Published On: Thu, May 7th, 2020

VE Day: What Germans ‘really think’ of anniversary exposed | World | News


On May 8, 1945, Adolf Hitler’s successor Karl Dönitz signed a document, finalising the unconditional surrender of the armed forces. For many years, Germans viewed May 8 as a day of defeat, but this has changed over time. VE Day in Germany is now used to both commemorate the victims of Nazism and to celebrate the liberation of their country from fascism, according to DW News.

Historian Fritz Bilz explained how this change has come about.

He explained that after World War 2, there was the generation that experienced and fought in the war, many of whom supported the Nazis and almost all suffered in the war’s immediate aftermath.

Then there was the second generation, who did not want to accuse their parents of terrible crimes.

However, the third and fourth generations after the war, Mr Bilz argued, have now come to view May 8 broadly as a day of liberation.

READ MORE: Queen Mother’s letter recalling day she ‘nearly died’ during Blitz

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Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany (Image: GETTY)

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VE Day in London, 1945 (Image: GETTY)

POLITICO Chief Europe correspondent commented in 2016: “The notion that Germany was ‘liberated’ in 1945, not simply defeated has become accepted wisdom in the country.”

Germany is a country that is facing up to its past in order to learn from it.

For example, Berlin has large, prominent memorials to those killed in the Holocaust and children learn about the atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime in school.

This awareness of the horrors of fascism itself has changed VE Day from being one of loss to one that enabled modern day Germany to flourish.

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VE Day celebrations in London in 1945 (Image: GETTY)

Like elsewhere in Europe and across the world, May 8 in Germany is also a day to remember those who lost their lives in World War 2.

Many in Germany travel to Berlin for a service to commemorate soldiers who died, and also those who died in the German resistance against the Nazis.

A separate day, International Holocaust Remembrance Day on November 1, is used to remember those who died in the Holocaust.

For many, May 8, 1945, marks the day that fascism lost in Europe.

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VE Day flypast in London, 2015 (Image: GETTY)

Adolf Hitler had ended his own life on April 30 during the Battle of Berlin.

He was succeeded by Karl Dönitz, a German admiral named as Hitler’s successor in his will, with the name President of Germany and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

On May 7, 1945, General Dönitz ordered Alfred Jodl, Chief Operation Staff of the High Command of the Armed Forces, to sign the German instruments of surrender in Reims, France.

A slightly modified document was signed on May 8 in Berlin and the ceasefire officially started at 11pm that day.

Most countries celebrate the end of the war in Europe on May 8, although some countries ‒ such as Russia, Belarus and Serbia ‒ celebrate it on May 9, because due to the time difference, 11pm on May 8 was already May 9 in Russia and much of the former Soviet bloc.

This year, celebrations will be more tricky across the globe, as many countries are in lockdown.

However, in the UK people are being encouraged to celebrate VE Day by decorating their homes in red, white and blue.

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VE Day is also a time for remembrance and reflection as well as celebration (Image: GETTY)

People can also have picnics in their gardens as long as they obey social distancing rules and keep two metres away from any neighbours.

The Queen is delivering a special televised message, which will be broadcasted at 9pm, the same time her father King George VI did a speech 75 years ago.

Prince Charles will read an extract from the King’s diary on that day and other royals will be speaking to World War 2 veterans over video call.



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