They mention in the books that Grindelwald was the "Dark Lord" before Voldemort, and that Dumbledore was the one to stop him by taking the Elder Wand in a fair duel.

What I couldn't find was the specifics on the rise of the dark wizard Grindelwald, and the devastation he caused. So here goes with my question:

How bad (numerically by deaths) was Grindelwald's reign of terror compared to Voldemort's?

  • 10
    Do we even know how many people died in Voldemort's reign?
    – user40790
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:10
  • @Axelrod That was going to be my follow-up question
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:12
  • 1
    It should probably have been the first question. Having a stat on here to show how bad Voldie was would have been satisfying. From the books, it seems like the Wizarding World (at least the British one) is a whimpering group of 100 individuals -- because Voldemort only kills a few people that I recall.
    – user40790
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:14
  • @Axelrod Take a look at scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/3445/… and also scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/8821/….
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:17
  • Fantastic beasts will show us how bad Grindelwald was,and how many victims he claimed. It's clear that he was pretty evil as he says In the rally ' join me or die...' thus we see he was prepared to kill anyone who rejected him Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 22:13

4 Answers 4


After much researching I haven't found an exact figure related to how many people Grindelwald killed or even imprisoned in Nurmengard. However, there was a line from wikia - Gellert Grindelwald

He had absolutely no complaints about the murder of hundreds of innocent people who, from his perspective, were lesser than he

This, however, doesn't confirm explicitly that he murdered them himself, potentially his followers could have committed these crimes. Yet if it was him it does at least offer some indication as to how many people he killed.

To reinforce the above quote there is also another from Dumbledore:

"People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could." —Albus Dumbledore

This does confirm as we know that people were dying under Grindelwald's reign of terror. Albeit not offering up a figure.

In interviews with JKR there are hints and suggestions, as well as being noted by other people who have answered this question that Grindelwald had been one of Hitler's allies. Thereby potentially placing the number of deaths that he was involved in into millions.

Grindelwald terrorised all of Europe

There is evidence that indicates that Grindelwald wished to be more of a ruler than a murderer.


He was not a wanton killer or torturer, but he and his followers (in a single-minded and unpopular quest; one's allies must often be unsavoury characters) committed numerous crimes, including several known murders and eventually genocide.


his decision to stun Gregorovitch, not kill, when he acquired the Elder Wand hints at a willingness not to kill simply as a matter of course


Grindelwald merely wanted to dominate and rule Muggles, whereas Voldemort wished to kill them outright, along with anyone he considered not of pure blood


He succeeded in creating a prison, Nurmengard, to serve as a form of containment for his enemies...Though he certainly wasn't as blatantly murderous as Voldemort


We don't know, but probably not as many as in Voldy's reign.

Grindelwald would have been the evilest wizard ever, except that a generation later, U-No-Poo arrived to steal his crown.

As we don't know exactly how many people died in that time, we can't say how many people died because of Gellert.

Voldemort was really 'evil', and killed those who apposed him, whereas Grindelwald was acting 'for the greater good', and built a prison for his enemies.

  • 2
    I don't think you can really say that more people died during Voldemort's reign because he was more evil. Grindelwald was (as DH shows) not inherently evil in the way that Voldemort was psychopathic; he just really valued the Greater Good and had some rather twisted ideas about what that was. But his reign lasted decades, whereas Voldy's lasted only a few years altogether, and Grindelwald's spanned multiple nations and seems to have included an outright war. Casualties in Grindelwald's reign could well have been much, much higher than in Voldemort's. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 12:56
  • @JanusBahsJacquet As an addition to your last sentence....."but it could be true that murders Voldemort committed were more gruesome."
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 14:10
  • Also, keep in mind that the entire reason Grindewald wanted the Resurrection stone was to create an army of Inferi. This suggests he went through other ways to do it. Do you have any canon references that say he built a prison for his enemies?
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 16:41
  • "would have been the evilest wizard ever"... ever heard of Herpo the Foul?
    – user32390
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 8:03
  • 3
    @Anoplexian Deathly Hallows, ch. 18 “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore”, Hermione and Harry talking: ‘They say “For the Greater Good” was even carved over the entrance to Nurmengard.’ ‘What’s Nurmengard?’ ‘The prison Grindelwald had built to hold his opponents.’ Opponents here, not enemies; but basically the same thing. Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 12:43

Gellert Grindelwald has not been given enough importance in the series as his criminal activities were mostly in the past as compared to the timeline of Harry Potter and also not in Britain where most of the story was. So comparing his dark reign with that of Voldemort is a difficult task which deviates mostly from canon and makes way for certain assumptions, but I will try to do the job from the information we have from canon.

Grindelwald is a highly skilled wizard, compared to Dumbledore as an equal at the age of 17 and is known to be expelled from Durmstrangs for experiments he conducted,

Educated at Durmstrang, a school famous even then for its unfortunate tolerance of the Dark Arts, Grindelwald showed himself quite as precociously brilliant as Dumbledore.


