The World Wars and mass starvation

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The World Wars and mass starvation‎

The World Wars and mass starvation refers to the mass starvation and associated mass deaths in various parts of the world during the First World War and the Second World War. Related sufferings and mass deaths were due to factors such as cold exposure and epidemics, made more dangerous by malnutrition. Such sufferings and mass deaths also continued into the postwar periods for several years in some areas.

Many of these aspects of the World Wars are seldom mentioned in politically correct descriptions, which may be related to the partial responsibility of the Allies for these sufferings and mass deaths, through actions such as food, fuel, and fertilizer blockades as well as through strategic bombing, scorched-earth policies, and other actions causing the destruction of food production/transportation infrastructure.

WWI and postwar years

After the Communists gained power in Russia, and in large part due to the First World War, the Russian Civil War, and the policy of "War Communism", a mass starvation occurred in Russia, which peaked in 1921–22, and that caused many millions of deaths. Later there was the mass starvation and the mass deaths during the Holodomor.

During the First World War, the Allied blockade of Germany contributed to a large scale starvation in Germany and mass deaths of civilian Germans.[1][2] The German Board of Public Health in December 1918 stated that 763,000 German civilians died from starvation and disease caused by the blockade up until the end of December 1918.[3][4] A study done in 1928 put the death toll at 424,000.[5]

In addition, the blockade continued after the armistice, for an additional 8 months, until Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, causing additional mass deaths.[6]

The perception that the mass starvation contributed to the German Revolution of 1918–19 likely had a role in Allied policies affecting the German civilian population during WWII, such as Allied policies on strategic bombing of civilians and the repeated food blockade.

The Soviet Union prepared for a possible repeat of the German invasion during a new war, by measures such as building up industries in the eastern part of the country and planning a massive scorched-earth policy, which would cause possible German occupied Soviet areas to be valueless or even to be burdens for Germany, despite often being major food producing areas.[7]

The Allied blockade and the mass starvation/mass deaths contributed to a fascist (broad sense) emphasis on that the nation should be economically self-sufficient (autarky) and National Socialist Lebensraum views.


German controlled areas in general

During the Second World War, the Allies again implemented a blockade on Germany and German allied/occupied areas. Strategic bombing in effect made food production and transport more difficult, by measures such as destroying fuel infrastructure and transportation infrastructure.

The enormous Soviet scorched-earth policy (see below) turned areas that had been large net food producers into areas with large net food shortages.[7]

The food shortages in German controlled Europe during WWII may cause a somewhat different perspective on some claimed German atrocities, such as those involving claimed deliberate starvation of groups such as POWs, Slavs, and Jews. According to this view, rather than Germany deliberately starving certain groups, despite having available food, starvation for some groups was inevitable, due to the food shortages, and Germany therefore decided to prioritize Germans and those non-German who were involved in the German war effort, such as those working in industries. Low priorities were given to groups such as unemployed city inhabitants, which included many people in the occupied Soviet Union due to the Soviet scorched-earth policy.[7][8][9]

The Allies have even been accused of wanting to keep the Jews in German controlled areas, in order to increase Germany’s logistical problems, which would include food, and to therefore have opposed Jewish mass emigration from such areas.[10]

See also the articles on Lebensraum and Claimed mass killings of non-Jews by National Socialist Germany.


See the Western Holocaust camps article on mass starvation in these camps during final stages of the war.

See the articles on the Morgenthau Plan and Claimed mass killings of Germans by the WWII Allies on argued deliberate Allied mass starvation of German civilians and Germans POWs, causing mass deaths during the later stages of the war and in the postwar period.

German occupied Soviet Union

The Soviet Union after the German invasion in 1941 implemented an enormous scorched-earth policy, which essentially destroyed most of the food-producing ability, industry, and infrastructure of Western Russia.[7]

Besides preventing Germany from benefiting from the occupied territories, a starvation in the German occupied areas may even have been one of the intended goals of the scorched-earth policy, for reasons such as causing increased support for the anti-German partisans and to be used for anti-German propaganda purposes.

The demographic researcher Walter N. Sanning has stated that "The measures taken by the Soviet Union between 1940 and 1942 aimed not only at furthering the Soviet war effort, but also at harming the German enemy even at the cost of huge losses of life among Soviet civilians. The Soviet scorched-earth strategy included the deportation of millions of men, women and children; the resettlement and reestablishment of thousands of factories; the withdrawal of almost the entire railway rolling stock; the annihilation of raw material depots; the removal of most of the agricultural machinery, cattle and grain stocks; the systematic destruction, burning and blowing up of the immovable infrastructure, inventories of all kinds, factory buildings, mines, residential areas, public buildings, public records, and even cultural monuments; and the intentional starvation of the civilian population which remained behind to face German occupation. It was basically a policy which unscrupulously used the civilian population as a strategic pawn."[7]

A German 1941 report stated that "It has been our experience that the Russians remove or destroy systematically all of the food supplies before retreating. The urban population of the conquered cities thus will either have to be fed by the Wehrmacht or it will have to starve. Obviously, by forcing us to provide additional food to the Russian population, the Russian leadership intends to worsen the already difficult food situation of the German Reich through a reduction of the domestic German food supply. As a matter of fact, the present food situation permits us to feed the Russian urban population from our own stocks only if we reduce the supplies to the Army or if we lower the rations at home."[7]

The Germans are argued to have used far less ruthlessness methods than the Communists when requisitioning food from the peasants, which may have allowed them to keep a relatively larger share of what they produced, but that may have worsened the situation for the urban population. The scorched-earth policy on industries also meant that the city inhabitants had little to offer the peasants in exchange for food.[7]

