7 September 1945

The Berlin Victory Parade of 1945 is held.

he Berlin Victory Parade of 1945 was held by the Allies of World War II on 7 September 1945 in Berlin, the capital of the defeated Nazi Germany, shortly after the end of World War II. The four participating countries were the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

The parade was proposed by the Soviet Union, following the June Moscow Victory Parade of 1945. July in Berlin also saw a British parade the 1945 British Berlin Victory Parade. The September parade took place near the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate.

Senior officers present at the parade were Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov from the USSR, General George S. Patton from the United States, General Brian Robertson, from the United Kingdom, and General Marie-Pierre Kœnig from France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery declined the invitations shortly before the parade, and sent Patton and Robertson as their representatives. About 5,000 troops from the USSR, USA, UK and France took part in the parade. The parade was opened by marching troops, followed by the armour. Units present included the Soviet 248th Infantry Division, the French 2nd Infantry Division, the British 131st Infantry Brigade, and the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division; the forces present came primarily from the local garrisons. The armoured contingent came from the British 7th Armoured Division, French 1st Armored Division, and U.S. 16th Mechanized Cavalry Group. The Red Army used this occasion for the first public display of the IS-3 heavy tank, with 52 tanks from the 2nd Guards Tank Army participating.

Russian sources refer to this parade as a “forgotten parade”, as it was mentioned in only a few Western sources. The downplaying of the parade in the West can be seen as one of the early signs of the Cold War. The forces of four Allies also participated in another Berlin parade a year later, on the Charlottenburger Chaussee, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, on the first anniversary of the German surrender on 8 May 1946, in the Berlin Victory Parade of 1946. This parade was connected to the inauguration of the Soviet War Memorial at Tiergarten. Soviet troops would not be present at the much more widely known in the West London Victory Celebrations of 1946.

29 April 1945

The German army in Italy surrenders to the Allies.

The spring 1945 offensive in Italy, codenamed Operation Grapeshot, was the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign in the final stages of the Second World War. The attack into the Lombardy Plain by the 15th Allied Army Group started on 6 April 1945, ending on 2 May with the formal surrender of German forces in Italy.

In the first week of April, diversionary attacks were launched on the extreme right and left of the Allied front to draw German reserves away from the main assaults to come. This included Operation Roast, an assault by British 2nd Commando Brigade and armour to capture the seaward isthmus of land bordering Lake Comacchio and seize Port Garibaldi on the lake’s north side. Meanwhile, damage to other transport infrastructure having forced Axis forces to use sea, canal and river routes for re-supply, Axis shipping was being attacked in bombing raids such as Operation Bowler.

Men of the Jewish Brigade ride on a Churchill tank in the Mezzano-Alfonsine sector, 14 March 1945.
The build-up to the main assault started on 6 April with a heavy artillery bombardment of the Senio defenses. In the early afternoon of 9 April, 825 heavy bombers dropped fragmentation bombs on the support zone behind the Senio followed by medium and fighter bombers. From 15:20 to 19:10, five heavy artillery barrages were fired, each lasting 30 minutes, interspersed with fighter bomber attacks. In support of the New Zealand operations, 28 Churchill Crocodiles and 127 Wasp flamethrower vehicles were deployed along the front. The 8th Indian Division, 2nd New Zealand Division and 3rd Carpathian Division attacked at dusk. In fighting in which there were two Victoria Crosses won by 8th Indian Division members, they had reached the river Santerno, 5.6 km beyond, by dawn on 11 April. The New Zealanders had reached the Santerno at nightfall on 10 April and succeeded in making a crossing at dawn on 11 April. The Poles had closed on the Santerno by the night of 11 April.

By late morning of 12 April, after an all night assault, the 8th Indian Division was established on the far side of the Santerno and the British 78th Division started to pass through to make the assault on Argenta. In the meantime the British 24th Guards Brigade, part of 56th Infantry Division, had launched an amphibious flanking attack from the water and mud to the right of the Argenta Gap. Although they gained a foothold, they were still held up at positions on the Fossa Marina on the night of 14 April. 78th Battleaxe Division was also held up on the same day on the Reno River at Bastia.

