On May 7, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered, ending World War II in Europe. United States General Dwight Eisenhower accepted the surrender at his headquarters in Reims, France. The Allies declared the following day, May 8, as V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day.
Germany’s surrender brought a great sense of relief in Europe and in Allied nations around the world. Some people celebrated, parading and cheering the Allied victory. To many, however, the end of fighting in Europe was bittersweet. During nearly 6 years of war, millions of people had died. Millions more had lost their homes. The war had destroyed a great number of European cities, including nearly every major city in Germany. Also, in May 1945, the full extent of the Holocaust was not yet known. But concentration camps liberated by Allied troops revealed unimaginable horrors. Europe’s collective trauma would not be healed in a day.
World War II in Europe 1943-1945
Germany’s surrender had been anticipated for months, making each new battle, each new casualty doubly painful. After Germany finally did surrender, Allied troops in Europe couldn’t just go home. Many were needed to keep the peace in Germany, to help begin a long process of cleaning up. Many others expected a trip to the Pacific, where the bloody war against Japan continued in force. To troops in Burma, China, Okinawa, the Philippines, and elsewhere, V-E Day was just another fighting day. Japan’s defeat seemed inevitable, but when and at what cost?
V-E Day remains a hugely important day in world history. But in May 1945, there was much work yet to be done. It would take months and much more bloodshed until Japan’s surrender– Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day–ultimately ended World War II.
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