|Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl signed the capitulation papers of unconditional surrender in Reims|
Nazi Germany was confined. In the east, they were attacked by the Soviet Union, and in the west, they were beaten by the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Many occupied territories of the German Army were already controlled by the Allied troops. After Berlin was besieged in April 1945, the destruction of Nazi Germany was an insight.
On April 14, 1945, as Charles B. MacDonald noted in United States Army in WWII Europe: The Last Offensive and Antony Beevor in The Fall of Berlin 1945, Adolf Hitler called on his troops that the turning point of the war would soon be determined. He hoped that the morale of his army would rise up and turn things around by hitting the Allies.
Meanwhile, after successfully crossing the Elbe river on April 11, Berlin's distance from the position of the United States Army was only 100 km. Five days later, on April 16, the Red Army had brushed off the eastern defenses that protected Berlin.
On April 20, 1945, when Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday, gunfire from artillery troops of the Soviet Union began to rain on Berlin, the city where Hitler's bunker was located.
A day later, Hitler ordered SS Senior Group Leader Felix Steiner to counterattack. However, the order was not fulfilled which made Hitler furious. At that time, Hitler felt the SS led by Heinrich Himmler could not be trusted anymore.
Hitler felt the situation was more precarious and grave. On April 27, the lines of communication with his troops, which were scattered, began to be cut off. It made him difficult to restore the situation as he wanted.
Hitler, in the end, was only waiting to die. He also planned to kill himself. On April 29, he appointed Karl Dönitz, Supreme Commander of the Navy, as the Leader of the Third Reich in his place.
Hitler no longer trusted Hermann Göring, Marshal of the Reich, and Heinrich Himmler, Reich Leader-SS. He considered both traitors because they wanted to surrender. On April 30, Hitler and his girlfriend Eva Braun finally committed suicide. Hitler's body was then burned to the point that it would not have the fate of Mussolini.
Karl Dönitz, as noted by Chris Madsen in The Royal Navy and German Naval Disarmament 1942-1947, was told as the successor to Hitler by Martin Bormann.
Seconds to the German defeat
Karl Dönitz had a long military history in the Navy that exceeded what Adolf Hitler had achieved. Since World War I, he had been an ensign in the Navy and served on a submarine. He was even a prisoner of war in Malta after his ship was sunk by the British Navy. Until 1945, he had been in the Navy for three decades.
The Dönitz Government is called the Flensburg Government because Dönitz's headquarters were in the port of Flensburg. Being a substitute for Hitler was not fun for him because Germany was surrounded. Hitler wanted the resistance to the Allied Forces to continue while Dönitz, as noted by Chris Madsen, concluded that the situation could not be sustained anymore.
Dönitz, as Stephen E. Ambrose noted in The Victors, sent Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command, to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in Reims led by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Jodl left for Reims on Monday evening, May 6. He negotiated with Eisenhower's staff, Walter Bedell Smith and Kenneth Strong. During the meeting, Germany, represented by Jodl, was willing to surrender but only to soldiers from the west, namely America and Britain, not to the Soviet Union.
Smith stressed that the surrender was of all Nazi Germany troops. Jodl then asked for 48 hours to give instructions to all his units while Smith then went to his boss.
Eisenhower felt Jodl was trying to buy time for the German Army and its civilians to cross the Elbe river and be captured by the Soviet Army. Eisenhower then asked Smith to tell Jodl that he would break all negotiations and seal the Western Front by preventing any German Army and civilian movements.
On the other hand, Jodl immediately contacted Dönitz about the Allied request. Dönitz was a little annoyed. For him, Eisenhower's request was a bluff. However, Dönitz felt that Eisenhower's camp would actually accept the surrender. That way, Germany could be saved from the Soviet Army.
So, at midnight the same day, Dönitz contacted Jodl that he was given full power to sign the agreement.
As Stephen E. Ambrose noted, at 2 a.m. on May 7, 1945, exactly today 75 years ago, housed on the second floor of a room in the Collège Moderne et Technique de Reims, the German surrender document was signed. The unconditional surrender of the German armed forces was signed by Jodl, Smith, François Sevez, and Ivan Susloparov.
That day, for Britain and its commonwealth, was declared Victory in Europe Day. And the next day became Victory in Europe Day for America. World War II was considered over. The Flensburg Government ended on May 23, 1945. After that, Jodl became a prisoner and was sentenced to death while Dönitz was only jailed for 10 years. After his release, Dönitz wrote his life story.