|Victory in Europe Day|
VE Day 70th anniversary ceremony in Paris 2015
|Observed by||European states (see below)|
|Significance||End of World War II in Europe|
|Date||8 or 9 May 1945|
|Related to||Victory over Japan Day, Victory Day|
Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day (Great Britain) or V-E Day (North America), or simply as V-Day, is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces on the 8 May 1945.
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin. Germany's surrender, therefore, was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May in SHAEF HQ at Reims, and a slightly modified document was signed on 8 May in Berlin.
Most European countries celebrate the end of World War II on 8 May. Russia, Belarus, and Serbia celebrate on 9 May, as did several former Soviet bloc countries until after the fall of Communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Israel marks VE Day on 9 May as well as a result of the large number of immigrants from the former Soviet bloc, although it is not a public holiday. The term VE Day existed as early as September 1944, in anticipation of victory.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in Great Britain and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout Great Britain to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the victory happened on President Harry Truman's 61st birthday. He dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on 12 April. Flags remained at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period. Truman said of dedicating the victory to Roosevelt's memory and keeping the flags at half-staff that his only wish was "that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day". Later that day, Truman said that the victory made it his most enjoyable birthday. Massive celebrations took place in many American cities, especially in New York's Times Square.
Tempering the jubilation somewhat, both Churchill and Truman pointed out that the war against Japan had not yet been won. In his radio broadcast at 15:00 on the 8th, Churchill told the British people that: "We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing (as Japan) remains unsubdued". In America, Truman broadcast at 09:00 and said it was "a victory only half won".
The instrument of surrender signed 7 May 1945 stipulated that all hostilities had to stop at 23:01 (CET), 8 May 1945, just an hour before midnight. Since it was already 9 May in the European part of the USSR, most post-Soviet states, including Russia celebrated Victory Day on 9 May. Since the end of Communism, all former Soviet bloc countries in Europe except Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia have shifted to celebrate 8 May as the end of World War II, in line with the 7 May 1945 unconditional surrender document that Soviet and Russian leaders refused to recognise.
(May 8 unless otherwise stated)
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