End of World War II in Europe


End of World War II in Europe

The final battles of the European Theatre of World War II as well as the German surrender took place in late April and early May 1945.

urrender timeline

The first units to make contact, thus uniting the western front with its eastern counterpart, were from the U.S. 69th Infantry Division of the U.S. First Army and the Soviet 58th Guards Division of the 5th Guards Army near Torgau, on the river Elbe.

Mussolini's death: On April 27, as Allied forces closed in on Milan, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was captured by Italian Partisans. He was trying to flee Italy to Switzerland and was traveling with a German anti-aircraft battalion. On April 28, Mussolini and several of the other Fascists captured with him were taken to Dongo and killed. The bodies were then taken to Milan and hung for public display in one of the main squares of the city. On April 29, Rodolfo Graziani, surrendered all Fascist Italian armed forces at Caserta. This included Army Group Liguria. Graziani was the Minister of Defense for Mussolini's Italian Social Republic puppet state.

Hitler's death: On April 30, as the Battle of Berlin raged above him, realizing that all was lost, and not wishing to suffer Mussolini's fate, German dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker along with Eva Braun, his long-term mistress whom he had married just hours before their joint suicide. In his will Hitler appointed his successors; Karl Dönitz as the new "Reichspräsident" ("President of Germany") and Joseph Goebbels as the new "Reichskanzler" (Chancellor of Germany). However, Goebbels committed suicide on May 1, 1945, leaving Dönitz as sole leader of Germany.

German forces in Italy surrender: On May 1, SS General Karl Wolff and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group C, General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, after prolonged unauthorised secret negotiations with the Western Allies named Operation Sunrise, which were viewed as trying to reach a separate peace by the Soviet Union, ordered all German armed forces in Italy to cease hostilities and signed a surrender document which stipulated that all German forces in Italy were to surrender unconditionally to the Allies on May 2.

German forces in Berlin surrender: The Battle of Berlin ended on May 2. On this date, General of the Artillery Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov of the Soviet army. [Dollinger, Hans. The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 67-27047. p. 239] On the same day the officers commanding the two armies of Army Group Vistula north of Berlin, (General Kurt von Tippelskirch commander of the German Twenty-First Army and General Hasso von Manteuffel commander of Third Panzer Army) surrendered to the Western Allies.Ziemke, Earl F. "Battle For Berlin: End Of The Third Reich", NY:Ballantine Books, London:Macdomald & Co, 1969. p. 128]

German forces in North West Germany, Denmark and Holland surrender: On May 4, 1945, the British Field Marshal Montgomery took the unconditional military surrender from General Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, and General Hans Kinzel, of all German forces "in Holland, in northwest Germany including the Frisian Islands and Heligoland and all other islands, in Schleswig-Holstein, and in Denmark… includ [ing] all naval ships in these areas." [http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/germsurr.html The German Surrender Documents - WWII] ] on Lüneburg Heath; an area between the cities of Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen. As the operational commander of some of these forces was Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, this signaled that the European war was over. [ [http://collections.iwm.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.937 The Papers of Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein] Imperial War Museum] [ [http://www.anesi.com/GermanySurrenders.htm Instrument of surrender of all German forces in HOLLAND, in northwest Germany including all islands, and in DENMARK] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/4509685.stm Veteran remembers 'war of words'] BBC 4 May, 2005] [http://www.wargamer.com/ww2timeline/1945western.asp World War II Timeline:western Europe: 1945] ] Ron Goldstein " [http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/84/a4604384.shtml Field Marshal Keitel's surrender] " BBC additional comment by [http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/user/78/u521078.shtml Peter - WW2 Site Helper] ] On May 5, Dönitz ordered all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases. At 14:30, General Hermann Foertsch surrendered all forces between the Bohemian mountains and the Upper Inn river to the American General Jacob L. Devers, commander of the American 6th Army Group. At 16:00, General Johannes Blaskowitz, the German commander-in-chief in the Netherlands, surrendered to Canadian General Charles Foulkes in the small Dutch town of Wageningen in the presence of Prince Bernhard (acting as commander-in-chief of the Dutch Interior Forces).

