Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe during World War II. On May 8, 1945, after nearly six years of devastating warfare, the German military unconditionally surrendered to the combined forces of Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Nazi leader Adolph Hitler had committed suicide 9 days earlier. Historians estimate that between 70 million and 85 million people died worldwide as a consequence of the war. This includes more than 50 million civilians and more than 20 million combatants, representing some 3% of the world’s population. The Soviet Union alone suffered at least 26 million deaths.
News of victory over Nazi Germany sparked ecstatic mass celebrations around the world. Leaders in many countries delivered rousing speeches to their joyous citizenry who congregated by the tens of thousands in public places from Times Square in New York to Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Below are memorable quotes from leaders of the Allied powers, who spoke on the occasion of V-E Day.
Memorable quotes from Allied leaders
The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God’s help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The western world has been freed of the evil forces which for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of free-born men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our Armies of Liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will the oppressors could never enslave.President Harry S. Truman, United States
“I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be, unconquered.”
– Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain
While the rays of glory once again lend brilliance to our flags, the country turns its thoughts and affection first of all toward those who died for her and then toward those who in her service struggled and suffered so much. Not one single act of courage or self-sacrifice of her sons and daughters, not one single hardship of her captive men and women, not one single bereavement and sacrifice, not one single tear will have been wasted in vain.General Charles de Gaulle, France
Comrades! The Great Patriotic War has ended in our complete victory. The period of war in Europe is over. The period of peaceful development has begun. I congratulate you upon victory, my dear men and women compatriots! Glory to our heroic Red Army, which upheld the independence of our Motherland and won victory over the enemy! Glory to our great people, the people victorious! Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in the struggle against the enemy and gave their lives for the freedom and happiness of our people!Premier Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union
The Queen’s Speech
Today, world leaders once again commemorated the victory in Europe. In particular, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain delivered a televised address recalling the dire circumstances the British people faced during World War II. After the surrender of France in June 1940, Great Britain fought alone against the Axis powers for a full year – a period of time Winston Churchill named “The Darkest Hour.” During an eight-month campaign called “The Blitz”, Nazi forces continuously bombed the United Kingdom. German airplanes dropped bombs on London for 57 straight days. The attacks killed over 40,000 British civilians and destroyed more than 2 million homes.