The alleged Six Million Jewish fatalities is the single most important number of the Holocaust, and one of the most consequential statistics in all of history. It appears everywhere that we hear about the Holocaust. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum website writes:
“The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews.”
The official Israeli institute Yad Vashem says:
“The Holocaust was the murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators.”
Orthodox historians are extremely confident of this number; as Jacob Robinson writes (1976, p. 281):
“There can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the estimated figure of some six million victims.”
Walter Laqueur’s Holocaust Encyclopedia concurs (Laqueur/Baumel-Schwartz 2001, p. 139):
“The round figure of 6 million admits of no serious doubt.”
Clearly, much stands or falls on this single number, which has been called repeatedly a symbolic figure.
Six Million before the Holocaust
So, we have an obvious question: Where did the infamous figure of Six Million come from in the first place? One would naturally presume it to be impossible to calculate the death toll in the midst of a raging world war. Even in the immediate aftermath, we would know little for certain. It turns out that the world was told of Six Million Jewish victims not only in the immediate aftermath of the war, but during the war, at the start of the war, and even before the war – in fact, decades before the war. The seemingly impossible history of the Six Million constitutes a fascinating subtext to the larger Holocaust narrative.
One can find reference to “6 million” and “Jews” in newspapers dating from decades ago, even more than a century. In 1850, the Christian Spectator cited a total of “6,000,000 Jews” in the world; in 1870, The New York Times (NYT) followed suit; in 1889, the NYT reported that Six Million Jews “were all in a state of political bondage”; and in 1891, they referred to “six million persecuted and miserable wretches.”
By 1900, the Zionist movement was gaining strength and was anxious to encourage “suffering” Jews to move to Palestine. That year, the NYT quoted activist Stephen Wise as saying that, in Europe, “There are 6,000,000 living, bleeding, suffering arguments in favor of Zionism.” In 1901, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported on the “hopeless condition” of the “six million Jews in Russia.” In 1905, Zionists began to fret that “Russia, with its 6,000,000 Jews,” wasn’t promoting emigration.
Soon thereafter, World War I began. We then begin to read in the NYT of the plight of “more than 6,000,000 Jews who live within the war zone.” The next month carried more reports of the eternally damned, “of whom more than 6,000,000 are in the very heart of the war zone”; they were consequently “subjected to every manner of suffering and sorrow,” and all Americans were called upon to help. In 1916, we read that “the world is silent” despite the fact that “nearly six million Jews are ruined, in the greatest moral and material misery.” A year later, Rabbi Samuel Schulman exclaimed that “six millions of Jews are living in lands where they are oppressed, exploited, crushed, and robbed of every inalienable human right.” In May of 1917, we hear that “six million Jews – half the Jews of the world – are calling to you for help.”
By late 1918, the war was nearing its end. Did we have Six Million Jewish fatalities? No. Somehow, they all managed to survive. Instead of attending their funerals, we were then called upon to aid their recovery: “Six million souls will need help to resume normal life when war is ended,” writes the NYT.
One might have thought that this would have been the end of the stories of the Six Million. It was not. The infamous number simply shifted to a new region. In September of 1919, we find that it was now the Ukrainian and Polish Jews who were subject to misery; “6,000,000 are in peril.” We are further horrified to read that “the population of 6,000,000 souls in Ukrania and in Poland… are going to be completely exterminated.” Naturally, this was “the paramount issue of the present day.” Once again, Six Million Jews under threat of extermination.
The trend continued for years, too numerous to elaborate. References include the following:
- “unbelievable poverty, starvation and disease [for] about 6,000,000 souls, or half the Jewish population of the earth” (1919).
- “typhus menaced 6,000,000 Jews of Europe” (1920).
- “hunger, cold rags, desolation, disease, death – six million human beings without food, shelter, clothing” (1920).
- “Russia’s 6,000,000 Jews are facing extermination by massacre” – again! (1921).
- “over 6,000,000” Russian Jews “neglected” (1924).
Six Million during the Holocaust
This brings us to the Nazi era, where the Six Million appeared once again – and long before World War II. The first reference came just two months after Hitler assumed power in January 1933. The NYT reported on a “Hitler protest” vote by some local New York government officials. Rabbi Stephen Wise issued an appeal: “[We are] now active in relief and reconstruction work in Eastern Europe where 6,000,000 Jews are involved.” Three years later, in 1936, we read in the London Times of “6,000,000 unwanted unfortunate” Jews, and of “these 6,000,000 people without a future.” On that same day, the NYT reported on a speech by British Zionist Chaim Weizmann, who “dwelt first on the tragedy of at least 6,000,000 ‘superfluous’ Jews in Poland, Germany, Austria.” In February 1937, we hear that “five to six million Jews in Europe are facing expulsion or direst poverty.”
Such references continued on through 1938 and 1939. War began in September of that year, and anti-Nazi propaganda accelerated. In mid-1940, the NYT quoted Nahum Goldmann:
“Six million Jews are doomed to destruction if the victory of the Nazis should be final.”
This was still at least one full year before Hitler allegedly decided to begin his program of Jewish mass murder – according to orthodox experts. How could Goldmann have known what was to come?
