On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies, ending the European phase of World War II. Formal surrender took place the following day.
The end of the war in Europe brought to a close hostilities which had engulfed the world, and before Japan surrendered in August that year, taking an estimated 80 million lives. It also brought to an end a millennium of conflict between what are now France and Germany, and brought peace to a continent that had seen war an average of one year in seven.
The total surrender of Hitler may also have been the last such “total war” conducted by great powers. The introduction of atomic weapons against Japan showed that civilization couldn’t survive a total war between two nuclear powers.
One lesson of World War II is that a fanatical leader can take over an otherwise civilized country and lead it down a path of madness. Hitler saw himself as embodying the German “Volk,” and equated his passions with theirs, to their mutual destruction.
- Reflecting on the video, why do you think Germany’s generals followed Hitler to the end?
- Do you think the world is a better place because of the total destruction of Germany? Or would negotiated peace have led to a better outcome?
- People seem to celebrate both the beginning and the end of wars. Why do you think this is?
3 May 2018, World War II Victory celebration in New York [Digital photograph]. Retrieved from <google.com>.