mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)
mabfan

This Day in History, 1945: V-E Day

Sixty years ago today...

On this day in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine. In London crowds massed in particular in Trafalgar Square and up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the Palace to cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister, Princess Margaret were allowed to wander anonymously among the crowds and take part in the celebrations in London. In the United States, President Harry Truman, who celebrated his 61st birthday that day, dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, because he had been so committed to ending the war. Roosevelt had died less than a month earlier, on April 12.


The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: 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.

The main concern of many German soldiers was to elude the grasp of Soviet forces, to keep from being taken prisoner. About 1 million Germans attempted a mass exodus to the West when the fighting in Czechoslovakia ended, but were stopped by the Russians and taken captive. The Russians took approximately 2 million prisoners in the period just before and after the German surrender.

Meanwhile, more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain.

Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation would continue into the next day. On May 9, the Soviets would lose 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. Consequently, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: "The age-long struggle of the Slav nations...has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over."


Cf. http://www.historychannel.com/tdih/tdih.jsp?category=worldwarii&month=10272957&day=10272973 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VE_Day
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