Demography, Jewish

Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. This is a common assertion by the orthodoxy. However, the claim that six million Jews were threatened to perish, were in the process of perishing or had perished, is much older than World War Two. It appeared for the first time in the late 1880s – with respect to the Jews living in Russia. Hence, the six-million figure had been a feature of Jewish propaganda decades before Hitler came to power. (See the entry on Six Million for details.)

Claims about six million Jewish victims of National-Socialist persecution were made already toward the end of the Second World War. However, utter chaos prevailed in Europe since 1944. The political borders of many European nations in central and eastern Europe shifted dramatically. Ethnic cleansings of German and pro-German populations, as well as massive migration movements of ethnic and religious minorities, changed Europe’s ethnic map as well.

For these reasons, it would have taken several years for these events to settle down, and for government authorities to get reestablished and organized. Only then would it have been possible to conduct any meaningful population statistics of any ethnic or religious group. Thus, anyone who claimed already in 1944, 1945 or 1946 to have secure knowledge in that matter cannot be trusted.

Furthermore, Jewish population statistics are more complex than those of other groups, precisely because this group is not largely confined to a certain geographic area as most other groups. Jews have always had the tendency of migrating faster and more easily around the globe than other groups. In addition, such migrations are not necessarily trackable, as being Jewish is very much a question of definition – and a very fluid one at that. Who counts as a Jew? Is it an ethnicity or a religious group? The answers often depend on who is asked those questions, and when.

Demographic Studies

The first encompassing demographic study on worldwide Jewish population developments before, during and after World War II was published in 1983 by Holocaust-skeptic demographer Walter N. Sanning (updated Sanning 2023). An orthodox study by several mainstream scholars was published in 1991, with Wolfgang Benz as lead editor. (German only. No translation was ever published.) Each contributing author covered a certain country that was at least partially controlled by National-Socialist Germany.

A thorough analysis of both studies reveals the characteristics and main differences as laid out in the table. Enjoying government support, Benz’s collection of mainstream authors can boast excellent statistical source material, while Sanning used at times questionable sources. Whereas Sanning tried to take into consideration the massive Jewish exodus from Europe prior, during and right after the war, Benz’s book arrives at its death toll basically by subtracting the earliest available postwar census data from the latest prewar census data. Hence, Benz overlooks a large chunk of the more than two million Jews who were not murdered in that time period, but who managed to emigrate to countries never under any German influence, such as Palestine/Israel, USA, Canada, Australia, England, South Africa and many Latin American nations.

In addition to emigration, there can be many other reasons for the Jewish population of a country to shrink in size that have nothing to do with Holocaust murders, such as:

  • Death due to Soviet deportation and imprisonment.
  • Death due to pogroms by non-Germans, without German collaboration or sanction.
  • Death due to effects of war (labor service, bombing victims, collateral combat casualties).
  • Death as soldiers.
  • Death as partisans (battle or execution).
  • Natural excess of deaths over births.
  • Religious conversions.
  • Jews not identifying themselves as such in a census.

While Sanning has tried to adjust for these losses unrelated to Holocaust deaths, in Benz’s book, all population reductions, no matter the cause, are counted as Holocaust victims.

Comparison of Methods Used by Sanning and Benz

Sanning 1983

Benz 1991

Sources used

few archival primary sources; secondary literature and media reports

rich archival primary sources

Claimed Jewish victims

ca. 300,000

ca. 6,300,000

Consistent country borders


No, leading to more than half a million victims counted twice

Regions covered

entire globe

countries at least under partial German control

Adjusting for emigration


inconsistently and incompletely

Adjusting for non-murder losses


No. All missing persons are counted as murdered

The main numerical differences between the two studies result from very different data regarding just three countries: Poland, the Soviet Union and Hungary (wartime borders):


Victims (Benz)

Missing (Sanning)







Soviet Union






Jewish losses on the territory of the Soviet Union primarily would be the result of the so-called Ein­satz­grup­pen. Their reports indicate that up to a three-quarter million Jews may have been executed by these units, although this presumably includes Jews deported east from central and western European countries, so not all of these 750,000 victims were Soviet Jews. Furthermore, the numerical reliability of the Ein­satz­grup­pen.reports is highly questionable – potentially in both directions. (See the entry on the Ein­satz­grup­pen. for more details.)

Sanning evidently disregards these executions entirely, which is highly questionable. On the other hand, Benz and colleagues inflate that figure by expressly including in it all casualties among soldiers, partisans, and from Soviet mass deportations and incarcerations.

The numerical differences for Poland and Hungary have more-complex reasons. See the entries for these countries to learn more revealing facts.

