Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day (United Kingdom) or V-E Day (US), is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on Tuesday, 8 May 1945, marking the end of World War II in Europe. VE Day is celebrated across Western European states on 8 May, with several countries observing public holidays on the day each year, variously called Victory Over Fascism Day, Liberation Day or simply Victory Day.
Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, had committed suicide on 30 April during the Battle of Berlin and Germany’s surrender was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May in SHAEF HQ at Reims, and a slightly modified document, considered the definitive German Instrument of Surrender, was signed on 8 May 1945 in Karlshorst, Berlin at 21:20 local time.
Hitler killed himself by gunshot on 30 April 1945 in his Führerbunker in Berlin. Eva Braun, his wife of one day, committed suicide with him by taking cyanide. In accordance with Hitler’s prior written and verbal instructions, that afternoon their remains were carried up the stairs through the bunker’s emergency exit, doused in petrol, and set alight in the Reich Chancellery garden outside the bunker. Records in the Soviet archives show that their burned remains were recovered and interred in successive locations until 1946. They were exhumed again and cremated in 1970, and the ashes were scattered.
Accounts differ as to the cause of death; one version states that he died by poison only and another view claims that he died by a self-inflicted gunshot while biting down on a cyanide capsule. Contemporary historians have rejected these accounts as being either Soviet propaganda or an attempted compromise in order to reconcile the different conclusions. One eyewitness stated that Hitler’s corpse showed signs of having been shot through the mouth, but this has been proven unlikely. Dental remains found on Hitler’s corpse were matched with his dental records in 1945.
For political reasons, the Soviet Union presented various versions of Hitler’s fate. They maintained in the years immediately following the war that Hitler was not dead, but had fled and was being shielded by the former Western Allies.
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