Germans sign Unconditional Surrender to end conflict in Europe

Eganville – It was 75 years ago May 8 that five years and over eight months of bloodshed and destruction came to an end in Europe as Germany signed an Unconditional Surrender to bring peace to the land and signal victory for the Allied Forces in the European campaign.

The formal signing of the surrender occurred at 2:41 a.m. on May 8 in Reims, France in a schoolhouse that had been used as the headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The now-defeated Germans were represented by Colonel General Gustav (Alfred) Jodl, the Chief of Staff of the Wehrmarcht, with General Ivan Susalparov representing, Russia, and General Francois Sevez representing France.

In the Eganville Leader dated May 11, 1945, there was front page coverage of the surrender and the celebrations that ensued in communities after hearing of the news. The celebrations in Douglas, however, turned to sorrow, as a nine-year-old boy was fatally injured after jumping from a truck and was struck by a vehicle that was following behind.

In the May 9, 1995 edition, then Leader reporter Shelley Snowdon captured the memories of several locals of the V-E Day celebration they had witnessed 50 years earlier. It includes the personal testimony of people who vividly recalled the rejoicing that occurred after news of the surrender was announced.    

The full coverage appears below beginning with the stories from May 11, 1945:

Peace Comes To Europe

Germany Submits To Unconditional Surrender After Five Years of Warfare

(By Alex. Singleton)

London, May 7 – Complete victory in Europe was won by the Allies today with the unconditional surrender of Germany.

Germany’s formal capitulation came at 2:41 a.m. (French time) in the big red Reims schoolhouse, headquarters of Gen. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the West.

The crowning triumph came just five years, eight months, and seven days after Hitler invaded weak but proud Poland and struck the spark which set the world afire. It marked the official end of war in Europe, but it did not silence all the guns, for battles raged on in Czechoslovakia.

There, Nazi Gen. Ferdinand Schoerner, who has been designated a war criminal, defied the orders of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, successor to the dead or missing Hitler, to lay down arms. But this force – all that remains of what was once the mightiest military machine on earth – faced inevitable liquidation or surrender.

The only details of Germany’s end came from Edward Kennedy, chief of The Associated Press on the Western Front, who was first to flash the word the world had long awaited. His story said:

“Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Western Allies and Russia at 02:41 (French time) today in the big red Reims schoolhouse which is the headquarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.    

“The surrender, which brought the war in Europe to a final end after five years and eight months of bloodshed and destruction, was signed for Germany by Col. Gen. Gustav (Alfred) Jodl. Jodl is the new Chief of Staff of the Wehrmarcht.”

Received By Eisenhower

“It was signed for the Supreme Allied Command – the United States and Britain – by Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff; for Russia by Gen. Ivan Susalparov, member of a military mission on the Western front, and for France by Gen. Francois Sevez.”

Thus, to the very end, did the Allies deny to the Germans their hope of concluding a separate peace.

“Gen. Eisenhower was not present at the signing,” Kennedy said, “but immediately after Jodl and his fellow delegate, Gen. Admiral Hans Georg Friedeburg, were received by the Supreme Commander.”

It was Friedeburg, named Commander-in-Chief of the German navy after Doenitz took over the failing Third Reiche, who negotiated last week the unconditional surrender of 1,000,000 German soldiers in Denmark, Holland, and Northwestern Germany.

“They were asked sternly if they understood the surrender terms imposed on Germany and if they would be carried out by Germany,” Kennedy continued. “They answered, ‘Yes’.”       

Germany, which began the war with a ruthless attack upon Poland, followed by successive aggressions, surrendered to the victors with an appeal for mercy toward the German people and the armed forces.”

Kennedy said Jodl then said he wanted to speak and was given permission to do so.

“In Victor’s Hands”

“With this signature,” Jodl said softly, “the German people and the armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victor’s hands.”

“In this war, which has lasted more than five years, both have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world.”

Before Kennedy’s despatch was received, Doenitz broadcast from Fiensburg to all U-boats to “cease activity.”

The German Foreign Minister, Coun. Ludwig Scherwin von Krosig, then followed to say: “The  High Command of the armed forces today, at the order of Grand Admiral Doenitz, declared the unconditional surrender of all fighting German troops.”

