The Victory Sealed

Surrender at Reims

Hours before dawn on the morning of 7 May 1945, a cluster of correspondents and press and newsreel photographers waited at one end of the G-3 war room at SHAEF forward headquarters in Reims. In the center of the room stood a large, empty table. At 0230, ten Allied officers entered and took seats around three sides of the table. Generals Smith and Morgan headed three-officer U.S. and British delegations; Gen. Francois Sevez represented France; and Maj. Gen. Ivan Souslaparov, a colonel, and a lieutenant were the Soviet contingent. When all were seated, Morgan called in the Germans, Generaloberst Alfred Jodl and two others. They entered, clicked their heels, and gave small military lows. At the table nobody moved except Smith, who waved the Germans to seats on the unoccupied side of the table where they sat facing a large wall snap showing the Allied forces' latest dispositions. Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. D. Strong, SHAEF-2, acting as interpreter, stood behind the Germans and read out the surrender terms, more for the benefit of the press than for the Germans, who were familiar enough with them already. After Strong finished, Jodl rose and declared, in the name of the German Army, Navy, and Air Force, that he surrendered unconditionally. The document was then signed, and Jodl and his party left the room.1

SHAEF's wartime mission was completed, but with a last-minute twist. What the Germans signed at Reims was the "Act of Military Surrender," written three days before in the SHAEF G-3, not the painstakingly negotiated EAC surrender instrument. The chief author of the surrender document signed at Reims was a British colonel, John Counsell, an actor and theatrical manager in civilian life, who had cheerfully "cribbed" much of it from the terms for the German surrender in Italy (2 May) published in Stars and Stripes. 2 Its six short paragraphs -none more than two sentences long- simply affirmed the German High Command's unconditional surrender, to take effect fifty-nine minutes before midnight on 8 May.3

SHAEF had included the EAC surrender instrument in the ECLIPSE plans and had assumed it was the document the Germans would sign if they signed one at all, which by the time jodl arrived had begun to seem unlikely. The EAC was by then at work on an Allied proclamation of the German defeat, and nothing had been done to clear up several deficiencies in the surrender instrument that had developed since it was approved by the governments. One slipup was that, although SHAEF had received copies of the sur-


render instrument, none had been sent officially through its channel of command, the CCS. When Winant tried to correct this omission on 4 May, he ran into another complication. At Yalta, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin had added a single word, "dismemberment," to the rights the victorious powers reserved for themselves with regard to Germany. The change had not been communicated to the French.4  Finally, the surrender instrument required the signature of the "highest German civilian authority" as well as the highest military authority. Hitler had killed himself on 30 April. Grossadmiral Karl Doenitz had announced himself as Hitler's appointed successor two days later and had initiated the negotiations for the surrender; but the Allies did not recognize him as head of state, and his authority, except possibly over the armed forces still fighting, was doubtful. Berlin, the capital, had fallen to the Russians on 2 May, and nearly all the rest of Germany was already occupied by one or the other of the Allies. When Winant talked to Smith on the 6th, Winant agreed that the Act of Military Surrender would accomplish the purpose with the "least controversy and delay." At his request, Smith had included in the short document a sentence obligating the Germans to accept the EAC terms as well, if they were imposed.5

SHAEF had sent drafts of the Act of Military Surrender to Washington, London, and Moscow on 6 May and received reactions from Churchill and Winant before the signing but not from Washington or Moscow.6  Moscow's response reached Reims on the morning of 7 May, six hours after the Germans had signed. It practically accused Eisenhower of making a truce with the Germans that would allow them to continue the war against the Soviet Union; and it insisted-too late by then-that there be only one signing and that in Berlin. SHAEF had proposed signing first at Reims and later at Berlin to save time and lives.7

The second signing was held, amidst obvious evidence of Soviet pique, in Berlin shortly before midnight on the 8th. Excepting perhaps the Germans, the least happy man of those who had been present during the surrender at Reims was General Souslaparov. He was recalled to Moscow on the same day. Colonel Counsell saw him leave the SHAEF senior officers' mess after he received the order-"an old man, sagging at the knees, his face drained of all color, his eyes expressionless." 8

