V-E Day

Winston Churchill’s VE Day

The 8th of May stands as a critical moment in history as this marked the official surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied powers, bringing the end to almost 6 years of war. Celebrations were felt across the entire world from the Soviet Union to Great Britain. In the British Empire, the celebration was commemorated with a speech by Winston Churchill. His solemn words were the perfect sendoff to the war in Europe.

End of WWII

As April 1945 approached, it was clear that Germany’s fall was inevitable. Their last desperate efforts to drive back the Allied forces on the Western Front had failed, allowing them to enter German lands. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was rolling back the German armies in the east, having captured most of Eastern Europe from them. Now the mighty Red Army was closing in on Berlin. The German war machine, once seemingly invincible, was crumbling under the relentless pressure.

While this happened, Adolf Hitler and his senior staff had taken shelter in a bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. As the news of their defeat poured in, he grew increasingly detached from reality. Surrounded by a shrinking circle of loyalists, he issued futile orders to continue fighting, turning the city of Berlin into a battleground, subjected to constant bombardment and street-by-street combat.

The result was two weeks of intense fighting as the last pockets of German resistance desperately tried to fight off the massive Soviet army which numbered over two million men.

By April 30, 1945, the Soviet troops tightened their grip around Berlin and were right at Hitler’s doorstep. Rather than let himself be captured Hitler committed suicide. His demise signaled an unofficial end to Nazi resistance, though sporadic fighting continued in several pockets across Europe.

The formal conclusion of the conflict in Europe came with the unconditional surrender of German forces. The act of surrender was carried out in Reims, France, on May 7, 1945, and again in Berlin on May 8, 1945— a day that would come to be known as Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day). Celebrations erupted across the Allied nations in Europe as it marked the end of half a decade of suffering and destruction.

Winston Churchill took the time to say a few words to celebrate this day, taking pride in the British people being among the first to take up arms against the Nazis and standing firm throughout all of this turmoil.

“My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? Were we down-hearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered.” Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle-a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgment and our mercy.”

– Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the British Empire.

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