World War II German Casualties: Military Casualties

German World War II casualties
Figure 1.--German military casualties were extremely light compared to World War I in the first 2 years of the War. This changed after the opening phase of Barbarossa--the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). German losses in the East meant that as early as the summer 1942 offensive, the Wehrmacht was fighting the War with an increasingly youthful fighting force.

NAZI German launched World War II with the Blitzkrieg on Poland in cooperation with the Soviet Union (September 1939). Germany held the ininitative in the early years of the War ewith its early development of Blitzkrieg tactics. After the success in Poland, the Wehrmacht swept over most of Western Europe, invading Denmark and Norway (April 1940) and Belgium, Holland and France (May 1940). Plans to invade Britain (September 1940) had to be scraped when the Luftwaffe failed to gain air supremecy. Diplomatic efforts to secure the Balkans failed, resulting in another Blitkrieg (April 1941). German casualties in these campaigns were extremely light--especially in the Balkans. This was startling in view of the horific casualties sustained on the Western Front during World War I. The doctrine of war developed by the Wehrmacht overwealmed poorly prepared European armies, even the French Army which had been considered the strongest in Europe. The Wehrmacht continued its string of victories with the invasion of the Soviet Union--Operation Barbarossa (June 1941). Again casualties were at first relattively light, but stiffened as the Wehrmact drove beyond the non-Russian areas of the western Soviet Union and the Wehrmacht for the first time in the War began to sustain sizeable casualties. Zukov's Winter Offence (December 1941) inflicted massive casualties on the Wehrmacht--casualties that the Germans could not possibly make up. After successes during the summer 1942, casualties again mounted culminating in the Stalingrad disaster (January 1943). And after Stalingrad the Red Army through a series of offensives steadily bled the Wehrmacht. This was combined with the loss of another entire army in Tunisia (May 1942). Competent generalship kept losses low in Sicily and Italy (where Hitler did not intefere as much) (1943-44). The Allied invasion of France (June 1944) reopened the Western Front another front and more heavy losses. The NAZIs finally surrendered only after Hitler's suiside in Berlin (May 1945). The German military is believed to have suffered about 3.5 million killed and 4.6 million wounded during the War.


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Created: 7:01 PM 8/24/2007
Last updated: 7:01 PM 8/24/2007