Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) is an important day for many European countries. It marked the day that World War II officially ended in Europe. While some countries don’t make a big deal out of VE day, other countries celebrate this day with military parades, fanfare, and ceremonies to honour those who fought and died in the war. Let’s explore the history and traditions of VE Day together.
What is Victory In Europe Day?
During World War II, the world banded together to defeat the Nazis. And on May 7, 1945, at 2:41 a.m., something important happened that changed the course of the war: German General Alfred Jodl, who represented Germany’s High Command, signed an unconditional surrender of all German forces.
Although the official signing was on May 7, the end of the war in Europe was announced on May 8, 1945.
Russia was not present during the signing of the German surrender in Reims on May 7, 1945, so Soviet Premier Josef Stalin insisted on a second signing in Berlin on May 8th
This day (May 8th) is now known as Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day for short, and it marked the end of Hitler’s war and the Nazi regime.
Victory in Europe day is always on May 8th.
The signing took place in a French secondary school in France.
The surrender of the German Third Reich to the Allied forces in World War II took place in a secret and unexpected location: a ping-pong room converted into a war room at a French school known as “Collège Moderne et Technique de Reims.”
The school was located in Reims, France, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Paris and was also the Headquarters of the Allied Forces led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The official name for the headquarters was SHAEF, which stood for “Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force.”
Today, the school has been renamed “Lycée Roosevelt” (Rosevelt high school) in honour of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who played a significant role in securing victory over Nazi Germany.
Visit the official surrender site: Museum of Surrender.
The left side of the school where the signing took place has been transformed into the Museum of Surrender” (Musée de la Reddition.) Here you can visit the “map room” and see the table where this famous signing took place, explore the archives, see uniforms and other artifacts.
Who made the first official announcement of the end of World War II
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the first official announcement of the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945, in a broadcast from the balcony of the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall, London.
However, French General Charles de Gaulle also announced on the same day, declaring the end of the war in Europe and France’s victory over Nazi Germany.
By the time the war ended, Roosevelt was no longer president of the United States, so President Truman announced V-E Day to the American people in a radio address.
The famous “V” sign for victory
The “V” sign is a hand gesture that has come to symbolize “Victory” during World War II. It involves raising the index and middle fingers to form a “V” shape.
It was first popularized by Winston Churchill, who used it as a symbol of victory and encouragement during the early years of the war. Later, the gesture was adopted by Allied soldiers and civilians as a symbol of hope and defiance in the face of Nazi aggression.
The “V” sign was also associated with the French resistance, who used it as a symbol of solidarity and resistance against Nazi occupation. In occupied Europe, displaying the “V” sign could be a risky act of defiance, as the Gestapo would often arrest or even execute people for doing so.
Today, the “V” sign remains a powerful symbol of victory and resistance and is often used in popular culture to represent these themes.
The world celebrated the end of the war.
The end of World War II in Europe was celebrated all around the world, with hundreds of thousands of people rejoicing in the streets, lighting fireworks, and holding parades. The celebrations varied depending on the country and their involvement in the war.
In London alone, over a million people gathered in Trafalgar Square up to Buckingham Palace, where Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth and her father, King George VI, appeared on the palace’s balcony to a cheering crowd.
In the United States, over five hundred thousand people gathered in Time Square to celebrate, and in France, huge crowds went to Paris to celebrate.
Hitler had already committed suicide.
Adolf Hitler had already committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin on April 30, 1945, just a few days before the signing of the German surrender.
The news of his death was announced the next day, May 1.
His suicide created a leadership vacuum in the Nazi regime because there was no clear successor to take his place. This led to confusion and disarray among the remaining Nazi leadership, making it harder for them to manage the war effort and negotiate surrender terms effectively.
Without Hitler’s leadership, the German military could not effectively resist the Allied forces.
Also, Hitler had been a powerful symbol for many Germans, and his sudden death may have shaken their confidence in the Nazi cause, making them more willing to accept surrender.
Who celebrates VE day?
For some allied countries, V-day is a public holiday with a lot of Fanfare and military parades, while other countries don’t make a thing of it.
VE Day In France:
May 8: Public holiday.
In France, Victory in Europe Day, “fête de la Victoire,” is a Patriotic public holiday celebrated on May 8.
Banks and most businesses are closed. Supermarkets are closed or close early. There is no school, and the buses and trains run on a special holiday schedule.
Depending on which city you are in, you might see parades, flags, wreaths, and flowers to commemorate soldiers lost to the war and victims of the Holocaust.
In Paris, there is usually a special celebration along the Champs-Elysees attended by Veterans and the French President, complete with a military parade and a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldiers, which lies directly beneath the Arc de Triomphe.
Pictured above is a very small celebration in the small French Provencal town where we lived for several years.
You might be interested in reading about all the other French holidays that happen in May.
In Russia & the Former Soviet Union:
May 9th : Public holiday
In Russia, Armenia, Latvia and other former Soviet States, VE day is mainly known as Victory Day and is celebrated on May 9 instead of the 8th of may.
The reason for this is because of time differences. When the surrender became official late on may 8th, it was already already May 9th in Russia.
President Vladimir Putin called it the country’s “biggest holiday.” It’s also known as “The Great Patriotic War” in Russia.
VE Day Celebrations In Germany
May 8: Public holiday.
Germany celebrates Victory in Europe Day on May 8, where it’s called “Liberation Day,” to celebrate liberation from the Nazi government and Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
May 8 is observed, but it’s not a public holiday in the US.
After the surrender of Germany, the war was not over. It continued in the Pacific for another three months, where U.S. and Allied forces fought the Japanese mainly in Okinawa, and the Philippines.
Then the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
When Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, this day became known as VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day,) and it marked an end to World war 2 for good.
Because of the controversy behind the atomic bombs, the US does not celebrate victory day, with the exception of Rhode Island, where it is celebrated on the second Monday of August to commemorate Japan’s surrender.
The famous LIFE magazine photo
A famous photo published in Life magazine featured a sailor returning home from the war, kissing a woman in Times Square, New York City.
The famous LIFE magazine photo is called “V-J Day in Times Square” or “The
The identity of the sailor and the woman in the photo were a mystery for a long time; however, several individuals claimed to be the people in the photo over the years.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that the identities of the sailor and the woman were officially confirmed as George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman.
The photo has been widely reproduced and has become a symbol of jubilation and an iconic image of the end of World War II.
Wrapping UP VE day
Although VE Day may not be widely celebrated outside of Europe, its importance is not forgotten.
Many memorials across the globe commemorate the events of VE Day and World War II, paying tribute to those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice, such as the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. It stands as a solemn reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought for peace and freedom during this historic time.
People in some countries, such as the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand wear a red poppy on VE day as a symbol of remembrance to honour those who served and sacrificed during World War II and other conflicts.