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Nazi Germany surrendered 75 years ago today

Crowd gathered in Whitehall to hear Winston Churchill's Victory speech and to celebrate Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945. (Imperial War Museum, fair use)
May 08, 2020

On May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany signed its unconditional surrender to the allied powers, ending World War II in the European theater of the war.

The historic event has been remembered as Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day. While the war would continue for another three months in the Pacific theater of conflict against Imperial Japan, Germany’s surrender did signal the end of the war for many.

The final days of the war for Nazi Germany saw the U.S., Great Britain and other Western European allies approaching from the West, while Soviet Russian forces closed in from the East, surrounding Germany. Germany’s other ally in the war, Italy, had largely been knocked out of the war, though German forces in the country held out the Italian line until their surrender on May 2, 1945, according to a History.com timeline of the war.

With Germany’s final surrender crowds broke out in celebration of the news. In New York City, thousands packed into Times Square. Thousands also crowded into churches across the country to give thanks.

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As he announced the surrender, then-President Harry Truman expressed a note of sorrow that his predecessor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died before he could see the end of the war with Germany.

“This is a solemn but glorious hour,” Truman said. “I had wished that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to see this day. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the united nations. The flags of freedom fly on over Europe.”

Crowds also formed throughout Europe in celebration.

“Advance Britannia. Long Live the cause of freedom,” the U.K. based Channel 4 News tweeted, along with footage of then-UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s victory speech. “75 years ago, Winston Churchill declared ‘Victory in Europe Day – and the people of Britain celebrated long into the night #VEDay.”

“Yesterday morning at 2:41 a.m. at General Eisenhower’s headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command, and Grand Admiral Donitz, the designated head of the German state, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe to the Allied expeditionary forces and simultaneously to the Soviet high command.”

The video is cut with footage from celebrations in Piccadilly Circus in London, on the day victory was declared.

Footage from Paris on VE Day 1945 saw thousands marching through the streets, past major landmarks of the city, such as the Place de la Concorde, Tour Eiffel, and the Arc de Triomphe.

Marchers in Paris could be seen waving the American flag alongside the French flag and the flags of other allied powers who helped liberate France from Nazi German control during the course of the war.