The End of Hitler. 70 years in the making. (not.)

German Surrender at the End of WWII. General Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff in the German High Command, signs the document of unconditional German surrender at General Eisenhower's Headquarters in Reims, France, May 7, 1945. On Jodl's left is Admiral Von Friedeburg of the German Navy, and on his right is Major Wilhelm Oxenius of the German General Staff.

German Surrender at the End of WWII. General Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff in the German High Command, signs the document of unconditional German surrender at General Eisenhower’s Headquarters in Reims, France, May 7, 1945. On Jodl’s left is Admiral Von Friedeburg of the German Navy, and on his right is Major Wilhelm Oxenius of the German General Staff.

REIMS, France, May 7, 1945 (UP) – Representatives of four Allied powers and vanquished Germany scrawled their names on a sheet of foolscap in a map-lined 30-by-30 foot room at 2:41 a.m. European time today and ended World War II in Europe.

In a ceremony exactly 20 minutes long, Col. Gen. Gustav Jodl, chief of staff of Admiral Doenitz’ government and long-time close friend of Adolf Hitler, surrendered all German armed forces on land, sea and in the air.

The surrender is effective one minute after midnight Wednesday, British double summer time.

A high officer said almost all firing had ceased on the remaining fronts.

The actual signing took five minutes. There are four copies of the surrender document, and in addition the naval disarmament order which was signed by Admiral Sir Harold Burroughs, Allied naval chief.

Immediately after signing the last document with a bold “Jodl,” the Nazi arose, bowed and in a broken voice pleaded for generosity “for the German people, the German armed forces” who he said “both have achieved and suffered perhaps more than any other people in the world.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, smiling, confident and restrained, sat with his deputy, Britain’s Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, beside him. Later in a three-minute statement for newsreels, Eisenhower hailed the German surrender as the conclusion of the plan reached by President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Casablanca in 1942 – unconditional surrender.

“We have defeated Germany on land, sea and in the air,” Eisenhower said. He added that the peace was fittingly signed in France, a country which suffered so much at the hands of Germany and whose liberation started on D-day, just 11 months ago yesterday (Sunday).

Eisenhower did not attend the actual signing. That was carried out by generals of America, Russia, England and France on his behalf.

After signing the last sheet Jodl arose and General Admiral Hans Georg Friedeburg and Jodl’s aide, Maj. Wilhelm Oxinius, jumped up with him.

Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, who signed for Anglo-American forces as SHAEF chief of staff, asked Jodl to meet him at 10 a.m. Monday morning to arrange for German Liaison officers to carry out the surrender and disarmament orders.

Jodl stood with eyes half shut, leaning slightly forward, and said in English, “I want to say a few words.” Then he spoke rapidly in German in a voice which seemed on the point of cracking once or twice:

“General, with this signature the German people and the German armed forces are for the better or worse delivered into the victor’s hands.

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

“I express the hope the victor will treat them with generosity.”

Ten minutes later he was presented before the supreme commander. Eisenhower stood very grim at his desk in his cubbyhole office and asked if Jodl understood the terms he would carry out.

Jodl muttered “Yes” to Maj. Gen. K.W.D. Strong, SHAEF intelligence officer who was the interpreter.

The Germans’ heels clicked and they strode out, Jodl tripping on a camera floodlight cable.

The war was ended at a black-topped table 20 by 6 feet, bathed in floodlights which heated the tiny “war room” almost insufferably.

Some 60 spectators, including 16 correspondents representing world news agencies, radio networks, newsreels and still pictures and sound and recording technicians of the signal corps officers, charged with recording the scene on film and to record it for posterity, gathered shortly before 2 a.m.

The representatives strolled in and seated themselves at place-marked seats at 2:29. The presiding general, Smith, entered the room at 2:29.

Then there was a short wait. Everyone smiled a little nervously and looked around the map-lined walls showing the progress of the war up to May 6 and casualties up to April 30.

At 2:39 the three Germans entered, Jodl in the lead, followed by Friedeburg and then Oxinius. Jodl and Oxinius wore dress green with a darker green collar, wide red stripes on flared breeches over black leather boots. Friedeburg wore a dark blue naval uniform.

