German Instrument of Surrender
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The German Instrument of Surrender was the legal instrument that
established the armistice ending World War II in Europe. It was signed
by representatives of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the Allied
Expeditionary Force and Soviet High Command on May 7 and May 8, 1945.
The date is known in the West as Victory in Europe Day.
General Alfred Jodl signing the capitulation papers in Rheims.
The Instrument of Surrender was signed at Rheims, France, at 02:41 hours
on 7 May 1945. The signing took place in a red brick schoolhouse that
served as the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
It was to take effect at 2301 hours Central European time on 8 May,
The unconditional surrender of the German armed forces was signed by
Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, on behalf of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
(German language: High Command of armed forces) and as the
representative for the new Reich President, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz.
Walter Bedell Smith signed on behalf of the Western allies, and Ivan
Susloparov on behalf of the Soviets. French general François Sevez
signed as the official witness.
Although this act of surrender was recognized by all parties as
binding, it was nevertheless followed by an act of ratification on May
8, which was agreed at the time of the May 7 signing (see text below).
Only during the Cold War was the first surrender in Rheims hushed up or
reduced to a preparatory protocol.
GIVEN BY CERTAIN GERMAN EMISSARIES
TO THE ALLIED HIGH COMMANDS
It is agreed by the German emissaries
undersigned that the following German officers will
arrive at a place and time designated by the Supreme
Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, and the Soviet
High Comand prepared, with plenary powers, to execute
a formal ratification on behalf of the German High
Command of this act of Unconditional Surrender of the
German armed forces.
Chief of the High Command
Commander-in-Chief of the Army
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces.
Representing the German High Command
DATED 0241 7th May 1945
Marshal Georgy Zhukov reading the German capitulation in Berlin.
Seated on his right is Arthur Tedder, Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
A second Act of Military Surrender was signed shortly after midnight
Central European time on May 8 at the seat of the Soviet Military
Administration in Berlin-Karlshorst, now the location of the
German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.
This ratification was a response to both Soviet and British concerns.
The Soviets desired a signature in the presence of the Soviet Supreme
Commander (Major General Susloparov, who had accepted the May 7
surrender for the Soviets, was only liaison officer at the Western
Headquarters). The British wanted the surrender to be signed by the
highest military and civilian representatives of the German Reich, in
order to avoid a repeat of the "stab in the back" legend which had been
cultivated by the Germans after World War I because the armistice had
been signed only by a civilian politician and an unknown general. (Jodl,
who signed in Rheims, was an officer without the power of command).
Since the Dönitz government was not recognized, it was agreed to have
the May 7 act ratified with the signatures of the commanders in chief of
the Wehrmacht, army, air force and marines, who were brought to
Karlshorst, the seat of the Soviet Supreme Commander. The
representatives of the Western Headquarters, the United Kingdom, France
and the United States entered the dining room of the officers' mess in
Karlshorst shortly before midnight. The German delegation, which had
been flown in from Flensburg to Tempelhof in a U.S. airplane, entered
the room shortly after midnight after Marshal Georgy Zhukov, the Soviet
representative, had opened the ceremony. The ratification of the German
Act of Unconditional Surrender was signed around 00.15 o'clock, after
its regulations had already been in effect for over an hour (23:01
Central European Time).
Soviet Union: Marshal Georgy Zhukov on behalf of the Supreme
High Command of the Red Army
United Kingdom: Air Chief Marshal Arthur William Tedder as Deputy
Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force,
United States: General Carl Spaatz, Commanding United States
Strategic Air Forces, as witness
France: General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, Commanding First
French Army, as witness
Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg as Commander-in-Chief of the navy (Kriegsmarine)
Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff as the representative of the air
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel as the Chief of Staff of the German Armed
Forces and as representative of the army (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht)
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signing the ratified surrender terms for
the German military in Berlin.
Text of the Instrument of Surrender
Only this text in English is authoritative
Act of Military Surrender
1. We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High Command,
hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme Commander, Allied
Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command all
forces on land, sea, and in the air who are at this date under German
2. The German High Command will at once
issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorities and to
all forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours
Central European time on 8 May and to remain in the positions occupied
at that time. No ship, vessel, or aircraft is to be scuttled, or any
damage done to their hull, machinery or equipment.
3. The German High Command will at once
issue to the appropriate commanders, and ensure the carrying out of any
further orders issued by the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary
Force and by the Soviet High Command.
4. This act of military surrender is without
prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument of
surrender imposed by, or on behalf of the United Nations and applicable
to Germany and the German armed forces as a whole.
5. In the event of the German High Command
or any of the forces under their control failing to act in accordance
with this Act of Surrender, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary
Force and the Soviet High Command will take such punitive or other
action as they deem appropriate.
Signed at Rheims at 0241 France on the 7th day of May, 1945.
On behalf of the German High Command. Alfred
in the presence of
On behalf of the Supreme Commander, Allied
Expeditionary Force. Walter Bedell Smith
On behalf of the Soviet High Command. Ivan
Major General, French Army (Witness)
The instrument of surrender signed at Reims May 7, 1945.