According to the book Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder, the Nazi and the Soviet regimes murdered fourteen million people between them in twelve years in the middle of the last century. The victims died in what he calls the ‘bloodlands’, extending from central Poland to western Russia, through Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic states. The victims were Jews, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and other peoples native to these lands. Not a single one of them was a soldier on active duty. Most were old people, or women and children.
Apart from killing locals, the Nazis rounded up Jews in countries such as France and then sent them to camps in the Bloodlands to be killed. But many locals, such Polish and Ukrainian Jews, were shot over ditches and pits.
Professor Snyder says that Hitler did not want to just eradicate the Jews, he wanted also to destroy Poland and the Soviet Union as states, exterminate their ruling classes, and kill tens of millions of Slavs. He says that if the German war against the USSR had gone as planned, thirty million civilians would have been starved in its first winter, and tens of millions more expelled, killed, or enslaved or assimilated.
Though we correctly think of the Nazis as having a special obsession with Jews, the Germans murdered about as many non-Jews as Jews during the war, chiefly by starving Soviet prisoners of war, and starving residents of besieged cities, or by shooting civilians in reprisals.
Stalin of Russia, who American wartime propaganda called “Uncle Joe”, killed about a third of the fourteen million victims in the period between 1933 and 1945. He oversaw the starvation of millions, and the shooting of 3/4 million people in the 1930’s.
These victims were killed as a matter of deliberate mass murder, rather than just being caught in the crossfire of a war. Stalin knew what would happen when he seized food from the starving peasants of Ukraine in 1933 just as Hitler knew what would happen when he deprived Soviet POW’s of food eight years later.
In Soviet Ukraine, Soviet Belarus, and the Leningrad district, lands where the Stalinist regime had starved and shot some four million people in the previous eight years, German forces managed to starve and shoot even more in half the time.
Says Snyder: No matter which technology (of killing) was used, the killing was personal. People who starved were observed, often from watchtowers. People who were shot were seen through the sites of rifles at very close range.
The British leader Churchill called the Germans “Carnivorous Sheep”, and that strikes me too. The Führer (in Germany) or Comrade Stalin (in Russia) would hand down the party line of who should be exterminated, or in the case of Stalin who should be blamed for the problems caused by Stalin himself, and then the adoring followers would go and murder millions of people who had done no harm to them. They followed leaders who had problems with criticism (by others or by themselves) or self-examination. Hitler for example sent his soldiers into Russia without preparing for the Russian winter (he expected a quick victory) and would not let them retreat, even for tactical reasons. So (some of) his unprepared soldiers stuffed newspapers into their clothing to withstand -40 degrees Farenheit. And Stalin’s regime also didn’t believe in retreat, which is one reason millions of Russian soldiers got captured. (Stalin’s communism ended up killing its own loyal party members, for reasons such as them not finding conspiracies.)
If you have an image of the Nazi killings as sort of sterile quick executions by gas, think again. The Nazi and Communist regimes caused a mountain of human pain that reached unto the heavens. If you laid the bodies of the non-combatants killed in these 12 years end to end, they would reach from the North Pole to way past the equator.