World War 2 Stories for Sheffield


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Hitler's death: On April 30, as the Battle of Berlin raged above him, realizing that all was lost and not wishing to suffer Mussolini's fate, German dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker along with Eva Braun, his long-term mistress whom he had married just hours before their joint suicide. In his will Hitler appointed his successors; Karl Dönitz as the new Reichspräsident ("President of Germany") and Joseph Goebbels as the new Reichskanzler (Chancellor of Germany). However, Goebbels committed suicide on May 1, 1945, leaving Dönitz as sole leader of Germany.

German forces in Italy surrender: On May 1, SS General Karl Wolff and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group C, General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, after prolonged unauthorised secret negotiations with the Western Allies named Operation Sunrise, which were viewed as trying to reach a separate peace by the Soviet Union, ordered all German armed forces in Italy to cease hostilities and signed a surrender document which stipulated that all German forces in Italy were to surrender unconditionally to the Allies on May 2.

German forces in Berlin surrender: The Battle of Berlin ended on May 2. On this date, General of the Artillery Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov of the Soviet army. On the same day the officers commanding the two armies of Army Group Vistula north of Berlin, (General Kurt von Tippelskirch commander of the German Twenty-First Army and General Hasso von Manteuffel commander of Third Panzer Army) surrendered to the Western Allies.

German forces in North West Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands surrender: On May 4, 1945, the British Field Marshal Montgomery took the unconditional military surrender from General Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, and General Hans Kinzel, of all German forces "in Holland, in northwest Germany including the Frisian Islands and Heligoland and all other islands, in Schleswig-Holstein, and in Denmark… including all naval ships in these areas." at the Timeloberg on Lüneburg Heath; an area between the cities of Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen. On May 5, Dönitz ordered all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases. At 16:00, General Johannes Blaskowitz, the German commander-in-chief in the Netherlands, surrendered to Canadian General Charles Foulkes in the small Dutch town of Wageningen in the presence of Prince Bernhard (acting as commander-in-chief of the Dutch Interior Forces).

German forces in Bavaria surrender: At 14:30 on May 4, 1945, General Hermann Foertsch surrendered all forces between the Bohemian mountains and the Upper Inn river to the American General Jacob L. Devers, commander of the American 6th Army Group.

Central Europe: On May 5, 1945, the Prague uprising started by the Czech resistance. The following day the Soviets launch the Prague Offensive. In Dresden, Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann let it be known that a large-scale German offensive on the Eastern Front was about to be launched. Within two days, Mutschmann abandoned the city and was captured by Soviet troops while trying to escape.

German forces in Breslau surrender: On May 6 at 18:00, General Hermann Niehoff the commandant of Breslau, a fortress city surrounded and besieged for months, surrendered to the Soviets.

German forces on the Channel Islands surrender: On May 8 at 10:00, the islanders were informed by the German authorities that the war was over. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast at 15:00 during which he announced: "Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives the 'Cease fire' began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today."

Jodl and Keitel surrender all German armed forces unconditionally: One half hour after the fall of "Fortress Breslau" (Festung Breslau), General Alfred Jodl arrived in Reims and, following Dönitz's instructions, offered to surrender all forces fighting the Western Allies. This was exactly the same negotiating position that von Friedeburg had initially made to Montgomery, and like Montgomery the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, threatened to break off all negotiations unless the Germans agreed to a complete unconditional surrender. Eisenhower explicitly told Jodl that he would order western lines closed to German soldiers, thus forcing them to surrender to the Soviets. Jodl sent a signal to Dönitz, who was in Flensburg, informing him of Eisenhower's position. Shortly after midnight Dönitz, accepting the inevitable, sent a signal to Jodl authorizing the complete and total surrender of all German forces.

The Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany, highlighting the Soviet zone (red), the inner German border (heavy black line) and the zone from which British and American troops withdrew in July 1945 (purple). The provincial boundaries are those of pre-Nazi Weimar Germany, before the present Länder were established.

At 02:41 on the morning of, May 7, 1945, at the SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway on May 7, the same day as Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. It included the phrase "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945."  The next day, General Wilhelm Keitel and other German OKW representatives traveled to Berlin, and shortly before midnight signed a similar document, explicitly surrendering to Soviet forces, in the presence of General Georgi Zhukov. The signing ceremony took place in a former German Army Engineering School in the Berlin district of Karlshorst which now houses the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst

The Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, 

Surrender in Rheim

General Alfred Jodl signing the capitulation papers in Rheims.

The first instrument of Surrender was signed at Rheims, France, at 02:41 hours on 7 May 1945. The signing took place in a red brick schoolhouse that served as the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). It was to take effect at 2301 hours Central European time on 8 May, 1945.The unconditional surrender of the German armed forces was signed by Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, on behalf of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German language: High Command of armed forces) and as the representative for the new Reich President, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. Walter Bedell Smith signed on behalf of the Western Allies, and Ivan Susloparov on behalf of the Soviets. French major general François Sevez signed as the official witness.


Above: The instrument of surrender signed at Reims May 7, 1945. 

Below, a high definition downloadable version.

