May 8, 1945: The war in Europe is over | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.05.2012
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Germany

May 8, 1945: The war in Europe is over

On May 7, 1945 Germany surrendered unconditionally to Allied forces in the French city of Reims. One day later, World War II is over - at least in Europe.

On April 16, 1945, the Red Army is ready to take Berlin. The Nazi regime only has some scattered troops and SS units left to defend the capital.

Infantrymen of the U.S. First Army , left, extend welcoming hands to Russian troops

American and Soviet soldiers shake hands at Torgau

That same day, the Red Army under Marshal Georgy Zhukov reaches the outskirts of the city while pushing further east into the German hinterland. The US Army is also drawing closer from the west. On April 25, the BBC reports: "East and West have met. At 20 minutes to five on Wednesday afternoon, April 25, 1945, American troops of General Bradley's 12th Army group made contact with Soviet elements of Marshal Konev's First Ukrainian Army group near the German town of Torgau on the Elbe. This is the news for which the whole Allied world has been waiting."

Nonetheless German troops and the Red Army were still engaged in fierce battles in the streets of Berlin as German state radio broadcast: "Berlin continues to fight, Berlin trusts the Führer!"

Battle for Berlin

On April 28, Adolf Hitler receives the news that the Red Army is on the verge of taking his offices at the Reich Chancellery. In a rush, he marries his partner Eva Braun, composes his "political will" and appoints Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor. Hitler doesn't want to fall into the hands of the Russians. At 3:30 p.m. on April 30, Hitler commits suicide together with his wife Eva Braun. According to his wishes, both bodies are set alight and burned.

But fighting in Berlin continues, pushed by fanatic generals. More residents of Berlin die during the battle for the capital than during the many years of air raids. While the remaining troops in Berlin finally surrender on May 2, Hitler's successor Dönitz orders fighting to continue elsewhere, hoping to prevent an unconditional total surrender.

General Alfred Jodl, center, signs the unconditional surrender of all armed German forces

Signing the capitulation

Five days later in the French city of Reims – at US General Eisenhower's headquarters - the German delegation consents to the unconditional surrender, the documents are signed. Dönitz addresses the nation: "On May 8 at 11 p.m., all weapons will fall silent."

At Stalin's insistence, the signing ceremony is repeated in Berlin at Marshal Zhukov's headquarters and the surrender documents are signed again shortly before midnight on May 8. The Allied leaders gave their nations and the world the good news: the war was over. World War II claimed more than 60 million victims before US President Harry S. Truman was able to announce: "The flags of freedom fly over all of Europe."

Author: Birgit Görtz / db

Editor: Neil King

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