President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill announced the surrender on 8 May. The Soviet government withheld its announcement until early on the 9th, after the ceremony in Berlin. In Germany, the troops and displaced persons had vented


their enthusiasm in a premature celebration on the night of the 5th; the Germans themselves had little to celebrate. The military government detachments noted the occasion in forms similar to the following entry from the journal of HIA2, Saarbruecken:

8 May Tuesday
0700 first call; 0730 breakfast; 0830 officers' call. Lt. Larsen to cover property control duties and received what information lie could from Mr. Leathart. Lt. Vogel sent Preble to Friedrichsthal on procurement for 1282d Engineer Construction Battalion. Lt. Harris investigated complaints of looting on the part of DPs, German civilians, and French and U.S. troops; investigated the escape of a Russian prisoner from the DP hospital. Lt. West checked warehouses for chloride of lime needed for sanitary purposes in DP camps. Capt. Young investigated the agricultural situation in Saarlautern Landkreis. Capt. Laid conferred with local industrial leaders. Churchill spoke over the radio and declared the war in Europe is over. In Saarbruecken, it was just another day, with the German people going about their business as usual. Cpl. Pfluger celebrated by shooting himself in the heel and was hospitalized.9

As far as the Americans could tell, the emotional impact on the Germans was slight. Their faith in victory had been undermined by the defeat at Stalingrad in 1943 and shattered by the Normandy landing. Few had retained any real hope for a German victory after the Allied forces reached the western border. In contrast to the reaction after the Armistice in 1918, they clearly recognized the fact of a complete military defeat. On the other hand, SHAEF's Psychological Warfare Division, during interrogations after V-E Day, found a pervasive tendency among the Germans to disclaim personal responsibility for the disaster. They retreated to an intense preoccupation with purely private affairs, resorted to the argument of the "Kleiner Mann" (the little man), and endlessly repeated the phrase "belogen und betrogen" (lied to and deceived).10

After the surrender was signed, the remaining question for the Allies to decide was what, exactly, had been accomplished. The General Board concluded later that the German state was extinguished at Reims and the victors acquired sovereignty over the German people. It cited Grotius, who defined unconditional surrender as "pure surrender . . . which makes the one who surrenders a subject and confers the sovereign power on him to whom the surrender is made." 11 Immediately after V-E Day, Eisenhower was not so certain. The Act of Military Surrender had procured the submission of the German armed forces but not necessarily of the German government, which was just the opposite of what had happened in 1918 when the civilians had signed the Armistice and the military had not. Neither did the Act of Military Surrender provide for Allied assumption of supreme authority in Germany. Also missing was authority to exclude the surrendered German forces from the prisoner of war provisions of the Hague and Geneva Conventions.12 The EAC; was aware of these omissions, too, and on 12 Nay submitted to the governments a draft "Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by the Allied Powers" that combined the essentials of the Act of  Military Surrender,


the EAC surrender instrument, and the proclamation of the German defeat that the EAC had worked on just before the surrender. When the governments approved, the declaration was to be issued over the signatures of the commanders in chief in Germany.13

Flensburg Interlude

The third sentence in the EAC declaration read, "There is no central Government or authority in Germany capable of accepting responsibility for the maintenance of order, the administration of the country, and compliance with the requirements of the victorious Powers." 14  This statement was not yet quite accurate. On the Flensburg Fiord, close to the Danish border, in a former navy torpedo school at Muerwick, Admiral Doenitz held a potentially arguable claim to the headship of the German state. In a political testament, written on the night before his death, Hitler had conferred on Doenitz the presidential powers under the Weimar Constitution that Hitler himself had assumed in 1934 after Hindenburg died. Doenitz had not received the testament, but he had authenticated transcripts of radio messages from Berlin informing him of the appointment, and he had begun preparing a "white book" to defend his claims.15  In negotiating the surrender, SHAEF had studiedly ignored Doenitz while at the same time dealing with him, indirectly at least, and tolerating his government's existence.