Jodl clicked his heels to Smith. There was no saluting. The three Germans sat down with their backs to the correspondents. They faced these Allied officers from left to right:

Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan, deputy chief of staff; General Francois Sevez, representing the French chief of staff; General Alphonse-Pierre Juin, Admiral Sir Harold M. Burroughs, Allied naval chief; Lt. Gen. Smith, presiding; General Ivan Susloparoff, for the Soviet Union; General Carl Spaatz, commanding the United States strategic air force; Air Marshal Sir J.M. Robb, chief of the air staff of SHAEF; Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, assistant chief of staff, G-3, SHAEF, and Col. Zenkovitch, aide to Susloparoff.

Susloparoff smiled frequently during the ceremony and repeatedly consulted the interpreter at his shoulder. Afterward in Eisenhower’s office he and Ike laughed and embraced and congratulated one another.

Smith signed for the British and Americans, passing the surrender from the Frenchman on his right to the Russian on his left. Jodl was the last to sign.

Jodl, pale-faced, stared straight ahead as he strode out. Friedeburg and Oxinius looked completely cowed.

The scene of the surrender was a classroom of Reims’ Ecole Professionelle, co-educational technical school. The Germans had used it as supreme headquarters during their occupation and Eisenhower made it his SHAEF forward post since moving from Versailles several months ago.

The enlisted personnel of SHAEF clustered in the quadrangle or hung on staircases far removed from the conference room, hoping for a glimpse of the negotiations.

Only the atmosphere of cold military punctiliousness across the conference table was there to remind one of the Compeigne railroad car where the World War I armistice was signed. There also was the fact that, as the Compeigne, negotiations were delayed by questions of authority of the delegation to sign.

Negotiations began last Wednesday evening when Friedeburg, who succeeded Doenitz as commander-in-chief of the German navy when Doenitz became fuehrer, surrendered the northern armies, exclusive of Norway, to Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery.

Friedeburg and the other German representatives were brought to Reims Saturday. Their plane was grounded at Brussels and they completed the trip by automobile.

The people of Reims saw the limousines speed through the streets and whispered that big things were afoot. They stood grinning hopefully along the curbs as the motorcade of be-starred staff cars whisked our party of correspondents, representing world news agencies and radio networks, from the airport to L’Ecole Professionelle. An unofficial reception committee of scores of soldiers of the SHAEF garrison was at the gate when the Germans arrived.

Friedeburg, who complained he had had little sleep during the last 10 days and who had slept most of the way in the plane and limousine, asked for a chance to wash up when he exchanged standard military salutes with Brig. Gen. E.J. Foord, chief of SHAEF operational intelligence, and Lt. Col. K.A.S. Morrice, assistant secretary general of staff.

The admiral hummed softly while washing but his aide, Col. Fritz Poleck, appeared nervous.

The first meeting took place at 5:20 o’clock Saturday. Friedeburg snapped to attention but did not salute as he entered the office of General Smith.

Present, in addition to Smith, were Maj. K.W.D. Strong, G-2 supreme headquarters; General Carl Spaatz, commanding general of USSTAF; Admiral Sir Harold M. Burroughs, commander of Allied naval forces; Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, assistant chief of staff; Air Marshal Sir J.M. Robb, chief of air staff; Capt. Harry C. Butcher, naval aide to Eisenhower; Col. R.G.S. Philimore, who drafted the surrender terms, and Maj. Ruth M. Briggs of the WAC, secretary, chief of staff.

That meeting lasted 20 minutes – long enough to reveal that Friedeburg did not have authority to lay surrender on the line.

Smith demanded his credentials to commit Doenitz. Friedeburg was willing, but he did not have the proper credentials.

Smith, therefore, gave the admiral the written terms, summarized as follows:

1. Unconditional surrender.

2. All forces to remain in their present positions.

3. All air and sea craft should not be allowed to scatter from their present stations.

4. The obercommand of the wehrmacht must guarantee to forward and enforce the execution of all orders by the Allied commands.

Friedeburg tried to compromise; he complained many German soldiers might be killed by the Russians unless allowed to surrender directly to the Allies in the West.

Smith gave the suggestion no consideration. He declared the Allies were not prepared to discuss anything but simultaneous surrender to the Allies of the East and West.

Friedeburg asked about the German civilian population, which he said might suffer hardships. Smith replied that the German people were enemies of the Allies until surrender; after that, he said, we would be guided by the dictates of humanity.

Friedeburg and Polek then took the terms to an office and mulled them over while washing down sandwiches with whiskey. Washington, Moscow and London were given code dispatches by Eisenhower on the progress of the negotiations.

