The Staggering Human Cost of World War II Visualized in a Creative, New Animated Documentary

“More people died in World War II than any other war in history,” explains Neil Halloran in The Fallen of World War II. In his 15-minute film, Halloran uses innovative data visualization techniques to put the human cost of WW II into perspective, showing how some 70 million lives were lost within civilian and military populations across Europe and Asia, from 1939 to 1945. As one commenter put it, “One million, six million, seventy million. Spoken or written, these numbers become … incomprehensible. Presented graphically, they hit closer to the heart. As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had become frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought.” He’s referring to the staggering number of Soviets who died fighting the Nazis. If you fast forward to the 6-minute mark above, you can see what he means.

The video comes accompanied by an interactive website, where users can “pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.” To use this interactive website, you will need a fairly new computer and a modern browser.

You can contribute money and support the ongoing Fallen of World War II project here.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

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  • Hanoch says:

    The saddest thing is that Hitler would have been easily crushed after remilitarizing the Rhineland in 1936 had not the advocates of “peace” and appeasement prevailed. Ironically, it was the so-called “warmongers”, like Churchill, who would have prevented this catastrophe by dealing with Hitler when he was most vulnerable.

  • Ryan says:

    No mention of the Canadians?

  • derrick says:

    There is also no mention of the horrific death tolls between the year 1957 to 1959 (The Great Leap Forward movement in China) and 1960 to 1969 (The Cultural Revolution in China). The 3 years from 1957 to 1959 alone resulted in a death toll of at least 22 million to a higher estimated of 43 million human lives. This is a massive piece of tragedy with such an enormous loss of lives that should not be muted.

  • derrick says:

    and by the way, the lower estimate of 22 million souls who died largely to starvation, is based on the official estimate from the Chinese.

  • Anne says:

    Typical. Canada is completely dismissed. How insulting!

  • tmp says:

    There’s a bar for Mao.

  • Scott says:

    I’m American and I hear about Canadian roles in WW2 sometimes. Fought bravely in Tank battles. The role leading up to and during D-day.

  • gnh says:

    Everyone always forgets about Canada. According to Wikipedia, Canada’s war deaths outpace the US per capita, 0.32 for the US vs. .40 for Canada. Canadians were there from the start and took part in some of the bloodiest battles in WWII.

    Please stop ignoring us, it’s really insulting. It’s like we don’t exist.

  • Mark Hughes says:

    Why am I not surprised that the Canadian contribution to World War Two has again been ignored by an American recounting that war. I guess having the third largest Navy in WW2 and being one fifth of the D-Day invasion force doesn’t merit mention.

  • Jason says:

    It’s WW2 deaths you moron

  • Brian says:

    I always remember the Canadian involvement (as well as Australian and the other countries associated as “The British Empire”) in WW2 talked about as a whole and the statistical contributions/deaths they contributed to the war effort included with the English/United Kingdom numbers and then that number would be followed by a break down of that number to reveal Canada, Australia, India and so forth’s individual numbers in history classes I’ve had over the years. This is especially true as the classes were of higher level (high school and college) and were covering more specific eras as opposed to a “World History” course or similar overall history overview compressed into a three to four month time frame. Seems like that’s a function of being a member of the commonwealth and how it’s data is reported to the world and not some U.S. conspiracy to hog WW2 glory. Personally, I have relatives and and know a few through them that were shot down over occupied Europe who would not have probably survived if not for all the work and sacrifice provided by the Free French and Free Dutch forces that helped get them before German troops found them and smuggled them to places where they could then be picked up by boat to get across the channel to England. Those guys get very little respect and recognition for all that they did and the fact that ultimate victory would have been exponentially harder without their contributions.What little you do hear about them is almost exclusively about the French and not the Dutch, Polish and numerous other Free Forces of German occupied countries. In other words, there’s no way to ever fully give each their due in regards to their contribution and sacrifice in those dark years, and I hope as time goes on all can take more of a “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” approach to giving credit to all we were unable know or identify and honor them as best we can. Bickering over who did what and how much ultimately makes us all look foolish and petty while further obscuring the people and contributions that we should be trying to uncover and recognize going forward. By the way, my friends to the north, thank you for what you have and done for what you will do to help us out. With all the Hollywood movie production that goes on in Canada, how about some movies to illustrate those shining moments and the Canadian person/people that were involved? American’s enjoy heroic people and their exploits from all over, we just need you to bring them to our attention most of the time…

  • Rob says:

    I see some comments from my fellow Canadians regarding this film. I can’t really see why you guys and gals are so upset at Canada not being mentioned. This was a film produced by Americans for Americans. Having said that, there are two factors to keep in mind:

    1.) Americans are notoriously ignorant of history, even their own.

