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If not for the Holocaust, there would be as many as 32 million Jews worldwide, instead of the current 13 million, demographer Professor Sergio Della Pergola has written in a soon-to-be published article.

Della Pergola, who holds the Shlomo Argov chair in Israel-Diaspora relations and is the director of the Division of Jewish Demography and Statistics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, attempts to estimate the demographic damage to Jews of the Holocaust. The Holocaust 'struck a mortal blow particularly at the Jews of Eastern Europe because of their especially young age structure,' and particularly the number of children. This led to significant long-term demographic damage. The quantitative ramifications are far beyond what we think," he writes.

In the article, to be published in "Beshvil Hazikaron," the periodical of the Yad Vashem Holocaust commemoration authority's school of Holocaust studies, he writes: This was the destruction of a generation, and what we are lacking now is not only that generation, it is their children and their children.

According to Della Pergola, while the birth rate of the Jewish population outside Israel is relatively low, the young Jewish population of Eastern Europe has great potential for growth. "What would happen if there were another 10 million Jews in Eastern Europe? It raises questions that are like science fiction - for example, would the State of Israel have come into being?

Della Pergola says another demographic outcome of the Holocaust is the lower relative number of Jews in the world. "At present, the percentage of Jews in the world is constantly in decline. Before the Holocaust, the rate was eight Jews per thousand people in the world; today it is two per thousand.

Della Pergola also notes in the article that various estimates put the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust at between 5.6 and 5.9 million, and that part of the problem in pinpointing the numbers lies in the question of 'who is a Jew', he writes, since some of those killed converted to Christianity before the Holocaust or were part-Jewish.