Nazi Germany surrenders - VE Day
The 7th of May 1945 AD
In the spring of 1945 it became increasingly clear that Germany would not be able to hold the Allied forces, and that defeat was inevitable for the Nazis. Hitler, unable to bear the shame of defeat, committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin on April 30 1945, with the Soviet forces bearing down on his last hideout.
With Hitler removed the way was clear for the German authorities to surrender. Admiral Donitz, now President of Germany, rapidly moved to end the war. Thus in Reims at 02.41 on May 7 1945 General Jodl, Chief of Staff of the German High command, signed an unconditional surrender document on behalf of his government. To give time for the word to be put out to forces in the field, it was agreed that the official cease fire would be at 23.01 the next day (or in Britain 00.01 on May 9), but the press could not be kept from shouting the news to the world, and so celebrations began shortly after the Reims signing. A cessation of hostilities had already begun to try to prevent any further deaths in the field.
Stalin refused to accept the Reims surrender, as it was to the Americans and British, so another signing was required at Karlshorst, on the outskirts of Berlin. This happened just before midnight on May 8th, Field Marshal Keitel heading the German delegation, with top brass from the Russian, British and American sides witnessing the unconditional surrender.
Because there are two surrender dates, there is a discrepancy between the VE-Day celebrations of the allies – in Britain and America May 8 is commemorated, in Russia and other former Soviet Republics May 9 is the great day – Victory Day, complete with parades and shows of strength.
As news hit Britain on May 7 the wild celebrations began. Up and down the country pubs sold out of beer, then everything else with a kick was drunk dry. Dancing in the streets began and carried on into the night; people improvised celebratory foods with what little they had available.
May 8, however, was declared VE-Day. Over a million people gathered in London , thronging the Mall, lining the main routes through the capital, filling Trafalgar Square . Churchill and the Royal family appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and down below singing and dancing continued. The late lamented Humphrey Littleton , a Guards Officer, played his jazz trumpet at the gates of Buckingham Palace full of the joy of survival and life. Complete strangers kissed, fireworks were launched into the night sky, and effigies of the loathed Hitler were burned on makeshift bonfires built by small boys and old men around the country.
Though the war in Europe was over, the struggle in the Far East continued into September. And at home the effects would be felt for years to come, rationing not ending until the late 1950s, the cruel winter of 1946 hitting hard at those struggling literally to keep the home fires burning
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