May 8, 1945: the German surrender

May 8, 1945: the German surrender

The May 8, 1945 is signed in Berlin onGerman surrender acte, which puts an end to the Second World War in Europe, after six years of a conflict which has ravaged the continent and left millions of deaths. This act of unconditional surrender of all the German armed forces was signed for the first time on May 7 at Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims, but a second text was signed the next day at the Soviet headquarters in the capital of the Reich, at the request Stalin's express. The commemoration of May 8 is a public holiday in many countries. Each year in France the flame of the tomb of the unknown soldier of the Arc de Triomphe is rekindled during official ceremonies.

A separate peace attempt

Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30 at 3:30 p.m., his body was burned shortly after. Bormann and Goebbels try to negotiate with the Russians, but faced with their refusal the first informs Dönitz of the death of the führer (he must succeed him), and the second commits suicide. It was the evening of the next day, on Brückner's 7th Symphony, that the radio officially announced Hitler's death. What will become of the Third Reich?

First, Dönitz, the designated successor, tried to negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies, but wanted to continue the fight against the Soviets. In theory, the Admiral can count on an army that is still powerful, but in fact totally disorganized. His attempts to discuss a truce with Montgomery (the British crossed the Elbe on May 2) failed, as did those with Eisenhower, with the two Allied leaders refusing any partial surrender without Russian agreement, accepting only an unconditional surrender. On all fronts. The fighting continued, allowing the VI Franco-American Army Group to take important prisoners, including Goering.

The German capitulation signed… on May 7 and then on May 8

After Admiral Friedeburg, Dönitz sends General Jodl, hostile to any surrender, to negotiate in order to gain time! Jodl, however, obtains a surrender plan from Eisenhower which, if he hides behind an ultimatum, allows the Germans to buy the time they were looking for. Admiral Dönitz appears convinced by Jodl, despite what he calls "blackmail" from the Allied Generalissimo, and gives full powers to his negotiator to sign the agreement. It was therefore on May 7 that the first German capitulation was signed in Reims, in the presence of Alfred Jodl and Friedeburg on the German side, Bedell-Smith on the American side, Morgan for the British, Sevez for France, Souslaparov representing Russia.

However, the capitulation is not complete. A ceremony must be organized at the Russian headquarters to confirm the end of the fighting. Friedeburg is driven to Berlin, joined by Keitel and Stumpff, and they are to sign the same agreement as in Reims, this time in the presence of Zhukov, Tedder, Spaatz, de Lattre de Tassigny and Vyshinsky; it is May 8, 1945. After a theatrical entry and discovering the presence of the French flag, Marshal Keitel exclaims: “Ah! There are also French people! It missed only this ! ". He signs the acts of capitulation after calling for clemency from the victors, in icy silence. Absent, Dönitz nevertheless announced the news to the officers over the radio, declaring that Germany, being occupied by the Russians, had "gone back a thousand years."

The Victory Day of May 8, 45 in France

The law of March 20, 1953 established May 8 as a legal holiday and a public holiday: General de Gaulle abolished the public holiday in 1961, the commemoration of the victory being set for the second Sunday in May. President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing decided on May 8, 1975 to abolish all commemoration; this was re-established by President François Mitterrand, as well as the public holiday, by the law of 2 October 1981.


- The 30 days of Berlin: April 8 - May 8, 1945 by André Besson. France-Empire, 2005.

For further

- May 8, 1945, capitulation, by Isabelle Clarke. On DVD.

Video: Hessen 1945 in color and HD