The Foreign Minister declared the terms were “harsh” but unavoidable, and urged the Germans “to accept this burden and stand loyally by the obligations which we have undertaken.”

“We, may hope,” he added, “that the atmosphere of hatred which today surrounds Germany all over the world will give place to a spirit of reconciliation among the nations without which the world cannot recover.”

Gen. Boehme, German Commander-in-Chief in Norway, broadcast tonight from Oslo an order commanding his troops to lay down their arms.

The Free Austrian Radio was heard telling the people of Austria that the German General Staff had signed terms of unconditional surrender.                

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Victory Day In Eganville

The Victory celebration in Eganville had not been pre-arranged and therefore in great measure was of a spontaneous character. With the radio announcement on Tuesday morning that the German military heads had complied with Unconditional Surrender terms, bells of all churches rang out jubilantly, flags by the hundreds were soon waving in the hands of enthusiastic youngsters and flying in conspicuous places on house fronts and shops.

A citizens’ demonstration was hurriedly organized. At one o’clock hundreds assembled on the square at Hotel Eganville, and from the Victory Loan offices heard addresses from R. Rev. Monsignor Breen, Rev. K. Cowan, Rev. M. Voss, Rev. F.A. Flynn, Mr. R.G. Boland, and Dr. M.J. Maloney. Reeve A.C. Wilcox discharged the duties of the chairman.

A parade through the principle streets was formed and carried into effect. In it were veterans of two war, Eganville unit of the Renfrew and Lanark Scottish Highlanders under Officer Harold Green, Boy Scouts and Scout Cubs under Scoutmasters L.M. Deagle, Dr. H.A. Freitag and Murray Smyth, Red Cross Workers, a group of Blood Donors and hundreds of citizens.

The Public School Orchestra contributed the music heard along the route of the parade.

In the main, the theme of the speeches was one of praise and thanksgiving to God from whom all blessings flow.

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Of Local Interest

This week, in particular, we would request our readers direct their attention to the E. A. Lisk advertising space on page three. Therein may be read the names of the boys and girls from Eganville and district who have enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces or Nursing Branches at home and abroad. Also recorded are the names of four young men who have sacrificed their lives. In this time of triumph, there will also be renewed in the hearts of the people that feeling of sympathy for families who look in vain for the return of a beloved member. If any names are missing in the list as published, Mr. Lisk will gladly have them added for next week’s publication. Names may be left at the Leader office.

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Barry’s Bay

V-E Day celebrations have been the order of the day around Barry’s Bay this week. When the news of the impending surrender of the Germans came over the radio Monday morning, flags blossomed out all along main street and on private homes, and at five o’clock Monday evening mill whistles and church bells confirmed the glad tidings. Impromptu parades and the noise of firecrackers could be heard until late Tuesday morning.

Striking a more solemn note were the “Te Deums” of Thanksgiving sung at St. Hedwig’s and St. Lawrence’s churches. Tuesday morning a High Mass for the boys who made the supreme sacrifice in this war, and for those wounded in battle, was offered in St. Hedwig’s. Anxious parents in Barry’s Bay are awaiting favourable news of sons in hospital overseas and of others who were reported missing some months ago.

Among the wounded are Ambrose Burchat, son of Mrs. Julia Burchat; Frank Biernacki, son of Mrs. Peter Biernacki, Isidore Prince, son of Mrs. Helen Prince, Melvin and Ambrose Coulas, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Coulas; Zeigmund Coulas, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Coulas. Returned veterans in hospital in Canada are Felix Mask, son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Mask, and Bronas Blaskevitch, son of Mr. Louis Blaskevitch. Among the missing are F.O. Peter Maika, son of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Maika, and Pte. Joseph Voldock, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Voldock. Two young men who were killed in the European conflict were Phillip Biernacki, son of Mrs. P. Biernacki, and Albert Cybulskie, son of Mr. J. Cybulskie.

School children were given a two-day holiday and held a parade Tuesday afternoon. At a subsequent event, several prominent citizens addressed the gathering.

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Thanks to God for V-E Day!

