The deadliest World War


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September 2022


Scientific publication

The deadliest World War

The death toll of both World Wars in Belgium is still unclear and different figures circulate. The uncertainty about the number of military and civilian casualties is due to gaps in source material and the lack of reliable statistics. Bruno De Wever (UGent, Department of History) ventured a calculation by combining and critically evaluating various sources and databases compiled in recent years.  In doing so, he used LOKSTAT among others. The results of his research recently appeared in the Liber Amicorum of Piet Chielens. 

The author concludes that the death toll of World War I was greater for Belgians both in absolute numbers and in relative terms than World War II (66,000 or 8.86‰ versus 53,000 or 6.42‰). But if we include the foreigners who stayed on Belgian soil during the war years (especially Jewish refugees and migrants), World War II claimed more victims (79,000 dead or 9.57‰ of the population). A detailed statistic distinguishing the size of the different categories of civilian and military victims can be found in the cited contribution. 


Bruno De Wever, “‘Belgische oorlogsdoden van de wereldoorlogen”, in: Nous irons en Flandres: Festschrift Piet Chielens. Ypres, 2022, 361-365.