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Victory in Europe!

For the week of Monday, May 4, 2015

On May 7, 1945, Nazi Germany signed an act of unconditional surrender in Reims, France. Along with a second act signed the next day in Berlin, Germany, this meant one thing for the people of Europe: after nearly six years, the Second World War was over on their home soil.

The special VE-Day edition of the MAPLE LEAF newspaper. Paris, France, May 1945
© Capt. Frank L. Dubervill / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-191985

The ceasefire came 11 months after the Allied landing in Normandy, where Canadian troops played a key role in the greatest combined military operation in history. Canadians also contributed significantly to the liberation of the Netherlands, achieved a few short days before the end of the war. Many Canadian troops were still in the Netherlands when they heard the news of victory across the continent.

Although Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day) was officially declared on May 8, there was no stopping the celebrations that erupted around the world when Sir Winston Churchill announced Germany’s surrender on May 7.

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Celebrations on Sparks Street in Ottawa
© Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-114617

Festivities carried on through the night and into the official VE-Day. Across Europe, the dark nights were over and London landmarks, no longer in danger of air raids, were lit with floodlights. In Toronto, the Stock Exchange closed for the day, flags were raised, and low-flying airplanes rained ticker tape down on the celebrating crowds.

For many, however, it was difficult to celebrate what had come at such a high price. The victory announcement was a bittersweet reminder of the thousands who had died. And with war still raging on the Pacific front, victory in Europe did not mean safety for all Allied troops. Church services gave thanks for peace, remembered those who had given much in its pursuit, and reflected on those still fighting.

The Liberation of the Netherlands is a National Historic Event commemorated in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. Canadians and the Normandy Landing is also a National Historic Event, commemorated in Bernières-sur-Mer, France.

This week marks the 70th anniversary of VE-Day, one of many milestones in the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. To learn more about the events leading up to the victory, please read Operation Husky: The Canadian Landing in Sicily,The Battle of the Scheldt – Victory on the Dykes, and The Canadians Liberate Holland in the This Week in History archives. For more on the Second World War, please read the Government of Canada’s World War Commemorations page.

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