Victory in Europe Day is observed on May 8 to commemorate when the Allies of World War II formally accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. Did you know that even after Germany — the architect of the war — surrendered, Japan continued to wage war against the Allied troops? World War II was the costliest war ever; over 75 million lives were lost, cities leveled, and the economy of Europe was devastated. The war began when Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland and ended nearly six years later when Japan surrendered. Victory in Europe Day is celebrated as a public holiday in several European countries and termed V.E. Day and V-E Day in the U.K. and the U.S., respectively.
History of Victory in Europe Day
On April 30, 1945, the Allied forces surrounded Germany, tightening the noose around the German army. Realizing the hopelessness of his situation, Hitler killed his newly wedded wife, Eva Braun, and committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. Immediately taking the presidency, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, Hitler’s successor, began negotiating for a term of surrender with the Allied forces. Chief among his goals was saving as many Germans as possible from being captured by the Soviets.
On May 4, in Luneburg Heath, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery accepted the unconditional surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, northwest Germany, and Denmark. On May 7, another unconditional military surrender was signed at SHAEF H.Q. at Reims, between Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower and General Alfred Jodl of Germany. The following day, a slightly modified document — the definitive German Instrument of Surrender — was signed in Karlshorst, Berlin, by German Field Marshal William Keitel.
Following the announcement of the German surrender on radio on May 7, the news quickly spread across the western world, and jubilations erupted everywhere, especially in North America and the U.K. The B.B.C. interrupted their program to announce that Victory in Europe Day would be a national holiday. Over one million people trooped out to the streets of the U.K. to celebrate, while in London, people crowded Trafalgar Square, the Mall, and Buckingham Palace. The British Royal Family, joined by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the palace’s balcony, waving to the cheering crowds.
In the United States, Victory in Europe Day happened to be the same day as President Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. However, he dedicated the victory to his late predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the U.S. flag remained at half-mast. Victory in Europe Day was also celebrated in Australia, Paris, and Canada — where a riot broke down and resulted in several deaths.
Victory in Europe Day timeline
During the Battle of Berlin, the city becomes surrounded — so, Hitler kills his wife and commits suicide.
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery accepts the unconditional surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, northwest Germany, and Denmark.
Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower accepts the unconditional surrender of German forces from German General Alfred Jodl.
The definitive German Instrument of Surrender is signed in Berlin by German Field Marshal William Keitel.
Japan agrees to surrender to the Allied forces and formally signs an agreement the following month.
Victory in Europe Day FAQs
Is Victory in Europe Day celebrated in Germany?
Victory in Europe Day is generally viewed in Germany as a day to commemorate those that died during the war. However, it’s also a day to renew their promises of preventing such events from happening again.
Who celebrates Victory in Europe Day?
Victory in Europe Day is mainly celebrated by North American and European countries, including Israel and the European Union — celebrated as Europe Day.
How do the French celebrate Victory in Europe Day?
Victory in Europe Day is celebrated with a lot of festivities and fanfare. Church services, parades, ceremonies, monument visitations, and air force flyovers are ways Victory in Europe Day is commemorated in France.
How to Observe Victory in Europe Day
Visit the World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial was built in 2004 to honor those that fought and died during World War II. The memorial is located in Washington D.C. You can visit and take a tour around this place of honor to pay your respects to those that prevented the war from entering our borders.
Talk to a World War II veteran
You can observe Victory in Europe Day by chatting with a WWII veteran about the unfiltered events of the war. There are many of these veterans around, and they can be found at senior homes. Visiting them would allow you to learn a lot and provide you with an opportunity to appreciate them for their sacrifices.
Watch World War II movies or documentaries
Many films are produced almost every decade, dedicated to the major battles of World War II. You can spend Victory in Europe Day by watching classics like “Stalingrad,” “Dunkirk,” “Dirty Dozen,” “Come and See,” and “Saving Private Ryan.” You can also watch documentaries, such as “Battlefield,” “World At Watt,” and “Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow.”
5 Important Facts About World War II
It was between two groups of countries
World War II was fought between Allied countries — Britain, France, Russia, China, and the U.S. — and Axis nations — Germany, Italy, and Japan.
The Holocaust happened
Hitler’s Germany killed about six million Jewish people during the war.
Some countries remained neutral
Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland are examples of countries that never chose a side during the war.
It was the bloodiest war
About 75 million people died during the war, including 40 million civilians and 20 million military personnel.
Millions died for not being perfect Germans
Aside from Jews, Hitler ordered people with disabilities and Gypsies to be killed for not meeting his vision of the best and strongest race.
Why Victory in Europe Day is Important
It marked the beginning of the end of WWII
When the German forces surrendered to the Allied troops on Victory in Europe Day, it ended the war on the European theatre, allowing the Allies to concentrate their efforts to win in the Eastern theatre three months later.
It serves as a day of remembrance
Victory in Europe Day is not only a day to celebrate Germany’s surrender but also a day to appreciate the military personnel that fought and died to make it happen.
It’s a day of reflection
Victory in Europe Day is a day for every country that participated in World War II, both the instigators and heroes, to reflect on the actions and events that led to the outbreak of war and ensure they don’t repeat themselves.
Victory in Europe Day dates