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The Beginning of World War II, 1939

London Goes to War, 1939

Blitzkrieg, 1940

Evacuation at Dunkirk, 1940

France Surrenders, 1940

Hitler Tours Paris, 1940

France in Defeat, 1940

Battle of Britain, 1940

The London Blitz, 1940

The Siege of Leningrad

Attack At Pearl Harbor

Attack At Pearl Harbor - the Japanese View

Attack At Pearl Harbor - The White House Reacts

The Bataan Death March 1942

The Doolittle Raid, 1942

The Battle of Midway 1942

Attack on an Arctic Convoy, 1942

Reconnaissance Patrol, 1943

Bombing Raid on Ploesti, 1943

The Bloody Battle of Tarawa, 1943

A GI's trip to London, 1944

The Nazi Occupation Of Poland

"Loose Lips Sink Ships"

Life and Death Aboard a B-17, 1944

Shot Down Over France, 1944

Sunk by Submarine, 1944

Normandy Invasion, 1944: On The Beach

Normandy Invasion, 1944: A Civilian's View

The Liberation of Paris, 1944

America's Front Line Soldier, 1944

Lindbergh in Combat, 1944

Inside a Nazi Death Camp, 1944

Rommel Commits Suicide, 1944

Patton Interrogates a SS General, 1944

Kamikaze Attack, 1944

Iwo Jima, 1945

Capturing the Bridge at Remagen, 1945

The Tokyo
Fire Raids, 1945

The Battle of Berlin, 1945

The War Ends in Europe, 1945

London Celebrates VE Day, 1945

Berlin in Defeat, 1945

Germany in Defeat, 1945

The 1st Atomic Blast, 1945

The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis, 1945

Hiroshima, 1945

The Sentencing
and Execution of
Nazi War Criminals,


Germany in Defeat, 1945

The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945 when German representatives signed the surrender document in Reims, France (see Germany Surrenders). Germany was in ruins. Most of her cities reduced to rubble, her transportation system in shambles, her countryside strewn with an estimated 5.2 million wandering Displaced Persons. An estimated 20 million Germans were homeless.

A German women washes clothes amid
the rubble of her destroyed city
May 1945
"White flags were hanging out of windows..."

In the closing days of the war, Charles Lindbergh was dispatched to Germany to gather information on the new aircraft the German Luftwaffe had developed such as the jet fighter and the rocket plane. He arrived in Germany just days after its surrender and roamed the countryside looking for information. He kept a journal of of his experience that provides us a glimpse of a nation that had aspired to conquer the world but was pulverized into defeat.

"Friday May 18, 1945

White flags were hanging out of windows in villages we passed on the way, just as they had been hanging out of many of the windows in Munich. At one point we stopped to ask directions from a group of young German soldiers - in uniform but disarmed and apparently plodding along on their way home - a half-dozen young men, courteous, giving us directions as best they could, -showing no trace of hatred or resentment, or of being whipped in battle. They looked like farmers' sons.

We were on the wrong road. We turned around, and I dropped a package of cigarettes as we passed them by. Regulations forbid our giving rides to Germans. There is to be 'no fraternization.' One is not supposed even to shake hands with them or give a bit of food or candy to the children...

The winding, stone-paved road up the mountain­side to Hitler's headquarters was filled with American military vehicles - jeeps and trucks filled with soldiers, WACS, and Army nurses, apparently bent on seeing where der Fuhrer had lived and operated.

...Hitler's quarters and the surrounding buildings had been heavily bombed - gutted, roofs fallen, in ruins. Craters from misses dotted the nearby hillsides. The pine forest around the buildings was stripped of limbs-trunks broken off, split, shattered...

We parked our jeep at the side of the building and climbed up over rubble to a gaping doorway. A few yards up the road I watched a German officer (in charge of the soldiers cleaning up) salute an American officer who passed nearby, bowing his head slightly as he did so. The American officer sauntered by, obviously taking no notice whatever, although the German held the salute until he had passed. I shall never forget the expressions of those two men.

Most of the walls of the building, being thickly built of stone, were standing firmly. Inside, rubble covered the floors, and part of the wooden furnishings had burned. We made our way over the debris on the floor of the room said to be Hitler's office to the great oblong gap which was once filled with a plate-glass window. It framed almost perfectly a high Alpine range - sharp crags, white fields of snow, saw-tooth peaks against a blue sky, sunlight on the boulders, a storm forming up the valley. It was one of the most beautiful mountain locations I have ever seen.

...We made our way back into the rear chamber. There was the stench of the dead-bodies somewhere only partly buried. We climbed up the mortar-strewn stairs, the end open to the sky where the roof had been blown off. Down again and to the kitchen, edging past a line of doughboys coming in, rifles over shoulders. The floor was covered with twisted utensils and broken dishes; the stoves, with rubble thrown up by the bombs and fallen down from the ceiling."

"There was no hostility in her eyes..."

"As we approached Zell-am-See we entered territory still ruled by the German Army. Officers and soldiers were still armed and still directing what little traffic passed over the roads. Groups of soldiers stared at us as we passed but made no gesture. I could detect neither friendship nor hostility. In every instance where we asked directions, they responded with courtesy. The two of us in an American jeep drove through divisions of the Germany Army as though there had been no war.

American troops march German prisoners
of war through the streets of Munich
May 1945
On arriving at Zell-am-See in the late afternoon, we stopped at the newly installed local American Army headquarters to arrange for billets for the night... We were assigned a room in a nearby house which had been occupied by a German doctor. The family had been given notice to evacuate only a few hours before. (When our Army moves into an occupied village, the most desirable houses are selected and the occupants ordered out. They are permitted to take their clothing and certain household utensils and furniture - not essential furniture or beds. Where they go for food or shelter is considered none of the conquering army's concern. One of our officers told me that the G.I.'s in his organization simply threw out of the windows any articles they didn't want to keep in the rooms they were occupying.)

As I carried my barracks bag in through the door I met a young German woman carrying her belongings out. There was no hostility in her eyes as they met mine, simply sadness and acceptance. Behind her were three children, two little girls and a little boy, all less than ten years old. They stole glances at me, angry and a little frightened, like children who had been unfairly punished. Their arms were full of childhood belongings or light articles they were carrying out to help their mother."

   This eyewitness account appears in: Lindbergh, Charles, A., The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970); Ziemke, Earl F., The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946 (1975).

How To Cite This Article:
"Germany in Defeat, 1945," EyeWitness to History, (2006).

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