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11-08-2015, 19:33

Losses and Destruction

While the war was still wreaking immense destruction the Allies pondered the immense problem of repairing the damage afterwards. The death toll and material losses were staggering. There are no exact figures, but a reasonable estimate would be that 50 million lives were lost, about four times as many as in the First World War. Half of them were civilians. Twentymillion Russians perished, ten per cent of the population. In Poland fifteen per cent of the population were killed. The Germans lost five million, three quarters of them on the eastern front, and half a million in the bombing. In western Europe the losses were smaller, but as many died from Nazi crimes as in combat - another peculiar feature of this war. As there was no civil government in China, no exact figures are calculable but losses must have been between three and eight million. It is estimated that the genocide against the Jews claimed six million lives. The Americans, who fought on both fronts, lost only 300,000 soldiers, but they had had to finance the equipment used in the war by their allies and partners. The death of 200,000 people in a few seconds at Hiroshima and Nagasaki revealed how great the toll a new war might bring. The military operations resulted in several large migrations of populations from Lorraine and Poland and the exchanges of populations in the Tyrol, while others were caused by fear, such as the exodus ofJune 1940 in France and the retreat ofa million Germans before the advancing Red Army in 1945. In addition, there were millions of prisoners of war. In Germany, prisoners of war, conscripts in the compulsory labour forces and internees in concentration camps amounted to nearly fifteen million. But no country was spared. Workers withdrew across the Urals in Soviet Russia and they migrated from the rural South to the industrial North East in America. There were about 30 million displaced persons in all. Several years after the end of the war, a million were still interned in temporary7 camps without anywhere to settle. Material destruction was also gigantic, particularly because fighting occurred over wide areas and because both camps advanced and retreated over the same territories but also because bombardments from the air and from the ground forces were heavy and because reprisal operations were often devastating. Germany, Soviet Russia, and Poland were most affected. A Polish report estimated that 80 per cent of transport facilities, 50 per cent of agricultural livestock, and 31 per cent of the national product were lost in the war. In Yugoslavia 20 per cent of houses were destroyed. In France about 55,000 miles of railways were destroyed and 24,000 miles were damaged; 1900 works of art were destroyed. Most cities in Germany and Japan were reduced to rubble. Italy was ravaged from south to north, but the richest region in the Po Valley escaped serious destruction. Great Britain, too, did not escape. Only the United States emerged from the war without the least material loss. But the blind destruction of cities and works of art, attacks on civilians, above all the Nazi crimes, in which scientists themselves were accomplices, inflicted moral wounds, especially in Europe, which were deeper and more difficult to repair than damage to property. Once again, the cost of the war was infinitely greater than the problems which caused it. In a sense, the war did answer some questions. The Allies did fulfil their aims and their victory did restore collective and individual freedom in the occupied states. The Allies had fought to preserve justice and law. The discovery of Nazi atrocities demonstrated that these were not merelv propaganda slogans. But the war arose out of political instability and ii created new forms of instability.

 

 

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