Nazi Germany Surrenders

German commander Wilhelm Keitel signs the final unconditional surrender of Germany in the ruins of Berlin
German commander Wilhelm Keitel signs the final unconditional surrender of Germany in the ruins of Berlin

Historical Context

World War II in Europe ended twice. On 7 May 1945, in a small red brick schoolhouse in the French town of Reims, German representative Alfred Jodl signed the instrument of unconditional surrender on behalf of the Nazi High Command. Representatives from the US, UK and USSR signed on behalf of the Allies.

This, however, was unacceptable to the Soviet Union, who wanted a full, final signing in the German capital signed by their leading general, Georgy Zhukov. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, agreed, and the final signing was set for the following day.

In the ruins of Berlin, Wilhelm Keitel, Hans-Georg von Friedeburg and Hans-J├╝rgen Stumpff signed the surrender for Germany. Political and diplomatic haggling between the Western Allies prevented the physical signing of the document until almost 1:00am on 9 May, but it was backdated to 8 May.

Subsequently Victory in Europe Day is celebrated on two days in Europe. At the time there was meant to be a news blackout after the Reims signing so that the celebrations could take place at the same time around the world, but a news reporter broke the embargo and the West erupted in celebration on 8 May despite the fact the formal announcement of defeat was not made until later that night - just before the Berlin signing. Thus the West celebrates on 8 May, but the Soviet Union celebrates victory on 9 May, when the Berlin signing took effect.

Photo Info


Photographer: Lt. Moore
Date taken: May 8, 1945
Location taken: Berlin, Germany

Source: National Archives and Records Administration

Related Events

  • 1945-05-08 German General Wilhelm Keitel formally surrenders to the Allies represented by the United States, the UK, France and the Soviet Union in Berlin
  • 1945-05-08 V-E Day: World War II ends in Europe after Germany signs an unconditional surrender

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