May 8, 1945 – Following a series of devastating defeats, and with the Soviet Red Army marauding through Berlin, the Germans surrender and the war in Europe comes to an end.
Hitler’s plans for a Reich lasting a thousand years come crashing down in a mere twelve, and the Fuhrer himself commits suicide on April 30.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupt throughout the world. From Moscow to Los Angeles, people celebrate. In the United Kingdom, more than one million people celebrate in the streets to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds mass in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appear on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret are allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the victory happens on President Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. He dedicates the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has died of a cerebral haemorrhage less than a month earlier, on 12 April. Flags remain at half-mast for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period. Truman said of dedicating the victory to Roosevelt’s memory and keeping the flags at half-mast that his only wish was “that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.” Later that day, Truman said that the victory made it his most enjoyable birthday.
Visit key sites from this chapter of history on our Fall of the Third Reich Tour.