by a Western author about Communist China or the USSR I think that the old "divide by ten" rule used by medieval scholars can be safely used for a realistic number. Famines simply can't be included and are especially tricky to estimate. So in real life maybe 3 million people were killed by Stalin (we know that 700,000 were shot during the so-called Great Terror at the height of Stalinist killing- that's it!)and maybe 3-4 million were killed by the state in Communist China. I defy anyone to PROVE otherwise. Using the same techniques that anti-communist historiographers use I think it would be easy to document 200 MILLION victims of capitalism, especially if you include famines. As far as the "Holocaust"- the numbers are slowly dwindling even in "official" history books so that 4 million victims seems more realistic than that eternal chestnut 6 million and that too could be dwindling as the demographics of pre and post-war Europe are sorted out. Anyway- I was intrigued by your site
Just a reminder, I don't necessarily agree with this. I would suggest that the reader check my sources.
2 Oct. 2002: Manchukuo is classified as 'No Self-Government' on your maps despite being a puppet state rather than an outright colony. Given this, why aren't the Soviet puppet states in Central Europe similarly classified?
The easiest explanation is that I've usually followed contemporary diplomatic standards. Most nations sent ambassadors to Poland, but not to Manchukuo.
Also, I considered it more important to show that these countries were part of the Communist world, rather than part of the colonial world. In 1957, the average citizen of Czechoslovakia (Soviet puppet) had more in common politically with a Yugoslav (sovereign Communist) than with a Kenyan (UK puppet).
Why is North Eastern Canada (Newfoundland) shaded gray, indicating it as an "allied occupied territory"
In 1934, unable to support itself financially in the face of the Great Depression, Newfoundland gave up its independence and was governed from London. In 1948, it joined Canada. It's a close call, but I figure this makes it more of an occupied territory than a sovereign ally. -MW
20 Oct. 2002: I quite diagree about Dunkirk. OF COURSE, it wasn't a British victory by any definition of the word, and OF COURSE it was a result of Hitler's incompetence. But considering how close Britain actually was to start peace negotiations with Germany in 1940, the smashing of the army in Dunkirk might very well have tipped the scales. That, and make an invasion of the U.K. possible. If you want overrated, what about the Battle of Britain? Lots of air attrition, but the casualties combined don't even come close to Dresden (IIRC), and by this time, a German naval invasion of England would be impossible regardless of the outcome - the capacity simply wasn't there. Or the Battle of the Bulge - tremendously overrepresented in American media, even though it was just a footnote in a war that was long since decided.
I told you that you'd disagree with me. -MW
18 Oct. 2002: [LACUNA] that you may wish to use in your statistical compilations, specifically in your analysis of the mass deaths among Amerindian peoples, is A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present by Ward Churchill. He goes into some detail about the pre-invasion population, explaining why he views some estimates of population more accurate than others, etc. He also includes numerous estimates for a variety of events and institutions/forms of death (for example, when discussing one case where a British lord initiated a smallpox epidemic among various tribes, he gives a toll of 100,000 dead for the event, and so on).
12 Sept. 2002: Please note: Since years 1820's Portugal has been a Constitutional Monarchy until 1910. Not an Absolute one, though for some 6 or 8 years, somewhere between the 20's and the 30's, it experienced a period of Absolutism. From 1910 to 1926, Portugal has had a Liberal (not exactly Democratic, but not too different from) Republic (so, in this period, your data is correct). Between 1926 and 1933 Portugal experienced a period made of Military Dictatorship and of some kind of Autocracy. Between 1933 and 1974, Portugal had a Dictatorship of One (Sole) Party (not exactly an Autocracy, as in Franco's Spain). Salazar has been a Dictator, not an Autocrat. Since 1976, thanks God, Democracy,; however, between 1974 and 1976, we have had a Liberal Military Rule (through civil Government).
Point taken. I've decided that "absolute monarchy" is probably not right. I've changed the category to "traditional monarchy". -MW
9/14/2002: Why Did You Classify Iraq as a Absolute Monarchy from 1930-1958?
See my answer to Portugal, above. -MW
Overrated/Underrated: Civil Right Leaders
9/19/2002: I disagree with #4 Thurgood Marshall
(or King). The most influential on integration in the US in my opinion was Bear Bryant. After winning national football championships at U of Ala, his team played USC and got killed due to the play of black athletes especially Sam Cunningham. Bear realized that to compete at the national level he needed to recruit black athletes. Within two years he became the first coach in the south to have blacks on his team, paving the way to integrated college sports and even black coach for instance at U of Kentucky. He didn't need troops, law, or the courts to do this - only the dangle of national championships. Note that though I live in Georgia now, I'm from NYC and lived in Pennsylvania. When it comes to college football, I rooted for Penn State especially when they once played Alabama for a football championship in the early 1980s. Thus my choice should be Joe Paterno, but in spite of the fact that Bear Bryant was the opponent's coach, I say he is Mr. Integration. Thank you for a great site.
25 Sept. 2002: By the coincidence at a place where i have been only for once in my life during "searching for fun " with internet i met your link about "The Recent Dictators of our century".I think you need to study much & much& much more history and literarature to have any right idea about a leader as Ataturk .
His mission was much more difficult one than T.Paine,Voltaire,T.Jefferson, G.Washington. Thanx to those people, the (whole or half ignorant ) like you got the freedom to talk about the serious things with a very sick back ground.
I am impressed by your ideas about creating the " war & politic" films for your children. But,please,change the names of the actors at least!.....Therefore you have a lot of chance to meet S.Spielberg to earn enough money to buy your menthal freedom back in order to make your life without "paranoia".
I am sorry about my english.Because it is my 3th. language and I am not any specialist for the languages but i am sure about one thing: If we (you & me) had the same mother language,it would not change anything about our relationship.Everybody has his own level.
This is the democracy. Speak how you want. Thanks to Voltaire, Paine, Darwin, Newton, Washington, Jefferson, Einstein & Ataturk and the others from the next generations. (who never come from the families of the people juddge the life like you.)
Please , do not try to send any e-mail here to me. I am not living in the country where i wrote all those bull shit for you.Your e-mails will be unanswered.Because the people here can not understand any thing in english language+I am not living here.
Think modern and go to study cinema.
Good luck & fun .........??????
I think that the author of this letter is partially confusing me with someone else. That's one of the dangers of bouncing along from one hyperlink to another. You can't always be sure who said what.
However, the main thrust of this letter -- that I have insulted Ataturk -- is dead on. I list him as one of the major mass murderers of the century. Ataturk is a fascinating and important person, worthy of study, but he is neither black nor white, just very, very gray. As a modern Westerner, I naturally approve of the fact that he dragged Turkey into the modern, western world. The Turks love him because he kept their nation independent in the face of European land grabs; however, he ethnically cleansed Turkey of its Greek minorities, mopped up the remaining Armenians, and crushed the Kurds. And the Turks deny this to this day. -MW
Well, let's see if anyone actually looks at this page:
since 2 April 2005
Last updated Feb. 2008