Doenitz had surrendered northern Germany, including Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, on 5 May, thus making himself and his people virtual prisoners of Montgomery's 21 Army Group; however, from a little island of territory around Flensburg and Muerwik, Doenitz continued to conduct governmental and military affairs, as far as he was still able, up until the general cease-fire and for some days thereafter. The Soviet General Staff protested acidly SHAEF's having permitted the German negotiators at Reims to use terminology such as "new government" and "German Government" in their messages to Doenitz because, the Russians said, they preferred to "do business with the German High Command and not with the German Government, which in actuality does not exist." 16  The Russians, however, who had been the first to learn about Hitler's death and the testament, had at one point offered to allow Doenitz to assemble his government in Berlin.

After V-E Day, the small area around Flensburg-Muerwik became an enclave in the otherwise totally occupied country. Armed German soldiers marched in the streets and stood guard outside the offices and residences of the members of the government. The Reich's war flag still flew over Doenitz's headquarters, and Allied officers who had business there avoided appearing to give orders. As a government, Doenitz and his associates lacked nearly all the essentials, above all, contact with the people they proposed to govern. Albert Speer, Hitler's armament and munitions minister


AN ERA PASSES as Germans exchange street signs.

AN ERA PASSES as Germans exchange street signs.

who had become Doenitz's minister of economics and production, proposed that they close up shop completely after the surrender was signed to escape becoming a laughing stock; but Doenitz and the others believed that they represented at least the continuity of the Reich.

The one resource Doenitz had in plentiful supply was executive talent-though not often the kind that was likely to find Allied acceptance. Like Speer, many others from the upper and middle reaches of the Nazi governmental hierarchy had made their way to the Flensburg Fiord. From among the less tainted, Doenitz found enough men to assemble a complete, even elaborate, cabinet of experts, all suffering from the same disability however: the organizations they had headed were smashed and the records and people scattered all over Germany.17 When the British troops surrounding the enclave did not move in to arrest them after the surrender, a wild hope sprang up that maybe they could survive by making themselves indispensable to the Allies. Doenitz put the specialists to


work writing proposals, and Jodl began to talk about "overwhelming" the Allies with memoranda, letting them "break their teeth off" on the big problems, and eventually playing the Russians and the Western Allies off against each other.18 On an emotional binge, the cabinet met every day to work on polishing its own organization; it even acquired an official photographer. Doenitz took to riding the five hundred yards between his quarters and his office in one of Hitler's big Mercedes limousines that had turned up in Flensburg.19

On the morning of 12 May, Maj. Gen. Lowell W. Rooks arrived at the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, High Command of the Armed Forces) in Flensburg at the head of the SHAEF Control Party with orders "to impose the SCAEF's will on the German High Command." 20 After taking up quarters for himself and his party aboard the Patria, a passenger ship docked in the harbor not far from the torpedo school, Rooks called in Doenitz and ordered him to arrest General Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, Chief, OKW, and turn him over as a prisoner of war in reprisal for an alleged failure of some German troops to cease resistance against the Soviet forces at the specified time.

Despite its ominous beginning, Doenitz considered the meeting highly encouraging. He believed it constituted a recognition of him as the head of state. 21 Rooks reported only a great desire on the part of Doenitz and his group to create the impression "that they are the best people to issue orders." 22  What Doenitz interpreted as recognition was apparently mostly uncertainty on the part of Rooks and SHAEF as to what to think of or do with this strange military-political menage that had drifted up out of the wreckage of the Third Reich.

