May 8, 1945 — The Germans have formally surrendered unconditionally to the Allied powers after one of the Europe’s most brutal wars. They have signed documents on their surrender in Prague, Berlin, East Germany and others areas of conflict. The continent has been devastated, and the survivors flood the streets all throughout Russia, the U.K., and in every major city in the U.S. On top of those, celebrations were had in all manner of European countries.
A Universal Newsreel spoke of the jubilant crowds in NYC and also of those who were just glad that part of the war was over:
New York City’s millions reacted in two sharply contrasting ways yesterday to the news of the unconditional surrender of the German armies. A large and noisy minority greeted it with the turbulent enthusiasm of New Year’s Eve and Election Night rolled into one. However, the great bulk of the city’s population responded with quiet thanksgiving that the war in Europe was won, tempered by the realization that a grim and bitter struggle still was ahead in the Pacific and the fact that the nation is still in mourning for its fallen President and Commander in Chief.
Times Square, the financial section and the garment district were thronged from mid-morning on with wildly jubilant celebrators who tooted horns, staged improptu parades and filled the canyons between the skyscrapers with fluttering scraps of paper. Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, however, war plants continued to hum, schools, offices and factories carried on their normal activities, and residential areas were calmly joyful.”
The day would become a commemorative holiday in many countries throughout the Europe.
This would signal the release of many POWs as well. The months and weeks prior to Germany’s surrender was becoming increasingly difficult for POWs, as the suffering resources and manpower of Nazi Germany would hit them the hardest. 13,000 British prisoners of war would finally be allowed to return on their families.
However, the war was not over. Japan was still a major player and the Axis powers had not been entirely subdued. Winston Churchill looked ahead toward the next major focus of World War II at the end of his famous V-E day speech:
The German war is therefore at an end. After years of intense preparation, Germany hurled herself on Poland at the beginning of September, 1939; and, in pursuance of our guarantee to Poland and in agreement with the French Republic, Great Britain, the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, declared war upon this foul aggression. After gallant France had been struck down we, from this Island and from our united Empire, maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia, and later by the overwhelming power and resources of the United States of America.
Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evil-doers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts in this Island and throughout the British Empire.
We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. The injury she has inflicted on Great Britain, the United States, and other countries, and her detestable cruelties, call for justice and retribution. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!”
Read the whole speech here.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press — V-E Day in London.