This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of May 8, 1945, also known as Victory in Europe Day. VE Day marks the end of World War II that has ravaged Europe for nearly six years, claiming an estimated 75 million lives on both sides of the conflict by the time it finally came to an end.
Colored, archived images of Germany’s Allied liberation from the Nazis leading up to the end of World War II have been released prior to historic day.
The notable archived images show Allied troops making their way through a devastated Germany that saw months of war, which eventually led to the Allies’ unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany being accepted.
The surrender took place shortly after the suicide of Germany’s Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, when the Allies approached him during the Battle of Berlin that took place from April 16, 1945 to May 2, 1945.
Germany’s surrender was approved by Hitler’s successor, President Karl Dönitz, who led the short-lived German government in the days leading up to and after Germany’s surrender. During this time, Dönitz strove to save as many Germans as possible from capture or murder by advancing Soviet troops.
His plan was partially successful when millions of German soldiers surrendered to the Allies and managed to escape the Soviet conquest.
The document ‘act of military surrender’ was first signed at the headquarters of the Allied forces (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force or SHAEF) in the Netherlands around 7 a.m. on 7 May, after which a final version was signed the following day with Soviet leader Josef Stalin, on the occasion of VE Day.
There were big parties on the day, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. More than a million people took to the streets of Britain, with crowds in Trafalgar Square and The Mall all the way to Buckingham Palace.
In London, Winston Churchill gave a speech to celebrate the end of the war in Europe, but also reminded people that the war against Japan was still being fought.
In the midst of the celebrations, many people mourned the deaths of their loved ones who died fighting abroad. It is estimated that 16 million Allied military personnel around the world died in the war, with an additional 45 million civilians. The Germans saw about 8 million military deaths and 4 million civilian casualties, which means that VE day was also the sign of a gloomy event for many, as people remembered the lost.
These archived photos released prior to the 75th day of VE Day show the devastation caused by the war when the Nazi forces continued to fight long after Germany’s surrender to the Allied forces became inevitable.
Rook emerges from a building in a German city as the Western Allied infantryman roams the streets in 1945. The men accompany a large armored tank, with two soldiers in the tower on top of the tank as it drives through the city. Such scenes were seen all over both sides of Germany when Western Allied troops, especially those from Britain and the United States, moved west to Berlin, while troops from Soviet Russia moved in from the east.
A graveyard of U-boats: The German U-boat was one of the most feared weapons of Nazi Germany in the war and caused great damage to the Allied navy around the world. This photo shows the grenades of captured U-boats on a construction and repair yard during the Allied capture of Germany in 1945
In the run-up to Germany’s surrender, which was largely expected, some German soldiers were still fighting to the end, even as the cities around them collapsed. In this photo, Allied infantrymen move through the rubble to clean up the remaining German snipers who defended Nuremberg in 1945
VE DAY ANNOUNCED: A German citizen reads in a Golden Acorn News newspaper about the news that Germany has surrendered to the Allies. The newspaper was the newsletter for the U.S. Army’s 87th Infantry Division whose insignia symbol was a golden jerk
An Allied soldier watches as German troops march west across the Rhine River, which runs all the way from Switzerland, through much of West Germany, through the Netherlands and into the North Sea. On March 23, 1945, the Allies were able to cross the river for the first time, as part of Operation Plunder, with the aim of crossing the river in much of the Allies’ efforts to reach Berlin
German prisoners are marched along the Autobahn Central Reserve in 1945. Armored vehicles, including tanks and people carriers, drive in the opposite direction to the front, taking more Allied troops to the front lines as they make their final attempt to Defeat Germany and reach the capital of Berlin
Allied troops bombard an Austrian city from across the German border. Smoke rises from the distant buildings as the soldiers point their guns across a river. Vienna, the capital of Austria, fell on April 13, 1945, during the Soviet offensive in Vienna, just before the total collapse of the Third Reich a few weeks later. Austria’s secession from the Third Reich was completed by the Declaration of Independence on April 27, 1945, the days before Hitler, who himself was an Austrian, committed suicide
An allied infantryman holds his rifle ready while a German soldier approaches him with his hands in the air, a sign that he is surrendering. In the months leading up to April, as the expected surrender of German troops approached, about 800,000 German troops surrendered to the Allied forces. Hitler’s replacement, President Karl Dönitz, hoped that by surrendering to the Allied troops he could keep as many Germans as possible out of the hands of the Soviet troops. Soviet records show that 381,067 German Wehrmacht prisoners of war died in Soviet camps
German soldiers drive a road by horse and cart. No one seems to be holding weapons suggesting that the soldiers have given up their military equipment and may be carrying other supplies in the wagons
A German citizen waves a white flag of surrender as an armored half-track vehicle heads toward Geisselhardt, Germany. Buildings in the city are on fire behind the citizen who shows that the city has surrendered. Geißelhardt is a small town in the south of Germany, about 30 miles north of Stuttgart
Military traffic moves across the River Main in Wurzburg, a town in the Bavaria region of Germany. The Marienberg Fortress of Wurzburg is a prominent landmark on the River Main and can be seen in the background behind the bridge crossing vehicles. In the foreground, soldering and military vehicles with building materials can be seen. The bridge was destroyed by Nazi soldiers to protect their retreat to Germany, so a temporary crossing of the river was made to allow troops and supplies to cross the river
A tank with a 4.5-inch ‘T34’ Multiple Rocket Launcher mounted leads the road through a German city while other military vehicles follow. In the background you can see soldiers sitting on a tank as follows, and further soldiers in the city are seen with more tanks around the buildings in the village
Allied forces of the 42nd Infantry Division in the U.S. Seventh Army, SS guards conquer the Dachau coal yard, the infamous Nazi concentration camp. North of Munich in Bavaria, Dachau was the first of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps to open in 1933. It was meant to detain “political prisoners”. There, 41,500 people are said to have died as a result of Nazi troops
A member of the Seventh United States Army distributes cigarettes to liberated prisoners in Dachau, the infamous concentration camp. The camp was liberated by the United States forces on April 29, 1945. Before they were released, prisoners were in constant fear of the brutal treatment they received from the camp’s Nazi leaders. After its opening by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was expanded to include forced labor and the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals and prisoners of war
As soldiers make their way through the ruined city in Germany, an elderly woman stands in the middle of the road. Almost incredulously she looks at the destroyed buildings around her that have been seriously damaged by the fighting
A lineman – soldiers tasked with repairing and maintaining telephone lines installed all over Germany while Allied troops were on their way to Berlin to ensure communications could continue – attach a wire to an insulator on top of the telegraph pole, being unsure there are tens of feet in the air on the pole
US officers and soldiers meet Russian troops in Germany. As the Allied forces marched into Berlin from the west and the Soviet troops marched in from the east, many soldiers met at various points in central Germany, capturing German cities and troops. Relations between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union were strained about what to do with Germany and the countries it had annexed after the inevitable VE day
A prisoner of war residence, seen from above. Contrary to their treatment of British and American prisoners of war, the Nazis had a deliberate police force that mistreated Soviet prisoners of war, resulting in approximately 3.3 million deaths. During the war, more than 170,000 British prisoners of war were taken by the Axis forces.