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Victory in Europe: News of the surrender broke in the West on May 8, and celebrations erupted throughout Europe. In the United States, Americans awoke to the news and declared May 8 V-E Day. As the Soviet Union was to the east of Germany it was May 9 Moscow Time when German military surrender became effective, which is why Russia and many other European countries east of Germany commemorate Victory Day on May 9.

 German units cease fire: Although the military commanders of most German forces obeyed the order to surrender issued by the German Armed Forces High Command (German acronym OKW), not all commanders did so. The largest contingent not to do so were Army Group Centre under the command of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner who had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army on April 30 in Hitler's last will and testament. On May 8, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria, and the Soviet Army sent overwhelming force against Army Group Centre in the Prague Offensive, forcing German units in Army Group Centre to capitulate by May 11 (the last did on 12 May). The other forces which did not surrender on May 8 surrendered piecemeal:

  • The Second Army, under the command of General von Saucken, on the Heiligenbeil and Danzig beachheads, on the Hel Peninsula in Vistula delta surrendered on May 9, as did the forces on the Greek islands; and the garrisons of St. Nazaire, La Rochelle (after the Allied siege of La Rochelle) and Lorient.
  • On May 13, the Red Army halted all offensives in Europe. Isolated resistance pockets in Czechoslovakia were mopped up by this date.
  • The garrison on Alderney, one of the Channel Islands occupied by the Germans, surrendered on May 16 one week after the garrisons on the other Channel Islands which surrendered on May 9.
  • The Georgian Uprising of Texel (April 5, 1945–May 20, 1945) was Europe's last battlefield in World War II. It was fought between Soviet Georgian POWs on Texel against the German occupiers of that Dutch island.
  • Another military engagement took place in Slovenia, on May 15, 1945 known as the Battle of Poljana.

Dönitz government ordered dissolved by Eisenhower: Karl Dönitz continued to act as the German head of state, but his Flensburg government (so-called because it was based at Flensburg and controlled only a small area around the town) was given no regard after the surrender on May 8. On May 23, 1945 a British liaison officer was sent to Flensburg and read to the Flensburg government Eisenhower's order dissolving the government and ordering the arrest of its members. The Allies had a problem, because they realized that although the German armed forces had surrendered unconditionally, SHAEF had failed to use the document created by the "European Advisory Commission" (EAC) and so the civilian German government had not. This was considered a very important issue, because just as the civilian, but not military, surrender in 1918 had been used by Hitler to create the "stab in the back" argument, the Allies did not want to give a future hostile German regime a legal argument to resurrect an old quarrel.

Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers was signed by the four Allies on June 5, 1945. It included the following:

The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, hereby assume supreme authority with respect to Germany, including all the powers possessed by the German Government, the High Command and any state, municipal, or local government or authority. The assumption, for the purposes stated above, of the said authority and powers does not effect the annexation of Germany.

—US Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series, No. 1520.

It is disputed whether this assumption of power constituted debellation or not.

The Potsdam Agreement was signed on August 2, 1945, in connection to this the Allied leaders planned the new post-war German government, resettled war territory boundaries, de facto annexed a quarter of pre-war Germany situated east of the Oder-Neisse line, mandated and organized the expulsion of the millions of Germans remaining in the annexed territories and elsewhere in the east, ordered German demilitarisation, denazification, industrial disarmament and settlements of war reparations.

The Allied Control Council was created to effect the Allies assumed supreme authority over Germany, specifically to implement their assumed joint authority over Germany. On August 30, 1945 the Control Council constituted itself and issued its first proclamation, which informed the German people of the Council's existence and asserted that the commands and directives issued by the Commanders-in-Chief in their respective zones were not affected by the establishment of the Council.

Cessation of hostilities between the United States and Germany was proclaimed on 13 December 1946 by United States President Truman.

Peace treaties were signed on February 10, 1947 between the U.S. and Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania.

The Federal Republic of Germany had its first government formed on 20 September 1949 while the German Democratic Republic was formed on 7 October 1949.

President Harry S Truman

End of state of war with Germany was granted by the U.S. Congress on 19 October 1951, after a request by President Truman on 9 July. In the Petersberg Agreement of November 22, 1949 it was noted that the West German government wanted an end to the state of war, but the request could not be granted. The U.S. state of war with Germany was being maintained for legal reasons, and though it was softened somewhat it was not suspended since "the U.S. wants to retain a legal basis for keeping a U.S. force in Western Germany". At a meeting for the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States in New York from September 12 to December 19, 1950 it was stated that among other measures to strengthen West Germany's position in the Cold War that the western allies would "end by legislation the state of war with Germany". During 1951 many former Western Allies did end their state of war with Germany: Australia (9 July), Canada, Italy, New Zealand, The Netherlands (26 July), South Africa, and the United Kingdom (9 July) The state of war between Germany and the Soviet Union was ended in early 1955.

Sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany was granted on May 5, 1955 by the formal end of the military occupation of its territory. Special rights were however maintained, e.g. vis-à-vis West Berlin.

Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany: Under the terms of this peace treaty, the Four Powers renounced all rights they formerly held in Germany, including Berlin. As a result, Germany became fully sovereign on March 15, 1991. Germany remains however without the normal protection of the UN charter due to articles 53 and 107 in the charter which has not been amended since the end of the war.