Central Europe: On May 4 1945, the Prague uprising launched by the Czech resistance. The following day the Soviets launch the Prague Offensive. In Dresden, "Gauleiter" Martin Mutschmann let it be known that a large-scale German offensive on the Eastern Front was about to be launched. Within two days, Mutschmann abandoned the city and was captured by Soviet troops while trying to escape. [ [Page 228, "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Hans Dollinger, Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 67-27047] ]

German forces in Breslau surrender: On May 6 at 18:00, General Hermann Niehoff the commandant of Breslau, a fortress city surrounded and besieged for months, surrendered to the Soviets.

German forces on the Channel Islands surrender: On May 8 at 10:00, the islanders were informed by the German authorities that the war was over. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast at 15:00 during which he announced: "Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night, but in the interests of saving lives the 'Cease fire' began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed to-day." [ [http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=426 The Churchill Centre: The End of the War in Europe] ]

Jodl and Keitel surrender all German armed forces unconditionally: One half hour after the fall of "Fortress Breslau" ("Festung Breslau"), General Alfred Jodl arrived in Rheims and, following Dönitz's instructions, offered to surrender all forces fighting the Western Allies. This was exactly the same negotiating position that von Friedeburg had initially made to Montgomery, and like Montgomery the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, threatened to break off all negotiations unless the Germans agreed to a complete unconditional surrender.Ziemke, Earl F. "Battle For Berlin: End Of The Third Reich", NY:Ballantine Books, London:Macdomald & Co, 1969. p.130] Eisenhower explicitly told Jodl that he would order western lines closed to German soldiers, thus forcing them to surrender to the Soviets. Jodl sent a signal to Dönitz, who was in Flensburg, informing him of Eisenhower's position. Shortly after midnight Dönitz, accepting the inevitable, sent a signal to Jodl authorizing the complete and total surrender of all German forces.

At 02:41 on the morning of, May 7, 1945, at the SHAEF headquarters in Rheims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway on May 7, the same day as Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. It included the phrase "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8 1945." [During the summers of World War II, Britain was on British Double Summer Time which meant that the country was ahead of CET time by one hour. This means that the surrender time in the UK was "effective from 0001 hours on 9 May". [http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/apr45.html RAF Site Diary 7/8 May] ] The next day, General Wilhelm Keitel and other German OKW representatives traveled to Berlin, and shortly before midnight signed a similar document, explicitly surrendering to Soviet forces, in the presence of General Georgi Zhukov. [Ziemke Further reading [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/other/us-army_germany_1944-46_ch15.htm#b3 CHAPTER XV:The Victory Sealed] Page 258 last paragraph] The signing ceremony took place in a former German Army Engineering School in the Berlin district (not suburb) of Karlshorst. Currently, the building is a museum called the [http://www.museum-karlshorst.de/ German Russian Museum] in Karlshorst.

Victory in Europe: News of the surrender broke in the West on May 8, and celebrations erupted throughout Europe. In the United States, Americans awoke to the news and declared May 8 V-E Day. As the Soviet Union was to the east of Germany it was May 9 Moscow Time when German military surrender became effective, which is why Russia and many other European countries east of Germany commemorate Victory Day on May 9.

German units cease fire: Although the military commanders of most German forces obeyed the order to surrender issued by the German Armed Forces High Command (German acronym OKW), not all commanders did so. The largest contingent not to do so were Army Group Centre under the command of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner who had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army on April 30 in Hitler's last will and testament. On May 8, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria, and the Soviet Army sent overwhelming force against Army Group Centre in the Prague Offensive, forcing all German units in Army Group Centre to capitulate by May 11 (some sources state 12 May). The other forces which did not surrender on May 8 surrendered piecemeal:
* The Second Army, under the command of General von Saucken, on the Heiligenbeil and Danzig beachheads, on the Hela Peninsula in Vistula delta surrendered on May 9, as did the forces on the Greek islands; and the garrisons of St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, Lorient and La Pallice.
* On May 13, the Red Army halted all offensives in Europe. Isolated resistance pockets in Czechoslovakia were mopped up by this date.
* The garrison on Alderney, one of the Channel Islands occupied by the Germans, surrendered on May 16 one week after the garrisons on the other Channel Islands which surrendered on May 9.
* The Georgian Uprising of Texel (April 5, 1945May 20, 1945) was Europe's last battlefield in World War II. It was fought between Soviet Georgian POWs on Texel against the German occupiers of that Dutch island.
*Another military engagement took place in Slovenia, on May 15 1945 known as the Battle of Poljana.The government of Dönitz ordered dissolved by Eisenhower: Karl Dönitz continued to act as the German head of state, but his Flensburg government (so-called because it was based at Flensburg and controlled only a small area around the town) was given no regard after the surrender on May 8th. On May 23, 1945 a British liaison officer was sent to Flensburg and read to the Flensburg government Eisenhower's order dissolving the government and ordering the arrest of its members. The Allies had a problem, because they realised that although the German armed forces had surrendered unconditionally, SHAEF had failed to use the document created by the "European Advisory Commission" (EAC) and so the civilian German government had not. This was considered a very important issue, because just as the civilian, but not military, surrender in 1918 had been used by Hitler to create the "stab in the back" argument, the Allies did not want to give a future hostile German regime a legal argument to resurrect an old quarrel. Eventually they decided not to recognise Dönitz and to sign a four-power document instead, creating the Allied Control Council which included the following:

Debellation: [United Nations War Crimes Commission, "Law reports of trials of war criminals: United Nations War Crimes Commission", Wm. S. Hein, 1997, ISBN 1575884038. [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Z-xlVF_5Hu8C&pg=PA13&dq=debellatio+allies+germany&sig=ACfU3U0E77AgKBDsfN3L4u4_0OjN_qwZhw p.13] ] [ [http://untreaty.un.org/ilc/publications/yearbooks/Ybkvolumes(e)/ILC_1993_v2_p2_e.pdf Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1993 Volume II Part Two] Page 54, paragraph 295 (last paragraph on the page)] [Although the Allied powers considered this a debellatio ( [http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/2848af408d01ec0ac1256609004e770b/b2d29625e398c58380256766005955a9?OpenDocument The human rights dimensions of population (Page 2, paragraph 138)] UNHCR web site) other authorities have argued that the vestiges of the German state continued to exist even though the Allied Control Council governed the territory; and that eventually a fully sovereign German government resumed over a state that never ceased to exist (Detlef Junker "et al" (2004). The United States and Germany in the Era of the Cold War, 1945-1990: A Handbook (Vol 2), Cambridge University Press and (Vol. 2) co-published with German Historical Institute, Washington D.C., ISBN 052179112X [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bNa982ALww0C&pg=PA104&lpg=PA104&dq=+%22European+Advisory+Commission%22+surrender+document&source=web&ots=H-l8nhV64O&sig=oqiV5uZHMasJApVZDvBiUlO5cD8&hl=en#PPA104,M1 p. 104] .)] On 5 July 1945 the four powers signed the document in Berlin and the "de facto" became the "de jure".vague In July/August 1945, the Allied leaders planned the new post-war German government, resettled war territory boundaries, "de facto" annexed a quarter of pre-war Germany situated east of the Oder-Neisse line, organized the expulsion of the millions of Germans remaining in the annexed territory and elsewhere in the east, ordered German demilitarization, denazification, industrial disarmament and settlements of war reparations at the Potsdam Conference.

There were various unilateral legal steps taken by individual Allied powers to normalize their relations with Germany. For example on 13 December 1946 the United States President Truman proclaimed a cessation of hostilities between the United States and Germany, [ [http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/188/188.F2d.266.12612_1.html Werner v. United States (188 F.2d 266)] , United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, April 4, 1951. Website of [http://bulk.resource.org/ Public.Resource.Org] ]

On February 10, 1947 peace treaties were signed with Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania.

