The Eastern Front was the largest and bloodiest theatre of World War II. It is generally accepted as being the deadliest conflict in human history, with over 30 million killed as a result.[5] The German armed forces suffered 80% of its military deaths in the Eastern Front.[65] It involved more land combat than all other World War II theatres combined.[citation needed] The distinctly brutal nature of warfare on the Eastern Front was exemplified by an often willful disregard for human life by both sides. It was also reflected in the ideological premise for the war, which also saw a momentous clash between two directly opposed ideologies. Leningradians leaving their houses destroyed by German bombings, December 1942, by RIA Novosti archive. Aside from the ideological conflict, the mindframe of the leaders of Germany and the Soviet Union, Hitler and Stalin respectively, contributed to the escalation of terror and murder on an unprecedented scale. Stalin and Hitler both disregarded human life in order to achieve their goal of victory. This included terrorization of their own people, as well as mass deportation of entire populations. All these factors resulted in tremendous brutality both to combatants and civilians that found no parallel on the Western Front. According to Time: "By measure of manpower, duration, territorial reach and casualties, the Eastern Front was as much as four times the scale of the conflict on the Western Front that opened with the Normandy invasion."[66] The war inflicted huge losses and suffering upon the civilian populations of the affected countries. Behind the front lines, atrocities against civilians in German-occupied areas were routine, including the Holocaust. German and German-allied forces treated civilian populations with exceptional brutality, massacring villages and routinely killing civilian hostages. Both sides practiced widespread scorched earth tactics, but the loss of civilian lives in the case of Germany was incomparably smaller than that of the Soviet Union, in which at least 20

million civilians were killed. According to Geoffrey A. Hosking, "The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater: since a high proportion of those killed were young men of child-begetting age, the postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million smaller than post- 1939 projections would have led one to expect."[67] When the Red Army invaded Germany in 1944, many German civilians suffered from vengeance taken by Red Army soldiers (see Soviet war crimes). After the war, following the Yalta conference agreements between the Allies, the German populations of East Prussia and Silesia were displaced to the west of the Oder-Neisse Line, in what became one of the largest forced migrations of people in world history. The Soviet Union came out of World War II militarily victorious but economically and structurally devastated. Much of the combat took place in or close by populated areas, and the actions of both sides contributed to massive loss of civilian life as well as a tremendous material damage. According to a summary, presented by Lieutenant General Roman Rudenko at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, the property damage in the Soviet Union inflicted by the Axis invasion was estimated to a value of 679 billion rubles. The largest number of civilian deaths in a single city was 1.2 million citizens dead during the Siege of Leningrad. The combined damage consisted of complete or partial destruction of 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages/hamlets, 2,508 church buildings, 31,850 industrial establishments, 40,000 miles of railroad, 4100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools, and 43,000 public libraries, leaving 25 million homeless. Seven million horses, 17 million cattle, 20 million pigs, 27 million sheep were also slaughtered or driven off.[68] Wild fauna were also affected. Wolves and foxes fleeing westward from the killing zone, as the Soviet army advanced 1943–45, were responsible for a rabies epidemic which spread slowly westwards, reaching the coast of the English Channel by 1968.