8 May in different perspectives – part 1

Look back and share your (hi)stories!

8 May 1945. The official end of WW2 on European soil: In the Berlin district of Karlshorst the German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signs the declaration of surrender in the presence of allied representatives – well-covered by the media. All German armed forces are called upon to cease fighting and surrender their weapons. The following images document the signing of the declaration of surrender and how the news of it spread rapidly.

Photo: Neptuul / CC BY-SA

The news of Germany’s capitulation spread like wildfire

(Photo: Imperial War Museums, WM EA 65948, public domain)

Field Marshal Keitel signs the German surrender document in Berlin-Karlshorst, 8 May 1945

(Photo: National Archives Identifier (NAID) 531290/ PD-USGov-Military-Army, public domain)

Until today the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany and its unconditional surrender are seen as a critical turning point in German history, that is also remembered in many other countries. The reactions regarding 8 May, however, varied: in 1945 voices of joy about the end of the war and the Nazi regime mixed with voices of fear of retaliation by former enemies in the war, of hunger and lack of prospects.

In the following decades, contrasting interpretations of the end of the war as either one of defeat or of liberation continued to persist. Especially in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ), from which the German Democratic Republic (GDR) later emerged, the narrative of the “liberation from fascism” would be a constant in the country’s politics of history. Regardless of this, 8 May 1945 is deeply rooted in the collective consciousness of the German post-war societies: as the day on which the war ended.

Photo: Destroyed houses in spring 1945 (Bundesarchiv, 183-J31399 / unkown / CC-BY-SA 3.0)