Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 11th 2017 Contents world A33
Thursday, May 11, 2017 guardian.co.tt
When Nazi Germany surrendered to end World War II
In the early morning hours
of May 7, 1945, the remnants of
Nazi Germany's military lead-
ership signed an unconditional
surrender to Allied forces.
When the news broke the next
day, soldiers and civilians around
the world heralded Victory in Eu-
rope Day---the Soviet Union would
mark Victory Day on May 9---exu-
berant about the end of nearly six
years of war that had destroyed
much of Europe.
When German and Allied mili-
tary officials gathered again in Ber-
lin near midnight on May 8 to sign
surrender documents, the atmos-
phere in the room was laden with
emotional and political weight.
The Germans, characteristically
severe, went through the proceed-
ings in a mix of resignation and
resentment, while the Soviets,
Americans, and other Allies were
relieved at the war's conclusion.
All of them were uncertain what
would come next.
Historian Antony Beevor's
sweeping history of the final
months on the eastern front, "The
Fall of Berlin 1945," captured the
mood in the room as victors and
vanquished gathered to bring their
conflict to an end:
"Just before midnight the rep-
resentatives of the allies entered
the hall 'in a two-storey build-
ing of the former canteen of the
Col Gen Paul Stumpff, second left, Luftwaffe commander, Field Marshal
Wilhelm Keitel, German army commander, raising baton and Gen. Adm.
Hans von Freideburg, rear, commander of the German navy, emerge
after Germany's unconditional surrender was formally ratified in Berlin,
May 9, 1945. AP PHOTO
German military engineering college
in Karlshorst.' General Bogdanov, the
commander of the 2nd Guards Tank
Army, and another Soviet general sat
down by mistake on seats reserved for
the German delegation."
"A staff officer whispered in their
ears and 'they jumped up, literally as
if stung by a snake' and went to sit
at another table. Western pressmen
and newreel cameramen apparently
'behaved like madmen'
. In their des-
peration for good positions, they were
shoving generals aside and tried to push
in behind the top table under the flags
of the four allies."
The German delegation then entered
the room---its members looking both
"resigned" and "imperious."
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, com-
mander of the Nazi armed forces dur-
ing the final days of the war, "sat very
straight in his chair, with clenched
fists," Beevor wrote. "Just behind him,
a tall German staff officer standing to
attention 'was crying without a single
muscle of his face moving.'"
Gen Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet
commander during the war's final days,
stood to invite the Germans "to sign
the act of capitulation." Keitel, impa-
tient, gestured for the documents to
be brought to him. "Tell them to come
here to sign," Zhukov said.
Keitel walked over to sign, "osten-
tatiously" removing his gloves to do
so, unaware that the representative
for the chief of Stalin's secret police,
the NKVD, was lingering just over his
"The German delegation may leave
the hall," Zhukov said once the signing
was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:
"The three men stood up. Keitel, 'his
jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog's'
raised his marshal's baton in salute,
then turned on his heel. As the door
closed behind them, it was almost as
if everybody would in the room ex-
haled in unison. The tension relaxed
instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling,
so was (British Air Chief Marshal Sir
Arthur) Tedder. Everybody began to
talk animatedly and shake hands. So-
viet officers embraced each other with
"The party which followed went
on until almost dawn, with songs
and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself
danced the Russkaya to loud cheers
from his generals. From inside, they
could clearly hear gunfire all over the
city as officers and soldiers blasted their
remaining ammunition into the night
sky in celebration. The war was over."
The chaos of the war had ceased, but
for Soviets and Germans other hard-
ships were to come.
Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin,
earned glory for his command during
the war, but he would soon find himself
on the outs with the mercurial Soviet
Keitel would face war-crimes charg-
es, including crimes against humanity.
He was convicted and hanged in Octo-
ber 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who
were hanged, Keitel's body didn't drop
with enough force to break his neck. He
dangled at the end of the hangman's
rope for 24 minutes before dying.
Germans, many of them under the
yoke of the Soviet Union, would strug-
gle to rebuild both physically from
the war and emotionally from their
encounter with Allies forces---Soviet
soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered
by two weeks of intense urban fighting,
The Soviet Union's drive for politi-
cal vengeance and economic advantage
lead it to hobble or strip much of East
Germany's infrastructure and resourc-
es. (Business Insider)
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