5th Army offensive, April 1945
The U.S. 5th Army began its assault on 14 April after a bombardment by 2,000 heavy bombers and 2,000 artillery pieces, with attacks by the troops of U.S. IV Corps 1st Brazilian, 10th Mountain, and 1st Armored Divisions on the left. This was followed on the night of 15 April by U.S. II Corps striking with 6th South African Armoured and 88th Infantry Divisions advancing towards Bologna between Highway 64 and 65, and 91st and 34th Infantry Divisions along Highway 65. Progress against a determined German defence was slow but ultimately superior Allied firepower and lack of German reserves told and by 20 April both corps had broken through the mountain defences and reached the plains of the Po valley. 10th Mountain Division were directed to bypass Bologna on their right and push north leaving U.S. II Corps to deal with Bologna along with Eighth Army units advancing from their right.

By 19 April, on the Eighth Army front, the Argenta Gap had been forced, and British 6th Armoured Division was released through the left wing of the advancing 78th Division to swing left to race north west along the line of the river Reno to Bondeno and link up with the US 5th Army to complete the encirclement of the German armies defending Bologna. On the same day, the Italian National Liberation Committee for Northern Italy, in command of the Italian resistance movement, ordered a general insurrection; in the following days, fighting between Italian partisan and German and RSI forces broke out in Turin and Genoa as well as in many other towns across Northern Italy, while German forces prepared to withdraw from Milan. On all fronts the German defense continued to be determined and effective, but Bondeno was captured on 23 April. The 6th Armoured Division linked with US IV Corps’ 10th Mountain Division the next day at Finale some 5 miles upstream along the river Panaro from Bondeno. Bologna was entered in the morning of 21 April by the Eighth Army’s Polish II Corps’ 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division and the “Friuli” Combat Group of the Italian Co-belligerent Army advancing up the line of Route 9, followed two hours later by US II Corps from the south. On 24 April, Parma and Reggio Emilia were liberated by the partisans.

U.S. IV Corps had continued their northwards advance and reached the river Po at San Benedetto on 22 April. The river was crossed the next day, and they advanced north to Verona which they entered on 26 April. To the right of Fifth Army on Eighth Army’s left wing, British XIII Corps crossed the Po at Ficarolo on 22 April, while V Corps were crossing the Po by 25 April, heading towards the Venetian Line, a defensive line built behind the line of the river Adige. As Allied forces pushed across the Po, on the left flank the Brazilian, 34th Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions of IV Corps were pushed west and northwest along the line of Highway 9 towards Piacenza and across the Po to seal possible escape routes into Austria and Switzerland via Lake Garda. On 27 April, the 1st Armored Division entered Milan, liberated by the partisans on 25 April, and IV Corps commander Crittenberger entered the city on 30 April. Turin was also liberated by partisan forces on 25 April, after five days of clashes, and on 27 April General Günther Meinhold surrendered his 14,000 troops to the partisans in Genoa. To the south of Milan, at Collecchio-Fornovo, the Brazilian Division bottled up the remaining effectives of two German divisions along with the last units of fascist army, taking on 28 April 13,500 prisoners.

On the Allied far right flank, British V Corps, met by lessening resistance, traversed the Venetian Line and entered Padua in the early hours of 29 April, to find that partisans had locked up the German garrison of 5,000.

Secret surrender negotiations between representatives of the Germans and Western Allies had taken place in Switzerland in March but had resulted only in protests from the Russians that the Western Allies were attempting to negotiate a separate peace.

On 28 April, von Vietinghoff sent emissaries to Allied Army headquarters. On 29 April, they signed an instrument of surrender to the effect that hostilities would formally end on 2 May. Confirmation from von Vietinghoff of the arrangements did not reach Allied 15th Army Group headquarters until the morning of 2 May. It emerged that Kesselring had had his authority as Commander of the West extended to include Italy and had replaced von Vietinghoff with General Friedrich Schulz from Army Group G on hearing of the plans. However, after a period of confusion during which the news of Hitler’s death arrived, Schulz obtained Kesselring’s agreement to the surrender and von Vietinghoff was reinstated to see it through.

15 April 1945

The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp is liberated.

ergen-Belsen, or Belsen, was a Nazi concentration camp in what is today Lower Saxony in northern Germany, southwest of the town of Bergen near Celle. Originally established as a prisoner of war camp, in 1943, parts of it became a concentration camp. Initially this was an “exchange camp”, where Jewish hostages were held with the intention of exchanging them for German prisoners of war held overseas. The camp was later expanded to accommodate Jews from other concentration camps.