Rooks may have had instructions to explore the possibility of using Doenitz and his people as an instrument of Allied control.23  If so, he did not tarry long over his decision. On the 15th he told Smith, "It is quite obvious that this headquarters is a rapidly decaying concern with little knowledge of present events and practically no work to do." He suggested, subject to the needs of SHAEF and the army groups, disbanding the OKW as soon as possible. On the 17th, Rooks, his British deputy, Brig. E. J. Foord, and the SHAEF Political Adviser, Ambassador Robert D. Murphy, jointly recommended abolishing "the so-called acting government" immediately. The next day they questioned Doenitz about the manner of his appointment, but only to satisfy their curiosity. SHAEF had already requested Moscow's agreement to the arrest of Doenitz and the others with him who were in the automatic arrest cate-


gories and had instructed Rooks to "take all steps short of arrest" to insure that Doenitz ceased executive functions.24

The Americans were, in a way, more interested in a Soviet OKW control party, under Maj. Gen. Trusov, who arrived several days after them, than they were in the Germans. No other element of the elaborate GOLDCUP and SHAEF Special Echelon organizations had so far made contact with the Russians. To Murphy, Trusov gave the impression that the Russians wanted a co-ordinated administration in Germany but had not yet formed anything like the U.S. and British Control Council groups.25  Rooks saw in the Russians' behavior a latent threat to SHAEF's still-cherished nonfraternization policy. The Russians, he reported, "fraternized wholeheartedly." The enlisted men talked to German women on the streets. The crew of the plane that brought the Russians got drunk with German officers in Flensburg rind ended up kissing them. The pilot tried to bring back a German woman to the airfield on a motorcycle. On board the Patria a Soviet officer had been seen drinking and laughing with three German officers in his cabin.26

On the 19th, the Soviet command having agreed, SHAEF ordered 21 Army Group to arrest the Doenitz government and the OKW. Col. C. W. Stewart, Jr. , described the arrest as it occurred on the morning of the 23d:

At 10 A.M., Admiral Doenitz, General Jodl, Admiral von Friedeburg and three other officers came marching down the dock and were escorted up to the ship's bar where a long table had been prepared with chairs on both sides, very much in the same way the war room in Rheims was arranged. If ever a man with a field marshall's baton looked unhappy, Doemtz did (after he came out). Rooks must have taken almost no time to deliver his message. The Germans were marched off and put into cars to take them home to pack.

By the time Doenitz emerged from the interview, the main street of Muerwik was filled with British tanks and with troops rounding up the Germans. The German barracks were looted, and, Stewart reported, "the complexion of the town changed overnight from being optimistic to sullen quiet." 27  Before the day's end, Doenitz, Speer, Jodl, and the other top war crimes suspects were moved to ASHCAN. General Admiral Hans Georg von Friedeburg, who had made the partial surrender to Montgomery and who had been at Reims with Jodl, at Berlin with Keitel, and finally on the Patria with Doenitz, shot himself.

Metting in Berlin

Since the unconditional military surrender had already been accomplished, the most significant passage in the Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by the Allied Powers was that pertaining to the assumption of supreme authority. It read as follows


The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom, and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, hereby assume supreme authority with respect to Germany, including all the powers possessed by the German Government, the High Command and any state, municipal, or local government or authority. The assumption, for the purposes stated above, of the said authority and powers does not affect the annexation of Germany. 28

The second sentence mitigated the traditional ultimate effect of unconditional surrender, the permanent extinction of the defeated state. Under the declaration, however, the German state, nevertheless, did cease to exist, even if only provisionally. The law of belligerent occupation also no longer applied to Germany. The Allied sovereignty was complete, limited only by its own decision, and the relationship was that of conqueror and subject. The declaration was written to be issued by the representatives of the Allied supreme commands on the authority of their governments and in the interests of the United Nations.

President Truman approved the declaration on 14 May, and the War Department instructed Eisenhower to arrange to have the four commanders in Germany issue it. 29 McCloy commented that, since one slipup had already been made, SHAEF should be careful not to make another and should therefore take no action not approved beforehand by the four governments.30  The other governments submitted their formal approval within a week.

