8 May 1945 VE (Victory in Europe) Day
This is one day that remains in the memory of all those who witnessed it. People celebrated the end to nearly six years of a war that had cost the lives of millions. It had destroyed homes, families, and cities; and had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.
With Berlin surrounded, Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945. His named successor was Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. During his brief spell as Germany’s president, Dönitz negotiated an end to the war with the Allies – whilst seeking to save as many Germans as possible from falling into Soviet hands.
A German delegation arrived at the headquarters of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath, east of Hamburg, on 4 May. There, Montgomery accepted the unconditional surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, northwest Germany and Denmark.
Millions of people rejoiced in the news that Germany had surrendered, relieved that the intense strain of total war was finally over. In towns and cities across the world, people marked the victory with street parties, dancing and singing.
Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, announced the official end of World War II to the French people on May 8, 1945. Church bells rang to communicate and celebrate this message. It marked the end of a six-year war and the Nazi oppression in France, which resulted in millions of deaths.
May 8 and 9, 1945 continued as joyous days in France but it took some time for WWII Victory Day to become established as a day of celebration and a public holiday. On October 2, 1981, law number 81-893 amended the French Labour Code and WWII Victory Day became a public holiday. After much public debate, it also became an official national holiday in 1982.
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