Monday 25 November 2019

8 May 1945 - the end of the war in Europe. Berlin-Karlshorst: Deutsch-Russisches Museum

In the leafy south-east Berlin suburb of Karlshorst in an incongruous building at the end of Zwieseler Straße, World War Two in Europe officially came to an end with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht.

 Zwieseler Straße 4 in Berlin-Karlshorst: Deutsch-Russisches Museum am 66. Jahrestag der bedingungslosen Kapitulation der Wehrmacht.

Zwieseler Straße 4, Berlin-Karlshorst, 357-462

Nowadays, thanks to the Soviets, it is a museum, one of the best in the city, telling the story of the 'Great Patriotic War' against Nazi Germany, the capture of the city by the Soviet Army and the impact of all that on its hapless citizens. One of the main attractions of the museum is the 'surrender room' - preserved today as it was then. The room is almost exactly as it was on 8 May 1945, save for the carpet allegedly pilfered from the ruins of the Reichskanzlei on Vossstrasse. Much of the furniture is not original however.

After the signing of the official surrender document at Rheims on 7 May 1945, insisted on by General Eisenhower, who stated that if the Germans did not surrender unconditionally, then bombing of Germany would resume, Stalin was furious. How could the Allies force the Germans to sign a document of surrender with no Soviet participation, after what the Soviet people had been through? Given that the Soviets suffered the largest human and material losses of any country that took part in WW2, the absence of Soviet representatives at the surrender table was not acceptable. That night, everyone was packed into aircraft and flown to Berlin.  Signing the Wehrmacht surrender in Berlin was Keitel.

From Zhukov's diary;

 "The first to enter, slowly and feigning composure, was Generalfeldmarschall [Wilhelm] Keitel, Hitler's closest associate. Keitel was followed by Generaloberst [Hans-Jurgen] Stumpff. he was a short man whose eyes were full of impotent rage. With him entered Generaladmiral [Hans-Georg] von Friedeburg who looked prematurely old. The Germans were asked to take their seats at a separate table close to the door through which they had entered. The Generalfeldmarschall slowly sat down and pinned his eyes on us, sitting at the Presaedium table. Stumpff and von Friedeburg sat down beside Keitel. The officers accompanying them stood behind their chairs."

The tall figure behind Keitel (to the right) in Luftwaffe uniform is his 'English translator' - credited with around 10 victories Karl Boehm-Tettelbach was a former Kommodore of ZG 26. His account of the events of that day can be seen in Guido Knopp's 1980s ZDF series 'Der verdammte Krieg' which is available to watch on youtube. Post-war Boehm-Tettelbach went on to work with Pan Am and served as station manager at Nuremberg airport. His memoir published in 1981 was entitled Als Flieger in der Hexenküche.