    2.) The United States is an empire in decline and therefore the opinions of Americans are becoming less and less relevant to the rest of the world.

    So, no worries! We know what our parents and our grandparents achieved in the Second World War as do our friends in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium and France and that’s all that matters.

  • Heartland Patriot says:

    Its people like you that enabled all those deaths. I bet you are an anti-capitalist of some sort and probably think that once capitalism is gone, you’ll get some sort of utopia. That’s what the Nazis, Fascists and Communists were pushing…and it resulted in all those deaths.

  • Rob says:

    It’s people like you who embarrass themselves by posting puerile nonsense on the Internet. Don’t bet too much on your idiotic assumption, son, you’ll lose your wager plus your dignity (and you obviously don’t have much of that to begin with).
    It’s unquestioning sheep like you that are anything but patriots. In the Second World War both Canada and the U.S. fought for freedom of thought, speech and ideas and it’s people like you who betray our fallen soldiers. No doubt you have a huge U.S. flag flying outside your house, a house devoid of any true freedom. Ironic and pathetic.

  • James says:

    Canada lost what? 10%(45,400) of what the US lost(407,000 not including the 12,000 civilian deaths of which Canada had none). Of course these numbers are from Wikipedia.

  • Rob says:

    Population of Canada in 1939: 11,267,000 (Source:

    Population of the United States in 1939: 130,879,718 (Source:

  • me says:

    wow. I think you guys are all missing the point.

  • Bert says:

    Maybe it’s best to send Neil Halloran an e-mail thanking him for his effort but also helping him with the missing parts, in stead of telling each other what he missed. Hopefully he can make a version 2.0 with all the correct information, because his visualization is one of the best I’ve ever seen and it’s worth sharing this with everyone.

  • G says:

    Actually Hitler pushed for peace and avoiding arms race. We know that Neville Chamberlain had severe pressure to get Great Britain into World War 2. Before he died, he revealed America and World Jews forced Britain into war against Germany (mentioned in The Forrestal Diaries from 1945.)

    But one of the most honorable things about Chamberlain was he was a pronounced opponent of the use of the bomber as a weapon of terrorisation (mentioned in David Irving’s book “The Destruction of Dresden” (1995), Page 7-8).

    With Chamberlain, he had a public guarantee to respect German civilian lives. This applied till the last day of Chamberlain as the prime minister of Great Britain (May 9, 1940).

    But when the Anti-German monster Churchill became British prime minister on May 10, 1940, the British government now publicly proclaimed that it reserved the right to take whatever action it considered appropriate in the event of German air raids on civilian populations. Churchill was not elected in.

    So the cabinet on its very first day of office under Mr Winston Churchill, the new prime minister, was able to dispose of Mr Chamberlain’s public guarantee to respect German civilian lives (David Irving’s “The Destruction of Dresden” (1995), Page 8-9).
    That was the beginning of the horror on German civilian lives which resulted in horrors like Operation Gomorrah (the bombing of Hamburg) in 1943, and the bombing of all German cities (Dresden, Rotterdam, Berlin, etc.). Churchill was only the front man for the Establishment. Remember Churchill was not voted in democratically, he was placed in charge. Which means he had a boss or bosses. You also have to remember the person or people who did put him in charge are always in charge. Hitler never bombed civilians first and the pilots on the massacre of Blieburg broke their silence. Find out who profits from wars and you will see who Hitler warned and talked about. Enjoying the endless wars and endless cycle of usury and debt today? More death to come.

  • Joe Turner says:

    Hind sight is always 20-20. I want to know why the USA was stupid enough to fight the Japanese island by island instead of using air bases in China or Russia.

  • j says:

    Actually Hitler pushed for peace and avoiding arms race. We know that Neville Chamberlain had severe pressure to get Great Britain into World War 2. Before he died, he revealed America and World Jews forced Britain into war against Germany (mentioned in The Forrestal Diaries from 1945.)

    Ha this is funny yes lets talk about this in reality.
    A guy took power in a severely depressed country and tried to use military to get the economy going… He did, his name is Hitler, here is a fact that you didn’t mention when you said Hitler wasn’t targeting civilians… and he also started ethnic genocide and concentration camps that the video points out. If there were Jews of the world which sounds like some secret organization you think there is… then yes they did. I would have begged anyone to stop the German Hitler form executing men so they wouldn’t revolt then throwing women and children in the gas chambers. England listened and was the only country that wasn’t rolled by the Germans and had the ability to stop their onslaught, by doing whatever they could to stop them, anything they could.

    What would have been your course of action to stop Germany if hind sight is 20-20?

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