Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finis Germaniae

The other day I took part in a guided tour of the German military archive in Freiburg organized by my favorite local newspaper for their subscribers.

I had planned to write a blog about the visit but had to delay it because of other activities. Today, February 29, I suddenly found my photo in the newspaper. This is the reason together with the rare date that I must publish today.

You see me in the back bending forward over one of the showcases taking a picture of a historic document. Those who know me remember that due to age and having talked during my whole life mostly to people shorter than me I keep myself somewhat bent however not as much as on the photo. Is this because I am trying to get the document into frame and focus or is it the content of the document that makes me bow?

The document you find below is the record of unconditional surrender of all German forces signed at Reims, France, on May 7, 1945. While the Germans had hoped for a separate agreement with the Western forces General Eisenhower had insisted on an unconditional surrender but agreed that the document signed at 02.41 hours (a.m.) only became effective on May 8 at 23.01 hours corresponding to May 9, 00.01 hours German daylight saving time. This left about 48 hours for the German ground forces to move to territories occupied by Western forces thus escaping Russian capture and Gulags. You note the champagne city is handwritten Rheims in the document. Were the victors thinking of the Rhine River rather than the booze?

For the German forces Colonel General Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, signed the document. He was later tried at Nuremberg and hanged on October 16, 1946. Lieutenant General Walter „Beetle“ Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, represented the Allied Expedition Forces. For the Soviet high command, Major General Iwan Susloparov placed his signature. French Major General François Sevez served as a witness.

At Reims senior Allied commanders celebrate the signing of the document of unconditional German surrender with Ike showing some pens. His assistant Walter Bedell Smith, cap in his hand, is on his left. At the far left in front is Ivan Susloparov (Photo Wikipedia).

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