Nazi Germany surrenders: The End of WWII in Europe (May 8, 1945) - History Key

Nazi Germany surrenders: The End of WWII in Europe (May 8, 1945)

The final battle from WWII in Europe is known as VE Day or the Victory in Europe Day. It represents the unconditional surrender of all German forces to the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. The Germans signed a document which included their agreement to cease all operations in May 8, 1945 at 11:01 PM (Central Europe Time).

The first instrument of surrender signed at Reims on 7 May 1945
The first instrument of surrender signed at Reims on 7 May 1945 © Image Source: ourdocuments.gov/Wikipedia

How did it happen?

April 25

The Soviet troops and the Americans met in Germany at Torgau, Germany. The day is known as Elbe Day and basically they cut Germany in two.

April 27

While the Allies were approaching Milan, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was captured by the Italian communists. Mussolini was trying to escape by traveling to Germany. The next day, Mussolini and other several Italian fascist officials were executed and their bodies were thrown in a public town square from Milan.

April 30

Karl Dönitz Portret
Karl Dönitz © Image Source: Wikipedia

During the Battle of Berlin, Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide in the Fuhrer’s bunker. In his will, Hitler designated Karl Donitz as his successor (Reich’s President) and Joseph Goebbels as the “Chancellor of the Reich”. However, Goebbels committed suicide the next day, leaving Donitz all the responsibility. The interesting fact is the Donitz asked Ludwig von Krosigk to accept his function, but Krosigk accepted it with the condition that his real function to be as the Prime Minister.

 

May 1

SS General Karl Wolff and General Heinrich von Vietinghoff signed a secret and unauthorized document with the Western Allies which was a surrender of Germany forces in Italy (Soviet Union considered as a tentative to sign a separate peace).

May 2

The Battle of Berlin ended and General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Zone, surrendered to Red Army. On the same day, the commanders of Vistula Army Group also surrendered to Western Allies.

German General Helmuth Weidling and other German generals in captivity, Berlin, Germany, 2 May 1945
German General Helmuth Weidling and other German generals in captivity, Berlin, Germany, 2 May 1945 © Image Source: OVguide.com

May 4

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery received from Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg the unconditional surrender of the German forces in Netherlands, north western Germany and Denmark. The surrender also included all the shipping vessels from those areas. Their surrender was considered a sign of the fact that the WWII from Europe might have ended because Donitz was also the operational commander of those forces.

Field Marshal Montgomery receives German Admiral Von Friedeburg and other members of the surrender delegation at 21st Army Group Headquarters near Lüneburg
Field Marshal Montgomery receives German Admiral Von Friedeburg and other members of the surrender delegation at 21st Army Group Headquarters near Lüneburg © Malindine E G (Capt)/Image Source: Wikipedia

May 5

Donitz ordered to all German submarines (U-boats) to stop their military operations and return to their bases. On the same day, General Hermann Foertsch surrendered with his forces between the Bohemian mountains and River Inn to the American forces. Few hours later, General Johannes Blaskowitz surrendered to the Canadian General Charles Foulkes in the presence of Prince Bernard, the commander of the Dutch Military Forces.

Part of the hull and Conning Tower of U-534
Part of the hull and Conning Tower of U-534 © Chris Howells 2005/Image Source: Wikipedia

However, some Germans couldn’t accept the fact that they lost the war. For instance, Martin Mutschmann (Nazi Regional Leader of Saxony state) stated that he will plan to launch a massive offensive on the eastern front. Mutschmann was captured by the Soviet troops just two days later.

May 6

General Hermann Niehoff
General Hermann Niehoff © Image Source: Wikipedia

The commander of the fortified city of Breslau, General Hermann Niehoff surrendered to the Soviets. Half an hour later, General Alfred Jodl arrived at Rheims in accordance with the orders received from Donitz. He announced the German’s intention to surrender to the Allies. The only condition was to accept only unconditional surrender. Jodl quickly informed Donitz, who was is Flensburg about the conditions. Shortly after midnight Donitz accepted the inevitable and gave Jodl the authorization to sign the unconditional surrender of all German forces.

 

May 7

At 02:41 AM at the Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Rheims, France, General Alfred Jodl signed the documents of unconditional surrender of all German forces to the Allies: “All forces under German control to cease active operations at 23:01 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945.” (The German Surrender Documents – WWII)

General Alfred Jodl, the German Chief of Staff signing the document confirming Germany's unconditional surrender to the Allies
General Alfred Jodl, the German Chief of Staff signing the document confirming Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allies © Image Source: timesunion.com

May 8

General Wilhelm Keitel and other few representatives went to Berlin and shortly after midnight they signed a similar document, explicitly capitulating to the Soviet troops in the presence of General Gheorghi Jukov. The signing ceremony took place in a villa in the eastern suburb of Berlin. The villa is oftenly called the “German-Russian Museum.” According to the documents signed by the Germans, the ceasefire was at 11:01 PM, but in Moscow was at 1:01 AM. That is why the Soviet Union celebrates the victory on May 9, instead of May 8.

Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signing the definitive act of surrender for the German military in Berlin
Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signing the definitive act of surrender for the German military in Berlin © Lt. Moore (US Army) /Image Source: Wikipedia

Karl Dontiz continued to be the head of the state, but his government wasn’t given too much attention after they surrendered. However, the Allies realized that although the Germans had unconditionally surrendered, the civilian government had not signed any surrender. This could prove a sensitive issue: in 1918 Germany’s capitulation was signed by a civil government, but the military haven’t signed any document. That is why the Allies didn’t want to offer any other possibilities for Germany to open a new conflict. Eventually, the Allies agreed not to recognize Donitz as the head of the state and they created the Allied Commission Control by signing another document:

“The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, hereby assume supreme authority with respect to Germany, including all the powers possessed by the German Government, the High Command and any state, municipal, or local government or authority. The assumption, for the purposes stated above, of the said authority and powers, does not affect the annexation of Germany.” (US Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series, No. 1520)

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