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May 8, 1945

On May 8, 1945, the Allied forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union officially accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. “Victory in Europe Day,” commonly known as “VE Day,” was celebrated across Europe, America and other parts of the world.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

World War II in Europe Ended With the Unconditional Surrender of Germany.

Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist, or Nazi, Party, launched World War II in September 1939 with a surprise invasion of Poland. By the summer of 1940, the Nazis had conquered much of Europe, including long-time enemy France, and then they pummeled Britain with air attacks for nearly a year. In June 1941 Hitler started to invade the USSR.  In 1943, after surviving two years of Nazi invasions, the Soviets launched a counter-attack that slowly drove the Nazis back to Germany. Meanwhile, the Western Allies entered mainland Italy in September 1943 and on June 6th 1944, Allied forces landed on Normandy Beach in northern France and began a push toward Germany.

By the spring of 1945, the Soviets were approaching the German capital of Berlin from the east and the Western Allies were approaching it from the west. Knowing that defeat was imminent, Hitler committed suicide, leaving Karl Dönitz to carry out the unconditional surrender of the Nazis at Allied headquarters in Reims, France, on 7th May,  to take effect the following day, ending the European conflict of World War II.

This was a different surrender from most previous wars where a country agrees to surrender to its enemies. On May 8, 1945, there was no German state recognized by its enemies. In three different places, the commanders of the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally. Civil and military authority in what had been the German state was assumed by the allies. Germany was divided among them.

 “Victory in Europe Day ” (VE Day) has a different meaning in each of the countries involved in the war. For Americans, it recalls a moment of triumph, a time to remember the accomplishments and sacrifices that made victory possible. The Second World War has a moral clarity for Americans that is not shared by the other participants, in large part because the U.S. was the only one to emerge from the war with greater wealth and power.

On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress had declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to that country's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the prior day. The ensuing war in the Pacific continued after VE Day.

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