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1945: Germany signs unconditional surrender

AUDIO : BBC correspondent witnesses the ceremony

Germany has signed an unconditional surrender bringing to an end six years of war in Europe, according to reports from France.

This evening the Ministry of Information has confirmed that an official statement declaring the end of the war, will be made simultaneously in London, Washington and Moscow tomorrow.

The day has been declared a national holiday to mark Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). The following day (9 May) will also be a national holiday.

The BBC's Thomas Cadett watched the official signing at a schoolhouse in Reims, northeastern France, which serves as the advance headquarters of the supreme commander in Europe, General Dwight D Eisenhower.


"We are so glad the war is over; sometimes we are surprised we are still living, what with the bombing, the shells, the V bombs and planes that fell down around here"


He said the signing, which took place in the early hours of this morning, was carried out "on a cold and businesslike basis."

Afterwards, he said General Gustav Jodl, of Germany, spoke briefly, saying the Germans had given themselves up "for better or worse into the victors' hands".

The document was signed by General Bedell Smith for the Allied commander, General Ivan Susloparov for Russia and General Francois Sevez for France.

It seems General Eisenhower tried to delay the release of the details of the surrender because of the difficulty of arranging a simultaneous declaration in London, Washington and Moscow.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Soviet leader Marshal Joseph Stalin and United States President Harry S Truman have now agreed to make the official announcement of the end of the war at 1500 BST tomorrow.

Mr Churchill will broadcast his announcement from the Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street.

It was from this same room that previous Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced Britain was at war with Germany on 3 September 1939.

Until today the German surrender has been piecemeal.

The German 1st and 19th Armies have capitulated in the south. The 25th Army has surrendered in the western Netherlands and Denmark has been celebrating its first day of freedom from occupation.

Earlier today, German forces in Norway also surrendered.

The final capitulation has been delayed by the new Fuehrer, Grand Admiral Doenitz. After the death of Adolf Hitler last week, he announced his intention to continue the fight against the British and Americans as long as they hampered his battle with the Russians.

It appears it did not take him long to realise further resistance was useless.

This evening the King sent a telegram to the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower congratulating the troops for carrying out their duties with "valour and distinction".

His message continued: "How unbounded is our admiration for the courage and determination which, under wise leadership, have brought them to their goal of complete and crushing victory."

In Context
The simultaneous broadcasts officially announcing the end of the war went ahead the following day.

The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made a broadcast to the nation from 10 Downing Street, followed by a statement in the Commons. He then led a procession of MPs to St Margaret's Church for a service of thanksgiving.

Other church services were held at St Paul's with the boys' choir, just returned from Cornwall where they had been living during the war years. The restriction on Sunday morning bus services, introduced because of the war, was temporarily lifted to allow people to get to church the following weekend.

The head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, had tried to broker a peace deal two months before but he had attached conditions to the agreement: he wanted to keep the Nazi regime in place and stop Soviet progress into Germany.

The Allied powers had agreed at the Casablanca conference in January 1943 that only the unconditional surrender of Germany would be acceptable.

The war in Europe was over but the war against Japan continued for another four months.


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