As Greece continue to careen toward the financial abyss, European leaders are preparing for the departure of Greece from the European Union. However, I was struck by a recent interview with Greek Deputy Prime Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, who not only raised concerns of the rise of “fascists” in Greece but added the following factoid: Greece “after the Soviet Union and Germany itself, [had] the biggest percentage of [Second World War] casualties in its population.” As many of you know, I am a military history nut and was surprised by the statement, which (like the Greek economic recovery plan) appears to be based on more rhetoric than reality.
The deputy prime minister also warned about the rise of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, noting that “in the places where the police voted, the fascists got 25 per cent.” He added:
“You know how it happened in Germany – it started with the Jews, then the Communists, then everybody – it could happen here. This is the country, after the Soviet Union and Germany itself, with the biggest percentage of [Second World War] casualties in its population.”
That was a bit of a surprise, so I did some checking. First the use of “casualties” versus “deaths” makes the calculus more difficult. Second, the Greek numbers have varied widely among researchers.
Let’s start with deaths. Greek has somewhere between 320,000
to 805,100 deaths of civilians and military alike, according to some sources. That puts the percentage at between 4.44 to 11.15. That is quite high but it is not the third highest even assuming the top figure. For example, Lithuania lost 14.33 percent or 350,000 people. Latvia lost 11.78 or 230,000 people. A small country like Nauru (Australian) can claim that it lost 14.7 percent in its 500 deaths. Likewise, Portuguese Timor can claim as high as 14 percent of its population. Even if he dropped the percentage calculus for raw numbers, Greece still does not get the bronze on deaths. For example, the Philippines lost as many as 1,057,000 and Poland as many as 5,580,000. India lost between 1,587,000 and 2,587,000. French Indonesia between 1,000,000
and 1,500,000. The Dutch East Indies lost as many as 4,000,000.
The use of “casualties” make the ranking almost impossible since few records credibly establish the numbers for people who were able to walk away or survive the war. However, if those casualties tracked deaths (as they often do with a multiplier), Greece would not take the third spot.
Of course, it is really the other number crunching that has Europe worried about Greece, but this one appears to have been inflated for effect.
However, the statement does remind us of how costly the war was for Greece and these other countries. These are truly staggering numbers.
Does anyone have an alternative source supporting the claim?