Bogus Stalin: "One death a tragedy, million deaths a statistic"

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   On Friday's NIGHTLINE, Ted Koppel read off the names of America's 530 dead from combat in Iraq.
   3 May 2004, NEW YORK SUN, "The Cost of Koppel" by Mark Steyn, pg. 8, col. 3:

   As Joseph Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.

   Well, we're pretty stupid over here and we check quotations out.  Stalin never said it.

From: Lee Rudolph (lrudolph at
Subject: bogus Stalin quote vectored on "Looking at the Law"
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.urban
Date: 1996/05/19

Neil Chayet, broadcasting his "Looking at the Law--Live" program
this morning on WBZ (Boston, Mass.), mentioned that "there are two
new books on Stalin out" and then segued into his "favorite quote
from Stalin", which he managed to put the opposite way around from
the usual: "the death of a million people is a statistic, one death
is a tragedy."  The implication was that this "quote from Stalin"
was in one, or both, of the "two new books".

If it is, I'd like to see it.  This has come up here several times
before (Joseph Askew, are you there?).  Last time around, I asked
the editor of Stalin's letters to Molotov (Yale, 1995) for his
opinion; he says he has never seen the quotation anywhere in Stalin's
writings, and that it isn't (to his ear) in Stalin's style.

Lee "one repetition is a mistake, one million repetitions is an
     urban legend" Rudolph

From: Bruce Tindall (Bruce.Tindall at
Subject: Tragic Statistics (was Re: North (was Re: South Side
View: Complete Thread (2 articles)
Original Format
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.urban
Date: 1993-11-20 09:11:53 PST

In article <1993Nov19.221258.22164 at> derek at (Derek Tearne) writes:
>In your .sig you quote...
>>One death is a tragedy, a million, a statistic.- Joseph Stalin
>I always thought it was Hitler who said this.  Does anyone know if
>some dictator actually did say this or of any other famous bad people who
>it has been attributed too.

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations says it's "attributed" to Stalin.
Mr. Bartlett would not last long on AFU.

   The earliest citation I can find is 1958, and Stalin gets attribution there.  But Stalin's words and papers have been well examined by scholars, and I trust it just isn't there.  Stalin probably wouldn't consider any death a "tragedy."
   Who said it?

    Unwritten Pages at the End of the Diary; ANNE FRANK: A Portrait in Courage. By Ernst Schnabel. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston from the German "Anne Frank: Spur Eines Kindes." Illustrated. 192 pp. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co. $3.95.
By ANNE FREMANTLE. New York Times (1857-Current. Sep 28, 1958. p. BR3 (1 page):
   "A SINGLE death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."  Stalin's epigram is admirably illustrated by Ernest Schnabel's pointilliste portrait of Anne Frank during the few months she lived after the last entry in her diary, August 1, 1944.

ANNE FREMANTLE. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Jun 20, 1971. p. D10 (1 page):
   As Stalin said, a million deaths is a statistic, one man's death is a tragedy,...

    McGovern Keeps His Faith; Hope of Scaring Nixon Fuels Shaky Campaign McGovern Campaign Proceeds Jerkily Along
By William Greider Washington Post Staff Writer. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973). Washington, D.C.: Oct 17, 1972. p. A1 (2 pages)
Second page (A6):  At Wheaton, Ill. before a conservative audience, he spoke of moral insensitivity in the national character:
   "What about the attitudes that brought us to this war?  What about the insensitivity of those who have given us weekly body counts--who have told us, in effect, that one death is a tragedy and thousands are a statistic?"

    Cambodia: Voices from the Silenced; CAMBODIA: YEAR ZERO by Francois Ponchaud. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 212 pp. $8.95. MURDER OF A GENTLE LAND: The Untold Story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia. By John Barron and Anthony Paul. Reader's Digest. 240 pp. $9.95 Cambodia: Voices from the Silenced
By ELIZABETH BECKER. The Washington Post (1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.: Jul 9, 1978. p. E1 (2 pages)

    Panel Urges Ban on Uganda Trade
The Washington Post (1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.: Sep 23, 1978. p. A15 (1 page):
   "Indeed, as Joseph Stalin himself once said, 'While one death is a tragedy, a succession of them is only a statistic,'" Hatfield continued.

Gettysburg Times - 5/1/1985
...the "GreAt PAtriotic WAr." "A single DEATH IS A trAgedy, A million DEATHs IS.....the presidency upon Roosevelt's DEATH. GermAny surrendered weeks lAter..
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania   Wednesday, May 01, 1985  525 k

Chronicle Telegram - 1/14/1993
...nAture when he declAred, "A single DEATH IS A trAgedy; A million DEATHs IS.....Another tries to deAl with the violent DEATH of A grAndmother And An uncle..
Elyria, Ohio   Thursday, January 14, 1993  506 k

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