In the meantime, however, although the declaration remained a formality, an almost superfluous statement of a de facto condition, it had become entangled in a knot of tangential problems. One problem was that Gousev wanted to add the Soviet-sponsored Polish government as one of the Allies who would be given advance copies of the declaration. Seven European Allied governments, including neither the Polish exile government in London nor the Polish "Lublin" (later Warsaw) government, had been consulted in writing the original surrender instrument and would be shown the declaration. The British wanted to add to this number the Dominions, India, and Brazil. When Strang raised the question in the EAC on 10 May, Gousev at once proposed including the Warsaw government, which neither the United Kingdom nor the United States recognized.31

While the EAC negotiated the Polish question, the Americans and the British debated some other subjects among themselves. Both groups assumed, in fact hoped, that the signing of the declaration would automatically bring the Control Council into being, since the signatories would also be the members of the Control Council. Activating the Control Council, however, could force decisions concerning SHAEF's existence and the SHAEF-held territory in the Soviet zone-decisions on which opinion was both mixed and divergent. Eisenhower made a strong case for keeping SHAEF until the forces were redisposed in their national zones and the Control Council was operating effectively-which, his staff predicted, would take at least three months.32 The British, who had long de-


sired SHAEF's early disbandment, opposed prolonging the combined command formally because existence of the command would logically require the declaration to be signed only by Eisenhower as Allied Supreme Commander and Marshal Zhukov as Soviet Supreme Commander. On the other hand, however, they apparently did not want to see SHAEF formally disbanded before a decision was made regarding the SHAEF-held Soviet territory.33

Truman had proposed, in late April, making the troop and boundary adjustments as soon as a government declared itself ready to take over its assigned territory. But Churchill had objected both to "letting the Russians . . . order us back at any point they might decide" and to "yielding up . . . an enormous territory . . . while all questions of our spheres in Vienna or arrangements for the occupation of Berlin remain unsettled." The President and the Prime Minister had finally agreed to propose setting up the Control Council first and then redisposing the troops in the zones. Stalin acknowledged the message but, except for agreeing to a "temporary tactical demarcation line," ignored the proposal.34

Talking to Eisenhower on 16 May, Churchill indicated that he did not want to see any decision made on SHAEF's status that would give the Soviet Union an excuse to press for a withdrawal from its zone; therefore, on the 24th the British argued in Washington for separating the decisions on SHAEF and the Soviet territory from the declaration and the activation of the Control Council. They wanted to make the withdrawal from the Soviet zone in particular, they later explained, contingent on the settlement of the "whole question of future relations" between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union in Europe. The State Department indicated the US government was interested above all in getting the Control Council established and working and would not delay the withdrawal from the Soviet zone if the Russians made it an issue but would "defer" the decisions on SHAEF and the Soviet zone temporarily-presumably at least long enough to gauge the Soviet reaction.35

In the end it was Eisenhower who brought the matter to a head, though not by his or the US government's choice. On 29 May, Winant recommended in the EAC having the commanders in chief meet in Berlin on 1 June, sign the declaration, form the Control Council, and put the protocols on zones and control machinery into force. The EAC had by then solved the Polish question. It would transmit the declaration to the original seven Allied governments through its Allied Consultation Committee, and the British government would give copies separately to the Dominions and India, the US government to Brazil, and the Soviet government to Poland. Gousev's instructions from Moscow were slow in coming, but not unusually slow for the Russians, and on 4 June he reported that his government had accepted Winant's recommendation and wanted to hold the ceremony in Berlin the next day.36  Eisenhower, meanwhile, had asked on 2 June how he was to respond in case the Russians raised the question of their zone, as they seemed likely to do. The JCS told him that the withdrawal from the Soviet zone "should


not be a question precedent to establishment of the Control Council." If the Russians raised the point, he was to say that it was "one of the items to be worked out by the Control Council." 37

On 3 June, Eisenhower sent to the JCS his proposed agenda for the first meeting of the Control Council, which he expected would take place after the formal signing of the declaration. He expected to discuss a location for the Control Authority, either in Berlin or elsewhere, and, if in Berlin, the questions of transit and communications to the city. He would talk about moving the US forces out of the Soviet zone if the Russians brought it up, but he would not make any commitments without consulting the JCS. If the Russians asked, he would explain SHAEF's continuing existence as an interim arrangement for the period in which the US, British, and French forces were being redistributed to their zones.38

