Tuesday 8 May 1945 was ‘Victory in Europe’ (VE) Day, and it marked the formal end of Hitler’s war.
With it came the end of six years of misery, suffering, courage and endurance across the world.
Two separate capitulation events took place at the time. First, the capitulation to the Allied nations in Reims was signed on 7 May 1945, effective 23:01 CET 8 May. This date is commonly referred to as the V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) in most western European countries. The other World War II victory day, the V-J day (Victory in Japan Day) is commemorated in August, and is of considerably lesser significance in Europe.
However, the Soviet Union’s only representative in Reims was General Ivan Susloparov, the Military Liaison Mission Commander. General Susloparov’s scope of authority was not entirely clear, and he had no means of immediate contact with the Kremlin, but nevertheless decided to sign for the Soviet side.
Susloparov was caught off guard; he had no instructions from Moscow. But if he did not sign, he risked a German surrender without Soviet participation. However, he noted that it could be replaced with a new version in the future. Joseph Stalin was later displeased by these events, believing that the German surrender should have been accepted only by the envoy of the USSR Supreme command and signed only in Berlin and insisted the Reims protocol be considered preliminary, with the main ceremony to be held in Berlin, where Marshal Zhukov was at the time, as the latter recounts in his memoirs:
“ [Quoting Stalin:] Today, in Reims, Germans signed the preliminary act on an unconditional surrender.The main contribution, however, was done by Soviet people and not by the Allies, therefore the capitulation must be signed in front of the Supreme Command of all countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, and not only in front of the Supreme Command of Allied Forces. Moreover, I disagree that the surrender was not signed in Berlin, which was the center of Nazi aggression. We agreed with the Allies to consider the Reims protocol as preliminary. ” (
Therefore, another ceremony was organized in a surviving manor in the outskirts of Berlin late on 8 May, when it was already 9 May in Moscow due to the difference in time zones. Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel submitted the capitulation of the Wehrmacht to Marshal Georgy Zhukov in the Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. To commemorate the victory in the war, the ceremonial Moscow Victory Parade was held in the Soviet capital on 24 June 1945 (four years and two days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of the Soviet Union).
Victory Day 9 May marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in the Second World War (also known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union). It was first inaugurated in the fifteen republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the surrender document late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May, by Moscow Time). The Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin.
Though the official inauguration happened in 1945 (which means it has been celebrated since 1946), the holiday became a non-labour day only in 1965 and only in some of the countries.
In the former Soviet Union this festival was celebrated to commemorate the Red Army’s victory over the Nazi forces.
|National WWII Memorial “Save Our History” Teachers Guide and Interactive TimelineThe History Channel� developed a teacher’s manual that accompanied its special on the National World War II Memorial. You can download the guide by clicking on the links below. The document is in two parts and can be viewed with Adobe’s Acrobat Reader. (Download Adobe Acrobat Reader here.)
Note: The American Battle Monuments Commission is no longer raising funds for the WWII Memorial. Please do not implement the fund raising suggestions provided in chapter IV of the Teacher’s Guide unless for a cause other than the National WWII Memorial.
Victory in World War II References:
- The War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick This documentary film tells the story of the Second World War through personal accounts of men and women from four American towns. – http://www.pbs.org/thewar/
- By Tank into Normandy by Stuart Hills (Cassell & Co, 2002)
- Never Again by Peter Hennessy (Vintage, 1993)
- Chinthe Women by S. Jaffe (The Authors, Chipping Norton, 2001)