In January of 1942, we read that Heinrich Himmler “has uprooted approximately 6,000,000 human beings” and shipped them to occupied Poland. By mid-1942, it was “a vast slaughterhouse for Jews” in Europe; one million were reported dead, and the remainder of the “6,000,000 to 7,000,000” at risk. The sad tale continued throughout the war years:
- Hitler intends “the extermination of some 6,000,000 [Jewish] persons in the territories over which [his] rule has been extended” (London Times, 1943).
- “Save doomed Jews,” said Rabbi Hertz; the world “has done very little to secure even the freedom to live for 6,000,000 of their Jewish fellow men.”
- Two million are dead, “and the four million left to kill are being killed, according to plan.”
Then came the first definitive claim – in January of 1945, four months before the end of the war: “6,000,000 Jews Dead.” Jacob Lestchinsky claimed that the prewar population of 9.5 million had been reduced to 3.5 million. In May 1945, we read something of an official declaration from Lord Wright of the UN War Crimes commission:
“It has, however, been calculated that in all about six million Jews were deliberately slaughtered in [gas chambers] and other ways.”
Calculated by whom? On what basis? And using what hard evidence? He did not say.
Thus we see that the Six Million has an impressive legacy. Traditional historians often emphasize that the figure came from the Germans at the Nuremberg trial that began in November 1945 – which is true. A minor functionary, Wilhelm Höttl, testified to this number early in the proceedings. Historians like to portray this as a kind of dramatic revelation, and as “official confirmation” of the number – which is a ridiculous claim. As we have seen, the number had been known, discussed and anticipated for decades. And even then, in late 1945, no one had taken the smallest of steps to actually confirm such an estimate. It was pure hearsay, based on decades of propaganda, most from Jewish sources.
More than Six Million
After the war, the U.S. military government in occupied Germany created a documentary movie title Death Mills. It showed a sequence of horrific footages taken after the occupation of several German wartime camps. It was shown to the German civilian population in order to further the Allies’ goal of “re-education.” The narrator never speaks about the religious background of the victims, but claims that all German camps were “death mills,” and collectively some 20 million people were murdered in them. This number has since popped up on occasion, and even figures higher than that – up to 26 million – can be found in media and literature, albeit without specifying their religious or ethnic affiliation.
In subsequent decades, scholars and journalists alike spread the claim that, in addition to some six million Jews, other victim groups also were victims of the Holocaust, adding further millions to the total. For instance, leading German public prosecutor Adalbert Rückerl mentioned in 1968 that eight million non-Jews also fell victim to National-Socialist mass murder, making it a total of 14 million.
Simon Wiesenthal persistently spread the claim that, in addition to six million Jews, some five million non-Jews also died during the Holocaust. He has been attacked by numerous Jewish scholars for this, who claim that the five-million non-Jewish death-toll figure is unfounded and untrue. Wiesenthal has defended his invented 5-million claim by explaining that he wanted a number large enough to attract the attention of non-Jews to the Holocaust, but not larger than the actual number of Jewish victims, in order to maintain their primacy in the pecking order of victims and martyrs. (See Scott 2017; Rudolf 2023, pp. 15-18).
The “other” victim groups consists of Gypsies, homosexual men, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Poles, as well as the Slavic peoples in general. As the entries for these groups explain, mass-murder claims with vastly inflated victim numbers have been thoroughly debunked, in many cases even by orthodox scholars. This kind of revisionism and down-grading of mass-murder claims is quite acceptable to, and welcome by, orthodox scholars, as this preserves the primacy of Jewish victimhood.
Holocaust skeptics were the first to publish a detailed demographic study about Jewish losses during World War Two. In his 1983 study The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry, Walter Sanning analyzed global changes in Jewish population, albeit relying in part on possibly questionable journalistic sources. He concluded that many Jews had died during the war but most due to causes unrelated to mass murder; only some 300,000 additional deaths could not be explained by ordinary causes.
The orthodoxy countered this study with a collection of essays published in 1991 in a German book titled Dimension des Völkermords (Dimension of Genocide), which was never translated into any other language (see Benz 1991). In this study, the overall Jewish death toll was calculated as follows: First, for every country that was at some point under German influence, the Jewish population figures from the last pre-war census and from the first post-war census were established. Then, the death toll was established by deducting the pre-war figure from the post-war number, with minor adjustments here and there. But this had the effect of wrongly counting several categories of “missing Jews,” including:
- Jews who died fighting as partisans or soldiers
- Jews deported by Stalin to parts of the Soviet Union
- Jews who fled the warzone
- Jews who voluntarily emigrated (such as to Israel or the U.S.)
All these “Jewish losses” were counted as Holocaust victims.
Furthermore, this book’s authors, who each investigated one country, did not coordinate their work well, if at all. Since the borders of many European countries changed drastically before, during and after the war, everyone should have agreed first what borders to pick, but that was not done. In the end, they counted at least 1.5 million missing Jews twice because of this flawed approach.
After all the rigging and maximizing of their demographic data, they concluded, unsurprisingly:
“The bottom line indicates a minimum of 5.29 and a maximum of just over 6 million [Jewish victims].” (Benz 1991, p. 17)
And they add, in all seriousness:
“Of course, the purpose of this project also was not to prove any pre-set figure (‘six million’) […].” (Ibid., p. 20)
But this is a laughable claim, at best.
(For a detailed comparison of Sanning’s and Benz’s books, see Rudolf 2019, pp. 175-206.)