At sixteen years old, even Durmstrang felt it could no longer turn a blind eye to the twisted experiments of Gellert Grindelwald, and he was expelled.

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow's, Chapter 18:The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Grindelwald had plans to establish Wizard ruling on Muggles even from his school and he shares his ideas with Dumbledore when they meet each other at Godric's Hollow.

Gellert ---

Your point about Wizard dominance being FOR THE MUGGLES’ OWN GOOD --- this, I think, is the crucial point. Yes, we have been given power and yes, that power gives us the right to rule, but it also gives us responsibilities over the ruled. We must stress this point, it will be the foundation stone upon which we build. Where we are opposed, as we surely will be, this must be the basis of all our counterarguments. We seize control FOR THE GREATER GOOD. And from this it follows that where we meet resistance, we must use only the force that is necessary and no more. (This was your mistake at Durmstrang! But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.)


-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow's, Chapter 18:The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

The ruling of Grindelwald had shown signs of Dumbledore's suggestions being implemented like having the slogan FOR THE GREATER GOOD and carving it on his entrance to prison Nurmengard, which he had build to hold his opponents.

“I[Hermione] think that's the worst bit. I know Bathilda thought it was all just talk, but 'For the Greater Good' became Grindelwald's slogan, his justification for all the atrocities he committed later. And . . . from that . . . it looks like Dumbledore gave him the idea. They say 'For the Greater Good' was even carved over the entrance to Nurmengard.”

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow's, Chapter 18:The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Grindelwald's ruling was primarily dictatorship, he wanted to make Muggles believe that Wizard ruling will earn fruitful results and wanted to discard Statute of Secrecy, he was always compared with Adolf Hitler and alexwlchan's answer here draws an excellent similarities between them. Also this essay here.

Compared to Voldemort, he had enough kindness to build a prison for his opponents rather than just killing them with the Death Curse and he is not too kind to have morals for not killing them,

Krum’s jaw muscles worked as if he were chewing, then he said,

Grindelvald killed many people, my grandfather, for instance. Of course, he vos never powerful in this country, they said he feared Dumbledore

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow's, Chapter 8:The Wedding

It's not new for a Dark Wizard to be fearful of Dumbledore, but he is the first of his kind.

Even though JK Rowling commented that Wizard wars and Muggle wars being interconnected, throwing all the deaths of World War II into Grindelwald's account is absurd.

Voldemort's killings will outnumber that of Grindelwald's because of his vast number of Muggle killings for Inferi, which Grindelwald had no mention about in canon. The number of people involved in Inferi are estimated by Slytherincess here.

So, through canon it is difficult to estimate the amount of killings Grindelwald committed because he is detached with the Britain community because of his fear in Dumbledore.

  • he is not as evil as Tom Riddle because he didn't think of creating Horcruxes Can this really be said to be true? First off, how is evil defined, and second; Grindelwald wasn't obsessed with immortality like Voldie, and may have had no need for something like that.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 14:19
  • @Anoplexian Corrected, Thanks!
    – axelonet
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 11:29

Possibly, 50-80 million casualties

If Grindelwald was connected to World War II -- and according to this answer he is --, then we are talking about millions.

World War II fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total dead ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million.

(source: Wikipedia)

I'm assuming, of course, that Grindelwald was a key-figure in this conflict -- not a coincidence that WW II ended by the time he was defeated.

(and, btw, why fight with just a hundred wizards army, when you can have hundreds of millions of disposable Muggles with you?)

One of many possible scenarios: Hitler is rumored to have an interest in the paranormal. If that was the case, he would have loved to count with magical items, divination or a wizard-squad to help him. Easy to see Grindelwald using the chance to become his right-hand -- or even the one pushing the paws after a while.

[oh, the irony: millions of Muggles fighting among themselves when a wizard is the one pushing the paws. Not so different from half-blood Riddle using Purebloods prejudices for his own agenda...]

PS: even if Grindewald was not a key-figure in WW II, a global wizard war is bound to create much more damage than a single year (or less than that) of dominance restricted to the British soil. So, I would say that Grindelwald's reign was much worse than Voldemort's.

  • 3
    That's crazy, Hulk. Crazy.
    – user40790
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:12
  • 6
    That's assuming every single death in WW2 was by Grindelwald (and his gang). Do you have facts that say he and his gang was involved in huge massacres of people rather than just "He WAS WWII"? Your link says there was a parallel Wizarding War, not that it actually WAS WWII.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 16:19
  • Actually, JKR states in the interviews that the death of Grindelwald was linked to the end of WWII. If he had that much influence over the war (they "feed each other" and the war was more easily ended because Grindelwald was dead) then surely he was responsible for many of those deaths in the same way Hitler was responsible for the many civilian deaths during his reign. In fact, it's entirely possible Hitler & ilk was being controlled in the same manner Pius Thicknesse was by the Imperius Curse. There doesn't appear to be a lot of canon to support any of these (logical) inferences, though.
    – Captain P
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:37
  • 1
    Hitler/Grindelwald :: Palpatine/Sidious. Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 12:47

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