Furthermore, pro-Soviet Partisans are argued to have destroyed or confiscated large amounts of food.[7]

Germany is argued to have made large scale efforts to restore production, including by sending massive amounts of material aid from Germany. German economic aid to the occupied Soviet territories is argued to have amounted to roughly one percent of German gross national product during those years. This is larger than the relative amount of foreign aid given today by industrial countries, despite living in peace and prosperity. The economic assistance furnished to the economy of the occupied Soviet area is argued to have been equivalent to one-fourth of aggregate gross fixed investment in Greater Germany in the years 1942 and 1943[7]

Regarding mass starvation of Soviet soldiers in German captivity, see Claimed mass killings of non-Jews by National Socialist Germany.

Non-occupied Soviet Union

Sanning estimated that the Soviet Union before and during the war deported between 25-30 million to eastern Russia. The Soviets concentrated their deportation efforts on specific groups, such as often educated minorities, such as Jews. However, while workers and industries were successfully moved to eastern areas, Sanning wrote that "What was lacking, however, was the social infrastructure, such as housing and hospitals, to accommodate the many millions of civilians deported there between 1940 and 1941. As a result, 15-20 million civilians died of epidemics, hunger, overwork, lack of housing, lack of clothing and the brutal Siberian winter."[7]

Sanning also argued that a substantial part of the Jews who died during WWII died in these Soviet labor camps or fighting in the Soviet Red Army.[11]

Stalin viewed Soviet soldiers who capitulated as traitors and punished their families, by measures such as depriving them of food. This has been stated to have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths due to starvation.[12]

Regarding deaths during the Siege of Leningrad, with starvation as one contributing factor, see Claimed mass killings of non-Jews by National Socialist Germany.

The Soviet famine of 1946–47 caused a disputed number of deaths, with some estimates stating millions of deaths, and has been argued to be due to factors such as the weather, the war, and/or Communist policies.


The Allies even implemented a blockade on Greece, which fought on the Allied side during WWII. Churchill argued that the blockade would force Germany to feed the people, which would weaken the German war effort. He eventually relented, but not until after mass deaths due to starvation had occurred.”[13]

Other European areas

Malnutrition/starvation, in part due to German prioritizing of food for other groups, occurred during the war in areas such as Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and the Netherlands.[13]


The prewar US blockade on Japan has been argued to be a major cause of Japan attacking the US, in order to gain access to critical resources. A continued Allied blockade and a large scale destruction of Japanese transportation, such as through submarine warfare, have been argued to have contributed greatly to Japan losing the war.

Even before the Japanese declaration of war on the US, rationing had to be introduced in Japan. Critical resource shortages shut down Japanese industries. During the later part of the war, the Japanese urban population was steadily losing weight and around a quarter of townspeople were suffering from malnutrition. Various diseases and vitamin-deficiencies were rife. The birth-rate had fallen and infant mortality had risen.[13]

Japan had great difficulty feeding even its own soldiers, likely in part due to the destruction of Japanese transportation. If there was not enough local food the soldiers could take, then they were supposed to grow it themselves. At times the soldiers were more interested in capturing food than fighting the Allies. They were sometimes instructed to eat grass. In New Guinea, Japanese soldiers even resorted to cannibalism.[13]

A Japanese commander “estimated that 15,000 Japanese soldiers had starved to death on Guadalcanal while only 5,000 had been lost in combat.” In the Philippines, where the Japanese retreat was extremely disorganized, a Japanese general estimated that “400,000 of the 498,000 Japanese deaths were caused by starvation. Altogether it would appear that 60 per cent, or more than 1 million, of the total 1.74 million Japanese military deaths between 1941 and 1945 were caused by starvation and diseases associated with malnutrition.[13]

Other parts of Asia

Both Allied and Japanese policies have been argued to have contributed to mass starvation in China and Vietnam, causing millions of deaths.[13][14]

British policies in India have been argued to have contributed to a famine causing millions of deaths.[13][15]

External links




  1. The Politics of Hunger: The Allied Blockade of Germany, 1915-1919
  2. Hidden Historical Fact: The Allied Attempt to Starve Germany in 1919
  3. C. Paul Vincent, The politics of hunger : the allied blockade of Germany, 1915–1919 Athens, Ohio : Ohio University Press, c1985ISBN 978-0-8214-0831-5 Page 141
  4. Germany. Gesundheits-Amt. Schaedigung der deutschen Volkskraft durch die feindliche Blockade. Denkschrift des Reichsgesundheitsamtes, Dezember 1918. (Parallel English translation) Injuries inflicted to the German national strength through the enemy blockade. Memorial of the German Board of Public Health, 27 December 1918 [Berlin, Reichsdruckerei,]The report notes on page 17 that the figures for the second half of 1918 were estimated based on the first half of 1918.
  5. Grebler, Leo (1940). The Cost of the World War to Germany and Austria-Hungary. Yale University Press. 1940 Page78
  6. NOT GUILTY AT NUREMBERG: The German Defense Case
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Soviet Scorched-Earth Warfare: Facts and Consequences
  8. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy
  9. The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”—An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers
  10. Alois Brunner Talks about His Past
  11. The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry
  12. Stalin's War Against His Own Troops
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 Useless Eaters
  14. Vietnamese Famine of 1945
  15. The Unknown Famine Holocaust, About the Causes of Mass Starvation in Britain's Colony of India 1942-1945