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Victory in Europe (V-E) Day

May 8

Victory in Europe (V-E) Day

Victory in Europe (V-E) Day

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Victory in Europe Day — known as V-E Day or VE Day — commemorates 8 May 1945, the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Final events of the European front include:

Mussolini’s death: On April 27, 1945, as Allied forces closed in on Milan, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans.  He was trying to flee from Italy to Switzerland and was traveling with a German anti-aircraft battalion. On April 28, Mussolini was killed in Giulino.  The bodies were then taken to Milan and hung for public display in one of the main squares of the city. On April 29, all Fascist Italian armed forces surrendered at Caserta.

Hitler’s death: On 30 April, as the Battle of Berlin raged above him, realizing that all was lost and not wishing to suffer Mussolini’s fate, German dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his Führerbunker along with Eva Braun, his long-term mistress whom he had married less than 40 hours before their joint suicide.  In his will, Hitler appointed his successors; Karl Dönitz as the new President of Germany and Joseph Goebbels as the new Chancellor of Germany.  However, Goebbels committed suicide on May 1, 1945, leaving Dönitz as sole leader of Germany.

Main German forces surrender: On 1 May, SS General Karl Wolff ordered all German armed forces in Italy to cease hostilities and signed a surrender document which stipulated that all German forces in Italy were to surrender unconditionally to the Allies on May 2nd.  The Battle of Berlin ended on 2 May. On that date, General of the Artillery Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to the Soviet army.  On the same day the officers commanding the two armies of Army Group Vistula north of Berlin, surrendered to the Western Allies.  On May 4, 1945, the British Field Marshal Montgomery took the unconditional military surrender of all German forces “in Holland, in northwest Germany including the Frisian Islands and Heligoland and all other islands, in Schleswig-Holstein, and in Denmark… including all naval ships in these areas.”  On May 5, Dönitz ordered all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases.  At 16:00, General Johannes Blaskowitz, the German commander-in-chief in the Netherlands, surrendered to Canadian General Charles Foulkes.

German forces in Breslau surrender: At 18:00 on May 6, General Hermann Niehoff the commandant of Breslau, a fortress city surrounded and besieged for months, surrendered to the Soviets.  Thirty minutes after the fall of “Fortress Breslau”, General Alfred Jodl arrived in Reims and, following Dönitz’s instructions, offered to surrender all forces fighting the Western Allies.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower threatened to break off all negotiations unless the Germans agreed to a complete unconditional surrender.  Eisenhower explicitly told Jodl that he would order western lines closed to German soldiers, thus forcing them to surrender to the Soviets.  Jodl sent a signal to Dönitz, who was in Flensburg, informing him of Eisenhower’s position. Shortly after midnight, Dönitz, accepting the inevitable, sent a signal to Jodl authorizing the complete and total surrender of all German forces.

At 02:41 on the morning of May 7, in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies.  General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway on May 7, the same day as Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document.  It included the phrase “All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945.”

Victory in Europe: News of the surrender broke in the West on May 8, and celebrations erupted throughout Europe. In the U.S., Americans awoke to the news and declared May 8 V-E Day.  As the Soviet Union was to the east of Germany it was May 9 Moscow Time when German military surrender became effective, which is why Russia and many other European countries east of Germany commemorate Victory Day on May 9.

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