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On May 7, 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender at Allied headquarters in Reims, France, to take effect the following day, ending the European conflict of World War II.
The New York Times published an Associated Press story under the headline “The War in Europe is Ended!” It reported, “[The Germans] were asked sternly if they understand the surrender terms imposed upon Germany and if they would be carried out by Germany. They answered Yes. Germany, which began the war with a ruthless attack upon Poland, followed by successive aggressions and brutality in internment camps, surrendered with an appeal to the victors for mercy toward the German people and armed forces.”
Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist, or Nazi, Party, launched the war 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 turned its attention to Britain, the last European power standing against it. Britain withstood Nazi air attacks, however, and the tide of the war changed in 1941, first when Hitler broke a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and ordered an invasion, and later when Germany’s Axis ally, Japan, drew the United States into the war with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1943, after surviving two years of Nazi invasions, the Soviets launched a counter-attack that would slowly drive the Nazis back to Germany. Meanwhile, the Western Allies entered mainland Europe for the first time with an invasion of Italy. In 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 surrender of the Nazis.
On May 2, the Soviets conquered Berlin. The Associated Press wrote, “Berlin, greatest city of the European Continent, fell yesterday afternoon to the Russians as 70,000 German troops laid down their arms in the surrender that Adolf Hitler had said never would come.”
Due to the failure of Nazi troops in Berlin and elsewhere, Dönitz and his fellow negotiators lost any leverage in asking for certain conditions in regard to the surrender. Dönitz therefore decided on May 7 to give in to Allied demands of unconditional surrender. The surrender was made official the following day with a signing at a formal ceremony. May 8 was declared Victory-in-Europe (V-E) Day, a day still celebrated as a public holiday in some European countries.
Source: The Learning Network