63 years ago it was Victory in Europe day

Hitler committed suicide on April 30th 1945. On May 7th the new government of Germany bowed to the inevitable and authoritsed the signature of the unconditional surrender document at Reims on May 7th, and in Berlin on May 8th. All war like operations between Germany and the Allied powers ceased at 23.01 on May 8th.

There was great rejoicing throughout the country, with dramatic scenes on the streets of London. The relief must have been huge after the long dark years of bombing raids, the loss of loved ones overseas,and the nagging fear of death to civilians and active service personnel alike. The evil of the concentration camps and gas chambers discovered by the Allied armies was still sinking in. Years of post war austerity lay ahead, but who cared on the news that the war was over?

At the Potsdam Conference the Allies decided on the partition of Germany, and the granting to Poland of territory from the Reich. This ushered in an era of suffering for the Germans who were living in the wrong places in Eastern Europe and had to move out.

One of the main preoccupations of the Allies was to dismantle German heavy industry, to prevent future rearmament and the construction of battle ships, tanks and fighter planes. They ordered the dismantling of steel capacity, the closure of many factories, and the transfer of weapons techonology.

This thinking lived on with French governments, and led directly to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community and the proto EU. It took a long time for Western politicians to come to see Western Germany, later Germany, as a peaceful democratic ally in an uncertain world.

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3 Comments

  1. mikestallard
    Posted May 8, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your timely reminded of this awesome day.
    No, it was not inevitable. It was won by a tougher generation who really put themselves on the line for us, their progeny.
    If they had lost, the Far East would now be completely barbaric and very dangerous – miles and miles of Burma/Myanmar. Russia West of the Urals would now be a wasteland with huge German latifundia run by slave owning, arrogant men in uniform. Western Europe would be a terrible dictatorship run on racist lines and at permanent war with America by narrow minded bigots.
    We had good reason to fear the Germans. Ever since the Frederick William (18th century) period when the King liked nothing better than smoking and reviewing his giant grenadiers, Prussia/ Germany had been utterly militaristic. Hitler, of course, presented himself as the new Frederick the Great.
    It was in their history.
    Today, the Germans seem to have swung far too much the other way.

  2. Tomek
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    1."The evil of the concentration camps and gas chambers discovered by the Allied armies was still sinking in"
    What about polish resistance (Jan Karski ) passing info to UK government about what is really happening in Auschwitz? Is it so hard to admit that it was more convinient for Churchil to pretend not to believe it? Like now it is easier for some journalists to call Auschwitz – polish concentration camp -instead of german concentration camp in occupied Poland. By the way, Germans did not invent concentration camp they just developed the idea of Lord Kitchener.
    2."This ushered in an era of suffering for the Germans who were living in the wrong places in Eastern Europe and had to move out."
    Most of them just left in panic scared of Red Army. The order itself to flee was given by german authorities. And "transfer" of polish population from east to the areas germans deserted was done without "suffering" of course.

    • mikestallard
      Posted December 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      The Poles got cheated by everyone in World War II. First of all, they were given away by Stalin/Hitler at the non aggression pact. Then they were betrayed by Churchill to the Russians. Then they were sent back to Poland to be exterminated as spies by the MGB. Not a very good war, really.
      The British, it is true, first named the concentration camps in the Boer War. They did, also, allow a lot of suffering in the midst of that barbaric and unnecessary conflict. On the other hand, the British did not exterminate people in industrial numbers. Nor did they employ people as slave labour in industrial numbers. The Nazis did both these things with full approval from Himmler.
      The Poles suffered a lot at the end of the Second World War, yes. But so did the Germans. Because of their appallingly arrogant and violent behaviour in the borderlands, everyone loathed the Germans by 1945. Nevertheless, they paid heavily in their own blood and honour for their barbarism. Children, of course, suffered worst and they, of course, were the least guilty.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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