May 8, 1945 — Great Britain and the United States celebrated “Victory in Europe Day” today, as citizens of both countries put out flags and banners to mark the occasion as German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms.
On 30 April, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin. Germany’s surrender, therefore, was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was signed on May 7 in Reims, France and on 8 May in Berlin, Germany.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the world. From Moscow to Los Angeles, people celebrated. In the United Kingdom, more than one million people celebrated in the streets to mark the end of the European part of the war.
In London, crowds amassed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the victory happened on President Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. He dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on April 12. Massive celebrations also took place in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and especially in New York’s Times Square.
Words of Wisdom
In Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the latter had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark–the German surrender was realized in a final cease-fire. More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany. Meanwhile, more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain.