The evening of 6 may 1945, German General Alfred Jodl, the second most senior officer of the Wehrmacht, were brought to the headquarters of the General command of the allied forces in Reims, France. On the table in the military hall which today has become a Museum, it was waiting for a document of two pages with a total of 234 words: unconditional surrender. At 02:41 on the next day Jodl, who in a few months, hanged by the decision of the military Tribunal at Nuremberg, signed. The war in Europe ended.
When signing the instrument of surrender in Reims, the leading role played by the Western allies and Stalin did not recognize him. He demanded to conduct the signing in the Soviet headquarters in Karlshorst, Berlin. This place also became a Museum. May 8, 1945 at 23:01 the ceremony was repeated. The chief of staff of the Supreme command of the Wehrmacht Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, who also executed by hanging, signed a new act of surrender in the presence of representatives of the three allied powers and of France, which was allowed to be present at this event. This time the war in Europe actually ended.
8 or may 9?
It was assumed that the Victory Day will be celebrated may 9, the day after the ratification of the instrument of surrender. The American General Eisenhower ordered the seventeen journalists who were present at the first signing ceremony, nothing to declare, until the instrument of surrender is signed in Berlin.
However, the Agency “associated Press” Paris Edward Kennedy (Edward Kennedy), convinced that prohibition was not connected with military and political reasons, decided to violate and news of the surrender on the same day, 7 may. The whole world learned about the end of the war a day earlier conceived, and Kennedy was fired from the Agency. In his memoirs, “War ed Kennedy”, he talks about all the details.
The celebration was not long in coming. The news spread quickly and thousands of people in Paris and London began to take to the streets. Churchill tried to persuade Stalin to abandon the signing of the instrument of surrender a second time. But the Soviet leader was adamant. In the end it was decided that the Western States will celebrate Victory Day on may 8, and the Soviet Union on may 9.
9 may became the official date of the celebration of Victory Day in Russia and other countries of the Soviet camp, although after the collapse of the USSR, many decided to move this memorable date on may 8th. The fact that when the instrument of surrender was signed, the clock was already more than eleven o’clock in the evening, and in Moscow due to the difference in time was already past midnight. To merge two dates in 2004, the UN General Assembly decided to declare 8 and 9 may as Days of remembrance and reconciliation to honor those who died during the Second world war.
Between joy and melancholy
The day of Victory in Europe was celebrated on may 8 in the main European and North American cities. In London more than a million people filled Piccadilly circus and Trafalgar square. Having heard over the loudspeakers the Churchill’s statement, all these people went to Buckingham Palace, where the Prime Minister, king George VI and Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon came out to greet them.
Also there were two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, who then joined the celebrations in the streets. “It was one of the most memorable nights of my life,” he told Elizabeth, as Queen, in interview “Bi-bi-si” in 1985. Throughout the UK were dances and banquets, burning pyres with figures of Hitler. This files most often was visible gesture “V” signifying victory, which became very popular thanks to the British Prime Minister.
In Paris and new York have also held mass celebrations. On the Champs Elysees and the area of times square drew thousands of people eager to share their joy in connection with the termination of the war. But every city had its own special atmosphere.
In the French capital, the people rejoiced so that the celebration lasted two days and ended only on Thursday night, may 10. But according to the newspaper “liberation”, “the most fun youth. Among the older generations reigned inexplicable anguish”.
In new York, on the contrary, due to the recent death of President Roosevelt the flags were at half-mast, and the celebration was more modest. The mood of all citizens was overshadowed by the battle, which in those days was in Okinawa. She became one of the bloodiest during the war on the Pacific front. As Churchill and President Truman, whose birthday is on 8 may, in their speeches said that we had to win another war.
The next day it was the turn of Moscow. News of Germany’s surrender became known in the early morning, so the Red area immediately began to fill with people. Sounded gun shots, start the fireworks and big lights that were used in the war to detect enemy aircraft, illuminated the city at night.
The official celebration of the end of world war II passed few weeks. June 24 was organized large-scale military parade, which was attended by Stalin. In the pouring rain in many red army units passed each other on the red square past Lenin’s tomb. The parade ended with the soldiers dropped to the foot of the mausoleum of the captured German flags.
Holidays and memorable days
The day of Victory is celebrated to this day. In France it is a national holiday. Parades, congratulations to the veterans and remember the victims. In the UK it is also a commemorative day but not a holiday. Only in some cases, such as the 75 anniversary of the victory in this year’s traditional may day celebrations postponed to may 8, and organized the festivities in honor of Victory Day.
In the US 8 may not celebrate. Celebrated the first Day of Victory over Japan September 2, but now it is celebrated officially in the state of Rhode island because the war killed so many sailors with the naval base. Memorial day (last Monday in may) and veterans Day (November 11) — two of the national holiday that honors the veterans and the fallen in various wars.
Oddly enough, in a country where today the Victory Day is celebrated with the greatest scale, was not always a tradition. Prior to 1965 may 9 in Russia is not officially celebrated. Neither Stalin nor his successor, Nikita Khrushchev didn’t want to give too military broad political powers. This year the Victory Day began to be celebrated officially, but the parades were held only on significant anniversaries.
With the collapse of the USSR festival also stopped. The main initiator of the current events Vladimir Putin. Since then, he has held the post of Prime Minister in 1999, Victory Day became one of the most important holidays in Russia. It is a mixture of popular festival with fireworks, honoring the fallen with a March of the Immortal regiment and demonstrations of military force in the parade. So the government is seeking to strengthen national unity.
This year because of the pandemic coronavirus in all countries, the celebration of the 75 anniversary of Victory Day is either cancelled or postponed, or reduced. The only exception was Belarus.