GERMANS SIGN UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

Reims, France · May 7, 1945

Five days after the suicide of Adolf Hitler on April 30, 1945, Adm. Hans-Georg von Friede­burg, an emis­sary from Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, arrived in Reims, France, head­quarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisen­hower, Supreme Com­mander Allied Exped­i­tionary Force. Friede­burg was tasked with opening sur­render nego­ti­a­tions on behalf of Doenitz, head of the rump Nazi state centered on Flens­burg, North­ern Ger­many. Friede­burg began, Eisen­hower remarked later, “playing for time” so that the Ger­man armed forces could move as many men as pos­sible behind Anglo-Amer­i­can lines and away from Soviet lines in east­ern Europe. Friede­burg was brought up short when Eisen­hower’s repre­sen­ta­tive, Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, made it plain that the Allies would only accept uncon­di­tional sur­render on all fronts. Doenitz com­plied with the demand, em­powering Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Opera­tions Staff of the Armed Forces High Com­mand (Ober­kom­mando der Wehr­macht, or OKW), to sign for­mal papers of sur­render in Reims on this date in 1945. After affixing his signa­ture, 54-year-old Jodl addressed his audi­ence, saying: “At this hour, we [he meant the Ger­man nation and Ger­man Armed Forces] can only hope that the vic­tors will be gene­rous.” Eisen­hower coolly responded that “the Ger­man Supreme Com­mander will appear for the sur­render to the Rus­sians at the time and the place that the Rus­sian High Com­mand will designate.” Following the signing cere­mony Eisen­hower in­formed the Allied War Office in Lon­don: “The mis­sion of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7, 1945.” The next day in Berlin, May 8, 1945, Field Marshal Wil­helm Kei­tel, head of the entire OKW, along with repre­sen­ta­tives of the Ger­man Navy and Air Force, signed a second uncon­di­tional sur­render docu­ment in Berlin-Karls­horst. Pre­sent were Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, signing on behalf of the Supreme Com­mand of the Red Army; Bri­tish Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, signing as Gen. Eisen­hower’s repre­sen­ta­tive; and French Gen. Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, who signed as a witness. When Kei­tel saw the French dele­ga­tion, he ex­claimed, “What? The French too?” The war in Europe was over. The Ger­man Reich Adolf Hitler had said would endure a thou­sand years lasted a pitiful and extremely painful dozen.





The German Instrument of Surrender, May 7, 1945

Backs to camera Von Friedeburg (left), Jodl, Oxenius, Reims, France, May 7, 1945 Oxenius (left), Jodl (signing), Von Friedeburg, Reims, France, May 7, 1945

Left: At 2:41 a.m. on Monday, May 7, 1945, Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command, along with two other Ger­man offi­cers, gathered in the map room of the head­quarters (formerly a school) of Gen. Dwight D. Eisen­hower, Supreme Allied Com­mander in Europe. The three Ger­man offi­cers (backs to the camera) were flanked on three sides of the large table by U.S., British, French, and Soviet officers, who watched Jodl sign the Ger­man Instru­ment of Sur­render, which ended World War II in Europe.

Right: Jodl, Chief of Staff in Reich Presi­dent Adm. Karl Doenitz’s govern­ment (suc­cessor regime to Hitler’s), signs the docu­ment of uncon­di­tional sur­render. On Jodl’s left is Adm. Hans-Georg von Friede­burg, Commander in Chief of the Ger­man Navy, and on the right is Jodl’s aide and trans­lator, Maj. Wil­helm Oxenius. Friede­burg, who was in Berlin the next day to sign the second Ger­man Instru­ment of Sur­ren­der at Soviet military head­quarters, com­mitted sui­cide on May 23, 1945, when a Brit­ish team arrived at Doe­nitz’s head­quarters in Flens­burg, North­ern Ger­many, and arrested mem­bers of his Nazi govern­ment. Jodl was tried by the Inter­national Mili­tary Tri­bu­nal at Nurem­berg, sentenced to death, and hanged as a war crimi­nal on October 16, 1946.

German Instrument of Surrender, May 7, 1945

Above: Jodl signed the “Act of Military Surrender,” the first of two sur­ren­der docu­ments signed by the Ger­man mili­tary. At the same time Jodl signed Eisen­hower’s copy of the sur­render docu­ment, he signed three more, one each for Great Brit­ain, the Soviet Union, and France. Over Jodl’s signa­ture are the words, “On behalf of the German High Com­mand,” not (and this became signi­fi­cant later) on behalf of Reich Pre­si­dent Karl Doe­nitz and his civil­ian govern­ment. Under Jodl’s signa­ture in capital letters are the words, “IN THE PRESENCE OF.” Then appeared the signa­tures of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisen­hower’s chief of staff, who signed on behalf of the Supreme Com­mander, Allied Exped­i­tion­ary Force; Ivan Souslo­parov, who signed on behalf of the Soviet High Com­mand; and François Sevez, a Major General in the French Army, who signed as witness.

Contemporary Newsreel Account of Repeat German Surrender Ceremony the Next Day in Berlin, May 8, 1945