Thanks to the heads of our governments, to our army, navy and air force, and let us not forget a prayerful tribute in gratitude to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Following the proclamation of V-E Day, special thanksgiving services were held Monday evening in the United Church. At St. Michael’s Church, a High Mass of thanksgiving was offered Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock followed by the “Te Deum.” An impressive sermon befitting this solemn and joyous occasion was delivered by Rev. J.K. O’Brien.

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Child Fatally Injured

V-E Day rejoicing was marred in Douglas Monday night when little Jackie Turner, oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. John Turner, was fatally injured when accidentally run over by a truck at his own gate. Jumping off one truck, he was the victim of a truck immediately behind. He would be 10 years old on Friday of this week. The fatality has caused a great gloom over Douglas district and heartfelt sympathy is extended to the bereaved parents. Surviving also are three little brothers and one siter, and the grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Xavier Valiquette.”

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In the May 18, 1945 edition, the following appeared under the Barry’s Bay news:

“A large number of Barry’s Bay citizens were at Wilno last Wednesday night, May 9th, for V-E Day celebrations, which took place on the spacious grounds in front of St. Mary’s Church. The officials of the townships of Sherwood, Jones and Burns, which includes the village of Wilno, helped to plan the program. Speeches were delivered by Rt. Rev. Mons. P.B. Biernacki of Barry’s Bay, Rev. Father Wilowski, P.P. of Wilno, and Mr. Paul B. Mask, Reeve of the combined townships and Mr. Henry J. Chapeskie, Reeve of Barry’s Bay village. Flags, streamers, and multi-coloured fireworks gave picturesque Shrine Hill a gala appearance. Sunday last was observed as a Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving in many churches in this community.”

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In her coverage in May 1995, Leader staff writer Shelley Snowdon notes:

“Soldiers’ wives and families were performing their daily routines in Eganville, waiting anxiously for the safe return of the troops from overseas, when the news hit Canada like a tidal wave.             

“I was just doing my washing and I left it,” said Alice Lett. “Everyone was so overjoyed that it was over.”

What Mrs. Lett and several others who were around at that time remembered most about V-E Day in Eganville were the horns, sirens and whistles being tooted, pulled and blown all that day in excitement over the end of the war.

“They had a very big parade, all the church bells rang – people had a hilarious time dancing,” recalled Mrs. Lett, laughing.  She said everybody in town learned about the celebrations at the same time because the industries all blew their whistles.”

“I remember dancing where Fleurie’s (Hardware) used to be,” said Helen Kilgour, whose husband, Desmond was still overseas at the time. “I remember they fenced that area off and danced.”

Mrs. Kilgour also recalls having to work in the pharmacy all night, “in case somebody came in to buy a pack of cigarettes.”

Barbara Hinsperger, Alice Lett’s daughter, was in high school at the time. She remembered very well the party that was held that evening.

“It was just a mob scene — so exciting and so joyous,” she said.

Mrs. Hinsperger’s own father fought in WWI, and was wounded at Vimy Ridge, so the war was very close to her family, she said.

“A lot of people we knew had gone over,” she said.

One of them was Charlie Rosien, who had helped on the family farm.

“Charlie was like a brother to us. My mother used to send him maple syrup (hidden) in a loaf of bread,” recalled Mrs. Hinsperger.

All of her life, her mother and father had taken good care of her and her siblings, enforcing curfews and such, “but that night, nobody gave a damn,” said Mrs. Hinsperger about V-E Day. They stayed out until after 2 a.m.

 “They were so happy about the cessation, they forgot about their kids,” she said.

The people were so overjoyed by war’s end, they burned an effigy of Hitler that night, she said.

Veteran Mickey McCabe was on a ship way out off the coast of Halifax when news of the war’s end came over the ship’s radio.

“I was out at sea (when the war ended), they wouldn’t let us in,” he said.

People on the streets of Halifax, he explained, were going wild with the news.

“There were guys going down the streets with women’s dresses on,” said Mr. McCabe. “They smashed Eaton’s (on Barrington Street) windows and took everything.”

So while people were going crazy and looting the city, the soldiers on the boat sipped free rum listening to all the ship’s horns blowing in celebration.

Mr. McCabe didn’t return to Eganville until late that summer, but he was welcomed home by the townsfolk with a watch and a small celebration.