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© 1998 CIC.
All Rights Reserved


Vladimir Zerjavic

Publisher: Croatian Information Centre
Editorial Board: Chairman - Ante Beljo
Bozica Ercegovac Jambrovic, Edo Bosnar, Jadranka Busic, Ivan Galic, Biljana Knebl
Printed by: Hrvatska Tiskara, Zagreb

ISBN 0-919817-32-7


In May 1945, in his Ljubljana speech, Marshal Tito had already stated that Yugoslavia lost 1.7 million of its population during the Second World War. The Yugoslav government submitted the number of 1,706,000 as the official death toll to the Paris International Reparation Commission in 1946. This number included 305,000 soldiers of the National Liberation Army*.

This document published data on the casualties of war for 18 allied countries (excluding the USSR and Poland), among which Yugoslavia had the largest number of civilian casualties, followed by India (759,000), France (653,000), and Greece (558,000). Civilian casualties of Great Britain (368,000), Czechoslovakia (250,000), the Netherlands (200,000), and the USA (187,000) were considerably less. Among the 18 allies, Yugoslavia reported the largest number of military casualties. The Yugoslav death toll numbered 305,000 soldiers, followed by Great Britain (272,000), France (238,000), and the USA (180,000), while other countries reported their military casualties below 100,000 soldiers.

It should be noted that the first post-war census in Yugoslavia was held on March 15, 1948, and that it established the number of the surviving citizens, which was not available in 1945 and 1946. Therefore the death toll from 1941-1945 could not have been established in that period. The number released by Marshal Tito in Ljubljana and the number which was submitted to the Paris Reparation Commission were based on estimates. The aforementioned Yugoslav Governments Reparation Commission document did not submit any detail on which the estimate was based.

The Yugoslav Reparation Commission could not claim the death toll of 1,706,000 with absolute certainty, which can be concluded from the request submitted by this commission to the Federal Bureau of Statistics in May 1947, requiring a documented and statistically founded estimate of the number of civilian casualties in the Second World War. The true nature of this research and its results were revealed only a few years ago, when Vladeta Vuckovic (later a mathematics professor in the USA) published an article titled: Sahrana jednog mita (Burial of a Myth) in the Serbian emigration magazine "Nasa Rec" (Our Word) (No. 368, October 1985), explaining how he -- at the time a student of mathematics working at the Belgrade Bureau of Statistics - was given the task to calculate the death toll within two weeks. He started with only one instruction:" the figure had to be significant, but scientifically and statistically founded." The results of the research were to be used by Edvard Kardelj "to support the Yugoslav request for reparation at the Paris Conference." However, the regime turned the estimates of the demographic losses (the number he calculated: 1,700,000) into the scientific data on the actual losses, "either out of ignorance, or with an aim to deceive, although the scientifically substantiated figure was somewhat above one million."

In his interview in the Belgrade-based magazine "Duga" (412, December 9-23, 1989), made during his visit to Yugoslavia, Vuckovic described in detail how he, a novice at the statistics office, was assigned by the director Dolfe Vogelnik, and his assistant Alojz Debevc, to calculate the war casualties. He wondered why Vogelnik and Debevc had not undertaken the matter themselves. In the interview he stated:" I realized that they were well-aware of the responsibility and that it was easier to burden a novice with the work for which no one knew where to begin. Simply, they got out of a tight spot." After he handed in his study, for which he was paid, and awarded a week off, he read in "Borba" that "Yugoslavia claimed reparations from the occupying forces, including reparations for one million seven hundred thousand war casualties! His estimate of demographic losses, which also included the unborn children, was proclaimed the official data of the casualties of war. The authorities probably knew what they were doing, he thought, and forgot about it."

It is clear why the experienced demographers, Tasic, Vogelnik and Debevc did not want to undertake this task: at the time of the study, in 1947, a census of the surviving population had not yet been done. However, it stands to reason that they were fully responsible for burdening a novice with such a task, and for the misinterpretation of the results which he calculated. Putting the blame on Kardelj cannot absolve the responsibility from the Federal Bureau of Statistics officials, especially in the case of such important state documentation.

