May 8, 1945: Germany unconditionally surrenders, ending World War II in Europe. V-E Day or Victory in Europe Day came as German President Karl Dőnitz signed the military surrender. Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in his bunker during the Battle of Berlin on April 30. The surrender was signed first in Reims, France on May 7 and then again in Berlin on this day. Over a million people in Europe celebrated the end of the war. However, the hardships of war were not yet over. There was still rationing of food and clothing as the war torn countries began to rebuild in freedom.
Winston Churchill stood beside England’s King George VI and Queen Princess Margaret at Buckingham Palace. President Harry Truman, who was also celebrating his 61st birthday, dedicated the victory to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died less than a month earlier. There were huge celebrations in many major US cities. The Red Army veterans and many Soviet countries celebrate the victory on May 9 in order to combine it with Russia’s Great Patriotic War victory already celebrated on that date.
World War II officially ended on September 2, 1945 with Japan’s surrender. The Allied victory took a horrific cost. There were over 16,000,000 military deaths and over 45,000,000 civilian deaths. The Axis powers lost more than 8,000,000 military personnel and over 4,000,000 civilians. The Soviet Union lost the greatest number of both soldiers and civilians totaling more than 13% of their entire population. Lithuania lost almost 14% of her population, mostly civilians, during the combat period. Latvia and Germany each also lost over 10% of their citizens to the acts of war.
Many of the civilian deaths were caused by overt acts of war such as bombing and massacres. Others died of disease and starvation. The mass deliberate genocide activities carried out against whole cultures was responsible for about 12 million people dying in Nazi concentration camps. About 85% of the casualties were suffered by the Allies, with the Soviet Union suffering nearly half the deaths of the entire war. The actual count is impossible to know since many deaths were not well documented. China lost the most civilians of any country (between 7 and 16 million, depending on data examined) with another 3 to 4 million soldiers killed. The world population was diminished by about 4% between 1939 and 1945.
We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. – Winston Churchill
There is no substitute for victory. – General Douglas MacArthur
Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. – George Patton
A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased. – Hans Frank, the Nazi governor of Poland
Also on this day:
Saint-Pierre, Martinique – In 1902 a volcano erupts and destroys Saint-Pierre, Martinique.
Good Dog – In 1877 the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was first held.
Shoot Out - In 1984, a shooting at the Quebec National Assembly took place.