In the Petersberg Agreement of November 22, 1949 it was noted that the West German government wanted an end to the state of war, but the request could not be granted. The U.S. state of war with Germany was being maintained for legal reasons, and though it was was softened somewhat it was not suspended since "the U.S. wants to retain a legal basis for keeping a U.S. force in Western Germany". [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,856382,00.html A Step Forward] Time Magazine Monday, Nov. 28, 1949] At a meeting for the Foreign Ministers of the France, the United Kingdom, and the United States in New York from September 12 to december 19 1950 it was stated that that among other measures to strengthen West Germany's position in the Cold War that the western allies would "end by legislation the state of war with Germany". [Staff. [http://www.archive.org/stream/britannicabookof030517mbp/britannicabookof030517mbp_djvu.txt Full text of "Britannica Book Of The Year 1951"] [http://www.archive.org/details/texts Open-Access Text Archive] . Retrieved 11 August 2008] During 1951 many former Western Allies did end their state of war with Germany: Australia (9 July), Canada, Italy, New Zealand, The Netherlands (26 July), South Africa, and the United Kingdom (9 July), United States (9 July Truman asks Congress, and Congress grants 19 October). [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,889058,00.html War's End] Time Magazine, July 16, 1951] [Elihu Lauterpacht, C. J. Greenwood. "International law reports. Volume 52", Cambridge University Press, 1979 ISBN 0521463971. [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=NBCIlWg_xaUC&pg=PA505&lpg=PA505&dq=Australia+1951+%229+july%22+++%22state+of+War%22&source=web&ots=gTBy5HfiEj&sig=_00_y_JlpRiAelrHFQqwqqZ1WlQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result p. 505] ] [James H. Marsh. [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1SEC904083 World War II:Making the Peace] , [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCESubjects&Params=A1 The Canadian Encyclopedia] , Retrieved 11 August 2008] [ [http://www.brainyhistory.com/years/1951.html 1951 in History] [http://www.brainyhistory.com/ BrainyMedia.com] . Retrieved 11 August 2008] [H. Lauterpacht (editor), "International law reports Volume 23". Cambridge University Press ISBN 0949009377. [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RIpe1EYpQSgC&pg=PA773&lpg=PA773&source=web&ots=J69ZMUSlgE&sig=C1SYVkUEP8e1hi2mmCLghMSxw5o&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result p. 773] ] [ [http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title50a/50a_1_5_.html US Code--Title 50 Appendix--War and National Defense] , [http://www.gpo.gov/factsheet/index.html U.S. Government Printing Office] . ] The state of war between Germany and the Soviet Union was ended in early 1955. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,823721,00.html Spreading Hesitation] Time Magazine Monday, Feb. 07, 1955]

Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany: Under the terms of this peace-treaty, the Four Powers renounced all rights they formerly held in Germany, including Berlin. As a result, Germany became fully sovereign on March 15, 1991.

Concentration camps and refugees

In the last months of the war and immediately afterwards, Allied soldiers discovered a number of concentration camps and other locations that had been used by the Nazis to imprison and exterminate an estimated 11 million people. The largest single group represented in this number were Jewish (roughly half the total according to the Nuremberg trials), but Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and various minorities and disabled persons, as well as political enemies of the Nazi regime (particularly communists) formed the remainder. The most well-known of these camps is the death camp Auschwitz in which about 1.1–1.6 million prisoners were killed. Although the Nazi genocide or "Holocaust" was largely unknown to the Allied soldiers fighting the war, it has become an inseparable part of the story of World War II.

See also

*Battle of Poljana
*Aftermath of World War II
*Allied Commissions
*Council of Foreign Ministers
*Effects of World War II
*Line of contact
*Paris Peace Treaties of 1947
*Surrender of Japan

Footnotes

References

*Earl F. Ziemke " [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/other/us-army_germany_1944-46_index.htm#contents The U.S. Army in the occupation of Germany 1944-1946] " Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D. C., 1990, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 75-619027
** [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/other/us-army_germany_1944-46_ch15.htm CHAPTER XV: The Victory Sealed: Surrender at Reims]

Further reading

* [http://www6.dw-world.de/en/worldwarII.php Deutsche Welle special coverage of the end of World War II] -- features a global perspective.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/may/7/newsid_3578000/3578325.stm On this Day 7 May 1945: Germany signs unconditional surrender]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4497947.stm Account of German surrender] , BBC
*Charles Kiley (Stars and Stripes Staff Writer). [http://web.empacc.net/~booklink/ Details of the Surrender Negotiations "This Is How Germany Gave Up"]
* [http://www.geocities.com/skrzydla/Victory_parade.html London '45 Victory Parade, photos and the exclusion of the Polish ally]
* [http://english.pobediteli.ru/ Multimedia map of the war] (1024x768 & Macromedia Flash Plugin 7.x)


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