Tuesday, May 8, 2012

67 Years ago - Victory In Europe Day

The news flash reached Canada at 9:36 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time  “Germany has surrendered unconditionally.”

On this day in 1945, we celebrate Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.

 crowds flood onto Rue Ste-Catherine in Montreal.

There were official celebrations across Canada, including a parade on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, crowds filled the streets of Toronto and Montreal, there were victory parades in small towns. Times Square in New York City and Piccadilly Circus in London were packed.

The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: In Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the latter had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark--the German surrender was realized in a final cease-fire. More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany.

The main concern of many German soldiers was to elude the grasp of Soviet forces, to keep from being taken prisoner. About 1 million Germans attempted a mass exodus to the West when the fighting in Czechoslovakia ended, but were stopped by the Russians and taken captive. The Russians took approximately 2 million prisoners in the period just before and after the German surrender.

Meanwhile, more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain.

Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation would continue into the next day. On May 9, the Soviets would lose 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. Consequently, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: "The age-long struggle of the Slav nations...has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over."

On May 8,  Prime Minister William Mackenzie King addressed the nation. He underlined that the “victory was won at so great a price.” After six years of conflict, in which Canada had enlisted more than one million men and women in the armed forces, 42,000 were dead. It was indeed a remarkable contribution for a country of 11 million people. Canada had won the respect of other nations and  emerged as a new power in the world, a benevolent power. As Canadians and Europeans took to the streets to celebrate, Mackenzie King pointed out that the War was not over; Japan had yet to surrender. For many, it was a summer of semi-peace.

Please take a moment today to remember those Veterans who gave their lives so that we enjoy our freedoms we have today.

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