Eisenhower said Friedeburg had offered surrender, if he could get the necessary authority and had been urged to seek authorization from the German government.

The German government throughout these negotiations presumably was Doenitz. Not one word was said of Heinrich Himmler, the self-proclaimed successor to Hitler as fuehrer whose whereabouts are a mystery.

Maj. Gen. Of Artillery Ivan Suspalaroff, Russian representative especially empowered by Premier Josef Stalin to represent Russia, waited in the war room for decisions with his aide, Col. Ivan Zenkovitch.

Saturday night Friedeburg sent a message to Doenitz via the British 2nd army for forwarding to Doenitz by courier through the confused northern lines.

Friedeburg said he had two proposals from SHAEF, first, that he be empowered to surrender all theatres, and alternately Doenitz send his chief of staff and commander-in-chief of the army, navy and air forces with the necessary authority.

Friedeburg pointed out the new government would be charged with the guilt of continuance of hostilities unless it quit. If it could not send an authorized emissary he urged it to dispatch him written authority at once.

The Germans then were escorted to their billet at 7 Rook house, 3 Rue Godinit, Reims normally used for visiting officers. They were accompanied by Lt. Col. The Viscount Bury, Major F.J. Lawrence and Lieut. George Deinhardt of New York city, official interpreter attached to SHAEF, who remained with them through the night.

Three teams of MPs guarded them. They were Pfcs. Jack Arnold of Lanchester, Pa.; Charles Trautner of Oakland, Cal.; Joseph Fink of Detroit; Frederick Stone of Pittsburgh; Clifford Cleland of Prattsburg, N.Y., and Elmer L. Cole of Little Falls, N.J.

WAC Pfc. Joyce Bennett of New York City, was manager of the house.

The Germans asked for soap soon after their arrival. At 10:45 p.m. the two Germans and their Allied escorts dined on tomato juice, pork chops, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, fruit, coffee and red wine. They ate with the relish of those who had not been eating that kind of rations for a long time and commented on “that fine linen” on the table, indicating the owner of the house must be “very rich.”

Later they had martinis and Pfc. Bennett presented some biscuits she had received in a package from home.

Prime Minister Churchill telephoned several times for information during the evening and Smith conferred with Eisenhower.

Sunday morning dawned full of portent – just 11 months to the day after Normandy D-day. Eisenhower had told the correspondents recently his original plans in England envisaged possibly reaching the German border by the end of the 12th month after D-day.

Nothing like this had been foreseen, but it was here and only a rump fragment of the German army remained outside of the Allied prison pens or graves.

The day passed in eager waiting for Doenitz to reply. The Germans listened to the radio or read Stars and Stripes and American picture magazines.

At precisely 5:08 p.m. Sunday the reply arrived at Reims airport in an Allied military plane in the person of General Gustav Jodl – the man with the credentials – the man with power to lay surrender on the line.

Jodl was the new chief of staff succeeding Col. Gen. Heing Guderian and chief of operations which is equivalent to the American war department. He was accompanied by his personal aide, Maj. Wilhelm Oxinius.

Foord stepped forward to the plane door and saluted. Jodl returned the salute stiffly and unsmilingly and walked arrogantly to the staff car.

The car arrived at the school at 5:20. Jodl was given an opportunity to wash and then was ushered into the showdown conference which began at 6:15 p.m.

The party of correspondents representing the news agencies and networks of the world which had been flown from Paris to Reims arrived 10 minutes after Jodl. They waited in the main hall of the map-lined conference room.

Details of what had gone on were given the news representatives by two public relations department officers who had been the official reporters at the first negotiations. They were Lt. Col. Burroughs Matthews, former managing editor of the Buffalo Courier-Express and Lt. Col. S.R. Pawley, former news editor of the London Daily Telegraph.

The correspondents had been summoned from the Scribe hotel on 15 minutes notice for an unrevealed, important out-of-town assignment, whisked to an airfield and briefed aboard a Douglas D-47 by Brig. Gen. Frank Allen Jr. of Cleveland, director of SHAEF press relations department. Allen shouted above the roar of the engines as correspondents were climbing in to the plane.

Now came the long hours of waiting for “the biggest story in a war correspondent’s life – the peace story.”

“This will be your first uncensored story – when the surrender is completed censorship goes off,” Allen said.

The correspondents enjoyed a laugh at the expense of British Col. George Warren and Lt. Col. Richard Merrick of Chicago, chief SHAEF censors who were present – without blue pencils.

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