The number of POWs taken in World War was enormous. We have found no detailed assessment of the total number of military personnel, neraly all men taken prisoner during World War II and the country totals. Estimates vary widely from 12-35 million men. Here the higher number seems a reasonable estimate. One of the reasons for the substantial discrepancy was that the Japanese did not hold the huge number of Chinese soldiers as POWs, but rather murdered most of them in countless hiorifuc ways. Strangly, this is massive atrocity is often ommited in duscusions of Japnese war crimes. The Chinese captives who survived, were those who agreed to join the Wang Jingwei puppet Chinese Government--the Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China. No data exists on the number of Chinese POWs murdered by the Japanese. They did not keep records and the neither the Nationalists who did most of the fighting or the Communists have any idea, but it would have been several million men. Better if incomplelete records exists for other countries. Some 4-6 million Soviet Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner. German policy was also to murder them, by starvation and exposure to the elements. More than 3 million men died, mostly in 1941-42. As the War went against the Germans and labor shortages occurred, the Germans improved conditions marginally.
Over 6 million Germans were taken as POWs. About half by the Soviets and half by the Western Allies. The Soviets took 3 million German POWs. This began with the counter-offensive before Moscow, but most were taken in the final year of the War. The vast majority taken in the last year of the War. In the final months, the Wehrmacht attempted to move as many of its men west as possible so they could surrender to the Western Allies.
Compared to these huge numbers, only small numbers of the Western Allies were taken as POWs. The exception was the French Army. Nearly 2 million French soldiers were interned in the Reich as POWs. Large numbers of Italians were made POWs, over 1 million. Ironically the largest numbers were taken by the Germans when they seized control of Italy (1943).
Stangely as fiercely as the Japanese fought during the War, the Japanese had one of the largest numbers of POWs after the War. Only a handful of Japasnese surrendered during actual war-time battles. Some 1 million surrendered to the Soviets in Manchuria at the end of the War. Another 1 million surrendered to the Chinese. We do not yet have the number who surrenderedd to the British Empire forces in Southeast Asia, but it was several million.
The number of POWs taken in World War was enormous. We have found no detailed assessment of the total number of military personnel, neraly all men, taken prisoner during World War II as well as the country totals. Most od f the available data is country specifific. Estimates vary widely. We have noted estimates from 12-35 million men. Here a number toward but not at the higher range of those estimate seems the most valid estimate. One of the reasons for the substantial discrepancy was that the Japanese did not hold the huge number of Chinese soldiers captured as POWs, but rather murdered most of them in countless horific ways. Some POWs were released during the War, such as the Norwegians, Dutch and Belgians. Here the primary factor was race meaning wheter the Germans considered them vakuable 'genetiuc mzterial'. We cam reach a number of about 25 million by adding up the known numbers of POWs from the major beligerants. Precise numbers are not avaliable, but rough estimares are available. What is not available is the number of Chinese soldiers captured and then murdered by the Japanese. That number is very large. Assigning a figure of 5 million men would bring the World War II total up to 30 million men. We are still working on detailed computation of the actual number.
Survival rates varies widely. It depended on several factors. First who captured you. Second, what country you were from. Thirdly, your ethnicity. Fourthly, how long you were held. Survival rates varied from the German genocidal treatment of Soviet prosonsers with survival rates below 50 percent. One estimate places survival at only a little above 40 percent-- and this was after conditions improved somewhat after the first year of internment. The Soviets were also brutal, but not as brutal with the Germans. The survival rate was about 65 percent. Here the lage number of POWs taken at the end of the War had a much better chance of surviving than those taken during the War. For some reasin, the Soviets were especially brutal toward the Japanese tken in Manchuria in the final days of the War. The Japanese were even worse with Chinese pridoners who were not held as POWs, but simply murdered. All of this compares with German prisoners helpd by the Americans and British with survival rates over 99 percent. The actul numbers speak volumes despite tales of mass murder in the Rhine Meadow camps at the end of the War.
The POW experience varied widely depending on what country captured them and to a lesser extent when. Both the Axis and the Soviets committed horrendous war crimes in their treatment of POWs. China probably had the largest numbers of men captured in World War II, but they did not have the the largest numbers of POWs. This is because the Japanese murdeded almost all of the Chinese soldiers they captured rather than holding them as POWs. As brutally as the Germans treated POWs, it would be the fate of the German soldiers to be taken captive in larger numbers than any other country. Most survived because of the greater humanity of their captors. Even the Soviets treated the Germans better than than the Germans treated the Soviet POWs. Large numbers of Soviet troops were taken prisoner, but unlkike the Germans, most did not survive because not only of the brutality of the Germans, but the commission of mass murder as an actual and major war goal. Nearly 60 percent of the Soviet POWs perished, the highest death total in the War -- expect for Japanese treatment of the Chinese. Compared to the huge numbers of German and Soviet POWs, only smnall numbers of soldiers from the Western Allies were taken as POWs. The exception here was the French Army. Nearly 2 million French soldiers surrendered to the Germans as a result of the Western Offensive (June 1940). Large numbers of Italians were made POWs, over 1 million men. Iroinically the largest numbers were taken by the Germans when they seized control of Italy (1943). The Gernans committed numerous atrocities against their former allies in the process. Stangely, as fiercely as the Japanese fought during the War, the Japanbese had one of the largest numbers of POWs after the War. Only a handful of Japannese surrendered during the War. Some 1 million surrendered to the Soviets in Manchuria at the end of the War. Another 1 million surrendered to the Chinese. We do not yet have the number who surrendered to the British Empire forces in Southeast Asia, but it was several million.
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