The planes carrying Eisenhower and his party landed at Tempelhof airport in the late forenoon on the 5th. After reviewing a battalion-size honor guard, he was taken by car to the southeastern Berlin suburb Wendenschloss, as were also Montgomery and the French commander in chief in Germany, General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, when they arrived-separately, of course, to emphasize their status as representatives of their respective countries. The drive through Berlin, along streets lined with Soviet troops and with scarcely any Germans to be seen, showed the city to be heavily damaged; but in Wendenschloss, wooded and lying between two lakes, the war had missed the expensive villas, until recently the property of movie stars and important Nazis. Zhukov lived in one of the villas, and he assigned one to each of the Western commanders for the day. At a private meeting, Eisenhower presented Zhukov with the Chief Commander grade of the Legion of Merit and then returned to his quarters expecting to be called for the signing ceremony shortly, since the time set, noon, was already past.

Hours passed without anything more being heard from or seen of the Russians other than the household staffs, who seemed not even to know what the gathering was for in the first place. Finally, when Eisenhower and Montgomery threatened to leave without signing, they and de Lattre were called to the yacht club where the ceremony was to take place, only to discover when they arrived that the Russians insisted they could not sign because the wording of Article 10 of the declaration could be construed as requiring them to arrest Japanese nationals found in Germany, and they were not at war with Japan. Eisenhower ordered the passage taken out, which amazed Zhukov, who had to check with Moscow before accepting the deletion. By the time the Russians were ready it was approaching five o'clock, and Eisenhower, who intended to return to Frankfurt that day before dark, was again becoming impatient.

The signing took only a few minutes. Seated at a large round table, in a blaze of arc lights and photographers flash bulbs, each commander in chief signed four copies of the declaration: in English, French, Russian, and German. When finished, they adjourned with their interpreters and a few


MARSHAL ZHUKOV (Center) POURS A TOAST at the 5 June 1945 meeting in Berlin. General Eisenhower (left) departed immediately after the toast. On. the right are Field Marshal Montgomery and General de Lattre de Tassigny.

MARSHAL ZHUKOV (Center) POURS A TOAST at the 5 June 1945 meeting in Berlin. General Eisenhower (left) departed immediately after the toast. On. the right are Field Marshal Montgomery and General de Lattre de Tassigny.

aides for a private talk on the clubhouse porch.39  After a brief preliminary conversation, Eisenhower, apparently assuming from the EAC's agreement that they now constituted the Control Council, asked Zhukov whether the control staffs could begin work.40  Zhukov replied that they could not. When Eisenhower talked about an agenda and schedule for Control Council meetings, Zhukov said the troops should be established in their proper zones first because he could not study questions relating to Germany while he did not con-


trol his own zone. On remarks by Montgomery about the difficulties of sorting out the tangle created by the war and getting the troops into their zones, Zhukov commented blandly that the war was over and he wanted to know how long the redeployment would take. When Montgomery estimated three weeks, Zhukov said that was "very satisfactory"; in the meantime they could gather their Control Council staffs. Since Eisenhower's and Montgomery's instructions did not allow them to make commitments on the withdrawal, the meeting ended with only a decision to refer the question to the governments.41

The Russians had an elaborate banquet planned, but Eisenhower declined to stay, the occasion having become a contest in stubbornness on both sides. Shortly after six o'clock, Eisenhower and his party, which included General Clay and US Group Control Council personnel who had planned to stay in Berlin, departed. The Russians had given no sign of being willing to accommodate Clay and his people in Berlin even overnight.

Summing up his impressions a day later in his report to Washington, Eisenhower said he believed the Soviet Union would join some form of Control Council and would allow the Western Allies' troops to take over their zones in Berlin when the withdrawal from the Soviet zone was accomplished. (Zhukov had said at the meeting that he had no objection to establishing the Control Authority in Berlin.) Eisenhower added, however, that the Control Council could possibly "become only a negotiating agency and in no sense an overall government for Germany." To prepare for this contingency, he suggested two alternatives: administering the U.S. zone as an independent economic unit or establishing three-power control in the western zones and administering them as a unit. 42




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