The German Surrender April 25 - May 8, 1945

The battle raging in Berlin signaled the end of the Third Reich. Soviet Red Army Forces and the western Allies pressed the Wehrmacht so far into Germany that neither Western commands nor Eastern commands had room to maneuver.

At Yalta on the Crimea in February 1945, the “Big Three” decided how to govern postwar Europe. Stalin, whose nation had perhaps as many as twenty million dead by the time of the conference and a million more by the time the war was over, wanted lots of space between Russia and Germany to prevent another war. Roosevelt and Churchill, mindful of the Soviet purges of the 1930’s and traditionally opposed to communism, tried to prevent Soviet Domination in many places. Eventually the “Big Three” agreed that Poland, Hungary, Romania, and the Baltics would fall into the Soviet Sphere of influence. Greece, Yugoslavia and Austria would be split between them; and France, Luxembourg, Holland, Denmark, and Norway would enter the American and British sphere of influence.

Unlike Versailles, Germany would not be expected to pay reparations, and the entire country would be occupied by the four powers — France included. Berlin itself would be split into four districts, each under the control and administration of one of the major powers.

As the Allies approached each other in southern Germany, the Russians brought tremendous power to bear on Berlin. Bitter and protracted fighting remained, especially for the Red Army. Hundreds of thousands of men and women would be killed in vicious house-to-house fighting.

Meanwhile, Army Group B, the last major German unit, surrendered its 200,000 men in the south on April 24. Everywhere, German soldiers were trying to get refugees out of the way of the advancing Red Army and to surrender to the Western Allies. Many of these men were simply rounded up and turned over to the Soviets. Close to 2,000,000 German troops were imprisoned by the Soviets in the closing weeks of the war. Most of them spent as much as a decade in Soviet Gulags.