The Techniques of Holocaust Denial: The World Almanac Gambit

Editor: Ken McVay
Authors: Annie Alpert, John Morris In August of 1997, an author identifying himself as Bob Djurdjevic, the founder of “Truth in Media,” included the following paragraph in a letter to The Arizona Republic:

“The World Almanac for 1940 gives the world’s Jewish population as 15,319,359. The World Almanac for 1949 puts the number of Jews in the world at 15,713,638.”If the World Almanac figures are correct, “the world’s Jewish population did not decrease in the war decade, but showed a small increase.”

The 1949 figure offered by Mr. Djurdjevic was, as you’re about to see, an outright lie, as was the conclusion drawn.

When citing the World Almanac as a source for data “proving” that there was no Jewish population decline during World War II, Holocaust deniers are simply propagating one of the standard denier myths that has recurred regularly for more than a decade.

The problem has nothing whatever to do with rates of population increase or anything like that. It has to do with how frequently the World Almanac’s sources had access to fresh estimates of religious populations.

Whoever first started propagating World Almanac figures neglected to mention that all figures before
1949 were from 1938 estimates. Since the year of etimate is given at the top of the chart it is difficult to believe that the originator did not intentionally mean to decieve by negelecting this key piece of information.

I have posted the following correction several times:


The University of Alberta library has the World Almanac issues for the pertinent period for 1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, and 1949. The figures listed for total world Jewish population are as follows:
1941 15,748,091
1944 15,192,089
1947 15,688,259
1948 15,688,259
1949 11,266,600

Now you may be wondering what happened to all those Jews in 1948-49. No fresh estimates were made between 1938 and 1947. The figures listed for 1941, 1947, and 1948 are identified as estimates made in 1938. The source for the estimate for 1944 is not given, and the numbers are listed differently than in other years. In 1944, the numbers are given as a part of a list of various world religions rather than standing on their own with a country-by-country breakdown as in the other years.

Only in 1949 are postwar estimates employed, the figures given are for estimates made in 1948. A year or two lag seems to be common for various other population estimates given by the World Almanac.

The difference between the 1938 and 1948 figures is thus 4,481,491.

In 1949, however, the World Almanac gives a revised 1939 population of 16,643,120 giving a difference of between 1938 and 1947 of 5,376,520. Where the extra population between 1938 and 1939 came from is not cited, though one might speculate that it was based upon the Nazi estimates made in 1942 for the Wannsee Conference.

Despite the apparent exactness of the numbers listed, the World Almanac warns that all numbers listed are estimates.

The World Almanac estimates figured prominently in another instance of the Gambit when the New York Times published inflated estimates of the post-war Jewish population in 1948, and early deniers used the story to dismiss claims of 6 million Jewish deaths. i

The Times later explained that their data had come from the 1948 World Almanac in this letter to Morris Kominsky from the author of the piece:

“Dear Mr. Kominsky,
“Thank you for your letter of inquiry of January 6.
“The world Jewish population figures printed in this
story came from the 1948 edition of the World Almanac.
Later we checked it with the American Jewish Committee and
other sources and said in the correction, as I noted to you
in my previous letter, that the authorities agree that
Hitler’s wholesale massacre of Jews during the war reduced
the Jewish population to perhaps 12 million today (2/26/48).
“If Mr. Freedman met with me I do not remember it.
The problem is of course, that you are talking about events
that took place 19 years ago. I see hundreds of people per
year, many of them only for a few minutes so I could not
swear that I did not see Mr. Freedman but if I did it made
no impression either upon me or upon my assistant.
“I do not know what Mr. Freedman means by examination
of documents but to my knowledge we had no particular
documents bearing on the issue in question.
“I hope this answers your questions; if there is
anything else you wish to know please do not hesitate to
write again.
“Sincerely, Hanson W. Baldwin (Military Editor)”

For the complete story, see this article from Annie Alpert, posted in 1996.