After 1945 the name was applied to the displaced persons camp established nearby, but it is most commonly associated with the concentration camp. From 1941 to 1945, almost 20,000 Soviet prisoners of war and a further 50,000 inmates died there. Overcrowding, lack of food and poor sanitary conditions caused outbreaks of typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and dysentery, leading to the deaths of more than 35,000 people in the first few months of 1945, shortly before and after the liberation.

The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945, by the British 11th Armoured Division. The soldiers discovered approximately 60,000 prisoners inside, most of them half-starved and seriously ill, and another 13,000 corpses, including those of Anne and Margot Frank, lying around the camp unburied. The horrors of the camp, documented on film and in pictures, made the name “Belsen” emblematic of Nazi crimes in general for public opinion in many countries in the immediate post-1945 period. Today, there is a memorial with an exhibition hall at the site.

When the British and Canadians advanced on Bergen-Belsen in 1945, the German army negotiated a truce and exclusion zone around the camp to prevent the spread of typhus. On April 11, 1945 Heinrich Himmler agreed to have the camp handed over without a fight. SS guards ordered prisoners to bury some of the dead. The next day, Wehrmacht representatives approached the British and were brought to VIII Corps. At around 1 a.m. on April 13, an agreement was signed, designating an area of 48 square kilometers around the camp as a neutral zone. Most of the SS were allowed to leave. Only a small number of SS men and women, including the camp commandant Kramer, remained to “uphold order inside the camp”. The outside was guarded by Hungarian and regular German troops. Due to heavy fighting near Winsen and Walle, the British were unable to reach Bergen-Belsen on April 14, as originally planned. The camp was liberated on the afternoon of April 15, 1945. The first two to reach the camp were a British Special Air Service officer, Lieutenant John Randall, and his jeep driver, who were on a reconnaissance mission and discovered the camp by chance.

When British and Canadian troops finally entered they found over 13,000 unburied bodies and around 60,000 inmates, most acutely sick and starving. The prisoners had been without food or water for days before the Allied arrival, partially due to allied bombing. Immediately before and after liberation, prisoners were dying at around 500 per day, mostly from typhus. The scenes that greeted British troops were described by the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby, who accompanied them:

“ …Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which… The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days.
This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.

Initially lacking sufficient manpower, the British allowed the Hungarians to remain in charge and only commandant Kramer was arrested. Subsequently, SS and Hungarian guards shot and killed some of the starving prisoners who were trying to get their hands on food supplies from the store houses. The British started to provide emergency medical care, clothing and food. Immediately following the liberation, revenge killings took place in the satellite camp the SS had created in the area of the army barracks that later became Hohne-Camp. Around 15,000 prisoners from Mittelbau-Dora had been relocated there in early April. These prisoners were in much better physical condition than most of the others. Some of these men turned on those who had been their overseers at Mittelbau. About 170 of these “Kapos” were killed on April 15, 1945. On April 20, four German fighter planes attacked the camp, damaging the water supply and killing three British medical orderlies.

Over the next days the surviving prisoners were deloused and moved to a nearby German Panzer army camp, which became the Bergen-Belsen DP camp. Over a period of four weeks, almost 29,000 of the survivors were moved there. Before the handover, the SS had managed to destroy the camp’s administrative files, thereby eradicating most written evidence.

The British forced the former SS camp personnel to help bury the thousands of dead bodies in mass graves. Some civil servants from Celle and Landkreis Celle were brought to Belsen and confronted with the crimes committed on their doorstep. Military photographers and cameramen of No. 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit documented the conditions in the camp and the measures of the British Army to ameliorate them. Many of the pictures they took and the films they made from April 15 to June 9, 1945 were published or shown abroad. Today, the originals are in the Imperial War Museum. These documents had a lasting impact on the international perception and memory of Nazi concentration camps to this day. According to Habbo Knoch, head of the institution that runs the memorial today: “Bergen-Belsen became a synonym world-wide for German crimes committed during the time of Nazi rule.”

Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was then burned to the ground by flamethrowing “Bren gun” carriers and Churchill Crocodile tanks because of the typhus epidemic and louse infestation. As the concentration camp ceased to exist at this point, the name Belsen after this time refers to events at the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.

There were massive efforts to help the survivors with food and medical treatment, led by Brigadier Glyn Hughes, Deputy Director of Medical Services of 2nd Army, and James Johnston, the Senior Medical Officer. Despite their efforts, about another 9,000 died in April, and by the end of June 1945 another 4,000 had died. After liberation 13,994 people died.