It should be added that after the population census was completed on March 31, 1948, and census data analyzed, Dr. Dolfe Vogelnik published under the title "Demografski gubici Jugoslavije u drugom svjetskom ratu" (Demographic Losses of Yugoslavia in the Second World War), Statisticka revija (Statistical Review) 1/1952), the number of 3,250,000 which he considered the most probable estimate of the demographic losses, with a lower limit of 2,900,000 (This number included the demographic losses of the areas which were annexed to Croatia and Slovenia). The motive for Vogelnik's new calculation of the demographic losses after the 1948 census, (although he, as the director accepted the results calculated by Vladeta Vuckovic in 1947, and submitted them to the Yugoslav government), could only be that, after the census data on the surviving population, he concluded that demographic losses should have been considerably larger in order to justify the number of 1.7 million casualties of war.

The next issue of Statistical Review (2/1952) already published a study under the title: Istinski demografski gubici Jugoslavije u drugom svjetskom ratu (True Demographic Losses of Yugoslavia in the Second World War) by Ivo Lah, an experienced Slovenian demographer and statistician, who analyzed and denied Vogelnik's calculations. He wrote: "According to Dr. Vogelnik's calculation, an average increase rate per year in the period between 1941 and 1948 would be 2.13%, and most certainly 1.86%. Yugoslavia never had such a high annual increase rate, and certainly never will have. By increasing the increase rate per year for the period between 1941 and 1948, one can substantially increase the number of demographic losses. The issue is only the motivation for a hypothesis of this kind!" It must be stressed that the annual increase rate in Yugoslavia in the period between 1921 and 1931, which included the post First World War baby boom, reached an annual average of 1.5. The annual growth rate after 1931, and especially after 1935, decreased, and in the year 1939 the annual growth rate was only 1,1%. Therefore claiming the growth rate of 1.8% or 2.1% for the period between 1941 and 1948 is an obvious manipulation of war losses.

Ivo Lah calculated in the study that the annual growth rate for the period between 1941 and 1948 was 1.23%. The estimated population on March 15, 1948, the day of the census, was 17,200,000. The Yugoslav State Bureau of Statistics calculated in its publication** the estimated population as follows:

annual growth rate

Census population 31.3.1931.


Population growth 31.3.1931.-31.3.1941.



Expected population 31.3.1941.


Population growth 31.3.1941.-31.3.1945.



Expected population 31.3.1945.



While Ivo Lah undertook a proper calculation of the population growth for the period between March 31,1945 and March 15, 1948, resulting in a number of 600,000; Vogelnik calculated, at a lower variance, the expected population number of 17,991,000, and at a higher variance, the number of 18,354,000 on March 31, 1948. That is, he increased the number by 1,390,000 or respectively by 1,753,000, which clearly reveals an attempt to deliberately increase the number of demographic losses, in order to increase the number of the casualties of war.

It is not likely that Dr. Vogelnik was ignorant of the official calculations of the annual increase rate and estimated population for the period up to March 31, 1945. Therefore, it is not clear why Dr. Vogelnik, the director of the Federal Bureau of Statistics, could commit such a dishonorable act just in order to justify the estimates of war casualties, which were officially submitted to the Paris International Reparation Commission, reporting the figure of 1,706,000.

We cannot suppose that at the time, in 1945 and 1946, anyone had in mind the consequences which the first high estimates would cause to the Yugoslav community. They were probably fabricated with an aim to show the greatness and contribution of the Yugoslav liberation movement to the world, and to provide a basis for submitting a reparation request to the major occupying forces (Germany and Italy)***. However, in 1952 it was already evident that the requests were considerably over-estimated, and that they could not form the basis for reparation. The death toll of 1,706,000, however, remained protected by the state authorities, until Marshal Tito's death in 1980.

* Yugoslav human and material losses in the war period between 1941-1945 as stated by the Reparation Commission Department of the Yugoslav government.

** Demografska statistika (Demographical Statistics), Series II, Volume 2, "Izracunat broj stanovnika Jugoslavije za 1941 i 1945" ("The Calculated Number of the Population of Yugoslavija for 1941 and 1945"), issued in Belgrade, May 1945 (data for the territory of the pre-War Yugoslavia).

*** Yugoslavia's human and material losses during the Second World War (1941-1945), as released by the Yugoslav Reparation Commission, page 12: Germany had to pay reparation amounting to 35,858,000.000 US dollars and Italy had to pay 9,850,000.000 dollars.

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