Liberated slave workers help themselves to food and supplies in a story, in Hanover, Germany. Slave labor under Nazi rule was performed on an unprecedented scale and was an essential part of the country’s war effort and economic exploitation. About 10 million people were forced
Soldiers are manning a .50 caliber Browning machine gun HB M2, alert to enemy aircraft flying overhead. In the background is a bridge over a dry river bed in ruins, probably destroyed by Nazi forces to slow down the advance of Allied forces
Left: Allied troops and armored vehicles move through the ruined city of Magdeburg, in central Germany. Some multi-story buildings are still standing, while others have been completely destroyed and show the extent of the destruction from the fighting. An RAF bombing on the night of January 16, 1945 destroyed much of the city. The death toll has been estimated between 2000 and 2500. Right: Infantrymen march through the street of a German city in ruins. Smoke from the rubble is still rising as the soldiers pass through the shells of buildings that could be people’s homes or shops in the town of Waldenburg, a hilltop town in southern central Germany
An aerial view of Magdeburg, Germany, shows the results of the bombing campaign waged to weaken the German resistance when Allies fought the Nazis on their march to Berlin. The ruins of buildings stretch as far as the eye can see. The scale of a church or cathedral stands out among the ruins, but no building seems to have escaped the damage
Burgers van de Duitse stad Düsseldorf kijken toe hoe Amerikaanse troepen in tanks door de straten rollen. De geallieerden bereikten medio april 1945 Düsseldorf. De 97e Infanteriedivisie van de Verenigde Staten veroverde de stad op 18 april 1945 nadat een anti-nazi-verzetsgroep van Duitsers een missie had gelanceerd om de stad over te geven aan de geallieerden om verdere vernietiging door voortdurende gevechten te voorkomen. . Karl August Wiedenhofen leidde de groep, die een geallieerde luchtaanval kon stoppen, naar verluidt op het laatste moment
Transport corps verplaatsen over brug die werd gebouwd over de Rijn in Wesel, Duitsland. 97 procent van de stad Wesel werd vernietigd tijdens geallieerde luchtaanvallen en de nazi’s vernietigden bruggen om hun terugtocht naar Duitsland te dekken, wat betekent dat de geallieerde troepen tijdelijke bruggen moesten bouwen om troepen en uitrusting over de rivier te vervoeren. Uiteindelijk werd Wesel in april 1945 ingenomen
Infanteristen trekken de Duitse stad Frankfurt binnen, de op vier na grootste stad van Duitsland. Frankfurt was also heavily bombed during the war, and the once-famous medieval city centre, by that time the largest in Germany, was almost completely destroyed in air raids as the Nazi forces continued to resist the advancing Allied forces
Much of Frankfut was destroyed in the war. This high-angle shot shows the Main River that runs through the centre of the city. The city’s cathedral lies in ruins and surrounding buildings can be seen on both sides of the Main River. The bridge connecting the two sides of the city has been destroyed to slow the advance of Allied troops
American infantrymen and trucks Crossing the Rhine near Worms, Germany, about sixty kilometers south of Frankfurt. A temporary bridge has been built across the river, next to another destroyed bridge to slow the advance of the Allies. A sign next to the bridge reads ‘Alexander Patch Bridge “Cross the Rhine” courtesy 85th Eng’s’
A number of ten-ton semi-trailers with Four 750-Gallon skid tanks loaded with gasoline to supply Allied military vehicles Germany. Tens of thousands of vehicles were used, on land, air and sea, in the Allies effort to liberate Germany from the Nazis
Vehicles from the armoured division drive through a burning German town. Orange flames can still be seen bursting out of the windows of the building ahead of the vehicles, suggesting fighting has only recently stopped in this area of the town when the photograph was taken in 1945
White flags of surrender fly out the front of a deserted German town. The flags can be seen all the way down the street. For Germans today, VE Day is now both a day of celebration, and a day of remembrance, as they celebrate freedom from fascism, but remember those that were lost as the Nazis needlessly continued to send soldiers to their deaths in the final months of the war