HOW DID IT HAPPEN THAT WE CELEBRATE TWO VICTORY DAYS?
We celebrated May 9 for as long as I can remember! May 9 was the end of World War II. May 9 of 1945 became a day destined to be commemorated through generations!
Several years ago, I visited Czech Republic and was surprised to be a part of the parade devoted to the celebration of Victory Day – on May 8! “What happened?” I thought. Why did they switch the date? I wanted to scream: People! I know! It’s not today! It’s tomorrow… Wait when May 9 comes! But nobody could hear my scream: it was in my head!
Victory Day, in America VE Day, celebrates the triumph of the Allies over the Nazis in 1945. In western countries. Including Germany with Nazism defeated, official events are celebrated on May 8. Ukraine and Baltic countries do the same. Russia, many other former Soviet States and now Israel celebrate on May 9. The two different dates are an accident of history showing that even allies don’t always agree. On the night of May 7, 1945, Hitler’s Germany officially acknowledged its defeat, and its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had been dead for a week. On May 7, 1945 at 02.40 AM Central European time in French Reims, the surrender of Germany was signed. On behalf of Germany, the document was signed by General Alfred Jodl. Representatives of the anti-Hitler coalition allies — the American General Bedell Smith and the Soviet Major General Ivan Susloparov — accepted the surrender.
In Europe and then in the United States, there began a spontaneous celebration and universal rejoicing. Especially stormy celebrations were in London, and then in New York — millions of jubilant people gathered on the streets. However, the leader of the USSR, Joseph Stalin, decided the document signed at Reims did not satisfy him as sufficiently reflecting the role of the Red Army in the victory over Nazism.
Stalin demanded the signing of a new act, and by his order Marshal of the Victory Georgy Zhukov accepted in Berlin a general surrender of representatives of all the arms of the defeated Germany. From Germany, the Berlin Act of Surrender was signed by Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, as well as the leadership of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the German Navy. Also, out of respect for Stalin, the document was signed by representatives of the allies – the United States, Great Britain and France. The Berlin Act of Surrender was signed on the night of May 8–9, at 00.43 Moscow Time, that is, in fact, it began in Moscow on May 9. Note that in Europe it was at 23.43 CET, that is, there it was May 8.
For me, World War II is a collection of horrible/amazing stories shared by my Mom. She experienced the war first hand, as I shared in a previous article. She celebrated the end of the war on May 9. I still have and use a small metal bowl she used during the war.
A few months after my family and I came to the US, I was driving through a small Ohio town. Suddenly, on a nearby driveway, I saw a sign “Fresh Honey!“ I translated it to my Mom, and she said “I want it!” I made a turn into the driveway and my Mom and I were greeted by a tall man, my Mom’s age.
My Mom knew Russian, Romanian, and French, but English at that time was so far away from her ear! My Mom asked me to translate for her.
Considering the age of this man she decided to ask him if he participated in the WWII – Russia and America were allies in that horrific period! I translated. He confirmed. The next thing I saw they were hugging each other. The interpreter was not needed anymore: both of them had tears. The man invited us in the house and started showing his pictures from THAT very time… The friendship and peace were established in one moment!
I am reposting my blog article from two years ago… This Article is devoted to my Mom. She is not here anymore, but she is and will be with me always!
My Mom (in a white dress) with her cousins just before the war.
Senior Lieutenant Malka-Galina Lerner, 1944
Today, May 9, I celebrate my Mom’s second birthday. I call this day her second birthday, as she did, because her actual birthday was on another day years earlier. She chose this second birthday herself because it represented a huge change in her life and the lives of everyone around her. It wasn’t that this was a beautiful spring day, or that the lilacs were in full bloom. May 9th is the day Russia marks as the end of World War II in Europe.
On 22 June 1941, the Germans broke their agreement and invaded the Soviet Union in ‘Operation Barbarossa’. It was a Sunday. The day before in Soviet schools there were graduation parties. When bands stopped playing, yesterday’s classmates, by tradition, went to meet the dawn. Young Muscovites headed to…
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