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Footage of Nazi Officers Surrender at the end of WWII (April, 1945)

Ian Smith

The final battles of the European Theatre of World War II as well as the German surrender to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union took place in late April and early May 1945.

Allied forces begin to take large numbers of Axis prisoners: The total number of prisoners taken on the Western Front in April by the Western Allies was 1,500,000. April also witnessed the capture of at least 120,000 German troops by the Western Allies in the last campaign of the war in Italy. In the three or four months up to the end of April, over 800,000 German soldiers surrendered on the Eastern Front.

In early April, the first Allied-governed Rheinwiesenlagers were established in western Germany to hold hundreds of thousands of captured or surrendered Axis Forces personnel.

Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) reclassified all prisoners as Disarmed Enemy Forces, not POWs (prisoners of war). The legal fiction circumvented provisions under the Geneva Convention of 1929 on the treatment of former combatants. By October, thousands had died in the camps from starvation, exposure and disease.

Concentration camps and refugees : In the last months of the war and immediately afterwards, Allied soldiers discovered a number of Nazi concentration camps and forced labor facilities that were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 11 million people, six million of whom were Jews. Romanis, Slavs, homosexuals, and various minorities and disabled persons, as well as political enemies of the Nazi regime (particularly communists) formed the remaining five million.

Germans leave Finland: On 25 April 1945, the last Germans were expelled by the Finnish Army from Finland and retreated into Norway.

Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News