Today on May 8, 1945, celebrations erupted around the world as the United States and Great Britain declared victory in Europe.
Victory in Europe Day, commonly known as VE Day, is an annual celebration that marks the Allies acceptance of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender. The two sides had signed a ceremonial agreement in Reims, France on the previous day. The remaining German forces occupying the Channel Islands formally surrendered the following day. As a result, the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries traditionally celebrate victory day on May 9 instead. The European theatre of World War II was now officially over after almost six years of immense bloodshed.
Only eight days earlier, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his Fuhrerbunker below the Reichstag Building. His quick death certainly helped to accelerate Germany’s inevitable surrender. Before dying, Hitler named Admiral Karl Donitz as his successor. The Donitz administration, known as the Flensburg Government, was forced to handle the impending negotiations with the Allies. The capital of Berlin was now firmly in the hands of the Soviets, and only pockets of minor resistance remained across the country. After the surrender, Germany’s remaining soldiers feared for their lives and attempted to flee westward away from notorious treatment of Soviet Army.
More than one million people took to the streets of London to celebrate their monumental victory in Europe. Crowds of cheering people amassed all the way from Trafalgar Square to the gates of Buckingham Palace. King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on the palace balcony together as the celebrations raged on. In the United States, President Truman dedicated the victory to the memory of Franklin Roosevelt who had died from a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month before. Massive celebrations erupted across North America, most notably in New York’s Time Square. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin made a radio announcement that “the age-long struggle of the Slav nation has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The War is over.”