In summary, the adjustments listed in the next table need to be made to the orthodox study by Benz and his colleagues.

Corrections Needed for Benz

Benz’s Figure



6.3 million

at least 1 million

unregistered post-war emigration

at least 1.5 million

Jews not statistically registered in the Soviet Union

at least 0.5 million

victims of war, partisan warfare and Soviet deportation

0.7 million

statistically inflated no. of Jews in pre-war Poland

at least 0.3 million

destruction of Hungarian Jews refuted

6.3 million minus at least 4 million → a maximum of 2.3 million missing persons

Missing persons are not necessarily murdered persons. Hence, if defining the term “Holocaust victim” narrowly as a Jew murdered by National-Socialists, then that figure would be lower still.

The next table gives a rough overview on the Jewish pre-war and postwar population figures for all the countries involved. For each country, it gives an upper and a lower value as derived from either Sanning or Benz. While Benz usually declares the difference to be the victims, Sanning on occasion deducts birth deficits, emigrations (and for Bulgaria immigration) and other non-homicidal causes for reductions.

Prewar figures for France and the three Benelux countries are very difficult to assess, because tens of thousands of Jews migrated west and south as National-Socialist rule expanded, and as the German armed forces moved west. This migration continued even after France’s defeat, with the migration route going from German-occupied territories to Vichy France, and from there to Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal and overseas. When deportations started in 1942, two years of legal and grey-zone emigration efforts must have reduced the Jewish population considerably, but to an unknown level.





52,000 – 85,000

23,482 – 61,000


48,400 – 50,000

50,000 – 56,000


251,745 – 254,288

40,000 – 82,000



ca, 6,000


ca. 300,000

223,866 –238,000


65,000 – 71,500

12,000 – 12,726


34,000 – 48,000

28,086 – 39,000



500 – 2,450


105,000 – 160,820

36,500 – 64,020


1,700 – 2,000

ca. 1,000


465,242 – 466,418

ca. 430,000


68,000 – 82,000

12,000 – 16,000

What can be said with certainty in the cases of France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and with some degree of certainty also for the Netherlands, is the number of Jews which were eventually deported – as documentation on this has been preserved, albeit evidently only with imprecise numbers for the Netherlands (see the next table):








ca. 105,000



Therefore, juggling wide estimates of prewar, postwar and emigration figures might be futile to a large degree. Trying to figure out how many of the known deportees were still alive after the war, and could be tracked to their unknown postwar whereabouts, may not be very promising either.

It is probably more elucidating to find out what exactly transpired at the locations where these Jews were deported. These were mostly the camps at Auschwitz and Sobibór, the latter particularly for Dutch Jews. See in this regard the entry on France, as the fate of the Jews deported from this country is similar to that of those deported from Belgium and Luxembourg, and to some degree also from the Netherlands.

Yad Vashem’s Victim Database

The Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial and Research Center Yad Vashem has a database that tries to register all Jews who were reported as having died “during the Holocaust.” Registering any person as a Holocaust victim does not require any proof or evidence. It does also not involve any verification process to prevent false entries and multiple listings. Hence, this database is largely worthless from a scholarly point of view. For more details, see the entry on Yad Vashem.


During the frenzy of Jewish pressure groups trying to secure multi-billion-dollar compensation payments for Holocaust survivors in the 1990s and early 2000s, several mainstream institutions published figures on how many Jewish Holocaust survivors were still alive at that point in time: roughly a million at the turn of the millennium.

Life-expectancy data used by life insurers to calculate the longevity of certain populations permit calculating how many Jewish Holocaust survivors must have been alive in 1945 for one million of them to still be around in 2000. This number amounts to some four to five million Holocaust survivors in 1945. If there were eight million total under German control, then we have, at most, three to four million “missing” Jews, due to all causes. In no case does this support anything near the claimed six million deaths. It further demonstrates that the National Socialists utterly failed, if they were truly attempting to “exterminate” all the Jews under their control; they missed upwards of five million of them!

Among the orthodoxy, there is a tendency to maximize the Jewish death toll in order to maximize the Jews’ status as the ultimate victims, which can be exploited in numerous political, societal and financial ways. However, there is also a tendency among the orthodoxy to maximize the number of Holocaust survivors in order to maximize potential payouts to them and the organizations claiming to represent them. (See Finkelstein 2000 for more details on this.) Hence, Jewish population statistics of any kind tend to be the subject of political manipulations for transparent reasons.

(For more details on Jewish population statistics, see each affected country’s entry, the entry on survivors, as well as Rudolf 2019, pp. 175-206.)

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