8 May 1945 was Victory in Europe (VE) Day, and it marked the formal conclusion of Hitler’s war. Celebrations erupted throughout the world, captured by newsreel footage and photographers.
The final document of unconditional surrender was signed at General Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims on 7 May. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI wanted Monday 7 May to be VE Day, but in the event, bowing to American wishes, victory was celebrated on 8 May. The USSR waited an extra day before beginning their formal celebrations.
The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill officially announced the end of the war with Germany. In a message broadcast to the nation he said the ceasefire had been signed.
Huge crowds, many dressed in red, white and blue, gathered outside Buckingham Palace in London and were cheered as the King, Queen and two Princesses came out onto the balcony.
In this clip thousands of people celebrate VE Day in London and Times Square, New York as flags are waved and Swastikas burned.
London and New York celebrate VE day 8th May 1945
On 8 May 1945 at 15:00, all the bells of every church in France officially rang out the end of the war, whilst General de Gaulle announced it on the radio. “We have won the war. Victory is ours. It is the victory of the United Nations and the victory of France.” Surrounded by crowds, he then went on to pay homage at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.
General de Gaulle at the Arc de Triomphe, 8 May 1945 / Archives de Gaulle, Paris, France
Miami VE Day! Sailors and soldiers and civilians celebrating the end of World War II, May 8, 1945 (b/w photo); History Miami, Florida, USA; Miami News Collection
The day is remembered not only for the liberation of the Netherlands, but for the capitulation of the Nazis in a country they had occupied for five dark years. After a nine-month campaign and many costly day-to-day battles, the Germans surrendered to the Canadians on May 5, 1945.
In this clip Canadian soldiers in jeeps drive through the streets of a city and they are cheered on by an ecstatic crowd
Canadian soldiers in jeeps drive through a city, 1945 / The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
The Moscow Victory Parade of 1945 was a victory parade held by the Soviet army. It took place in the Soviet capital of Moscow, mostly centering around a military parade through Red Square. The parade took place on a rainy June 24, 1945, over a month after May 9, the day of Germany’s surrender to Soviet commanders.
Victory Parade on Red Square, Moscow, 1945 (photogravure), Russian Photographer
Even though the war in Europe was officially at an end, in the Far East the war raged on, claiming more lives. The Allied victory over Japan, known as V-J Day, did not take place until some months later on 15th August 1945.
The biggest conflict in history had lasted almost six years. Some 100 million people had been militarised, and 50 million had been killed. Of those who had died, 15 million were soldiers, 20 million were Russian civilians, six million were Jews and over four million were Poles.