Two specialist teams were dispatched from Britain to deal with the feeding problem. The first, led by Dr A. P. Meiklejohn, included 96 medical student volunteers from London teaching hospitals who were later credited with significantly reducing the death rate amongst prisoners. A research team led by Dr Janet Vaughan was dispatched by the Medical Research Council to test the effectiveness of various feeding regimes.

27 December 1945

The International Monetary Fund is established.

On December 27 1945 the International Monetary Fund was created. The idea of the fund was laid out at the Bretton Woods Conference held in the USA in 1944. The representatives of 45 governments met at the Bretton Woods Conference in the Mount Washington Hotel in the area of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in the United States. There they discussed frameworks for post-World War II international economic co-operation. The participating countries were concerned with the rebuilding of Europe and the global economic system after the war. There were two views on the role the IMF should assume as a global economic institution. British economist John Maynard Keynes imagined that the IMF would be a cooperative fund upon which member states could draw to maintain economic activity and employment through periodic crises. This view suggested an IMF that helped governments and to act as the US government had during the New Deal in response to World War II. American delegate Harry Dexter White foresaw an IMF that functioned more like a bank, making sure that borrowing states could repay their debts on time.

The International Monetary Fund formally came into existence on 27 December 1945, when the first 29 countries ratified its Articles of Agreement. By the end of 1946 the Fund had grown to 39 members. On 1 March 1947, the IMF began its financial operations, and on 8 May France became the first country to borrow from it.

These images shown here are from a series of papers on International Post War settlement, including international agreements and trade negotiations. The papers belong to the Prime Ministers Department. The department’s responsibilities included advise, administrative support and media services to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Both the External Affairs and External Intelligence Bureau came under its jurisdiction at different times.

16 November 1945

UNESCO is founded.

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The Constitution of UNESCO was signed in London on 16 November 1945 by 37 countries and came into force with its 20th ratification on 4 November 1946. The purpose of the Organization was defined as: “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.”

The main predecessors of UNESCO were the International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation, Geneva 1922-1946, its executing agency: the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IIIC), Paris 1925-1946, and the International Bureau of Education (IBE), Geneva 1925-1968. The latter has since 1969 been part of the UNESCO Secretariat with its own statutes.

A Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) started its meeting in London on 16 November 1942 and continued until 5 December 1945. 18 governments were represented. Upon the proposal of CAME and in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), held in San Francisco in April-June 1945, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London 1-16 November 1945.

44 governments were represented. On 16 November 1945 the Constitution of UNESCO was signed and a Preparatory Commission (Prep.Com.) established. The first session of the General Conference of UNESCO took place in Paris from 19 November to 10 December 1946.

30 August 1945

Hong Kong is liberated from it control by Japan by the British Armed Forces.

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The second world war, which some predicted might continue for another two years in Asia, came to an abrupt halt on August 15, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito solemnly announced the unconditional surrender of Japan, six days after the second atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki.

It was a profound moment, but a conflict of such magnitude could not be neatly wrapped up overnight. In many remote parts of Asia, the surrender, formally signed on USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay, Japan, on September 2, took months to fully implement. In Hong Kong and mainland China, the reality was more complicated than just flag-waving crowds greeting liberating troops.

There was a curious, though relatively orderly, hiatus of more than two weeks in Hong Kong between the emperor’s announcement and the day Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt’s British naval force steamed into Victoria Harbour, 70 years ago today. During that period, civilians, ex-prisoners of war and defeated Japanese military personnel could do little but sit and wait to find out what the future held.

Diaries and memoirs of individuals from that uncertain dawn of peace reveal personal and private dimensions to the cessation of hostilities. After the initial joy, many accounts are tinged with confusion, anxiety and heartbreak.

5 October 1945

A six-month strike by Hollywood set decorators takes a turn as riots break out at the gates of Warner Brothers’ studios.

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On October 5, 1945, Hollywood Black Friday or “Bloody Friday” as what they said in the history of organized labor happened in the United States. A six-month strike by the set decorators represented by the Conference of Studio Unions has boiled over into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers’ studios in Burbank, California. The strike helped the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and led to the eventual breakup of the CSU and reorganization of then rival International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees leadership. An estimated 10,500 CSU workers went on strike and began picketing all the studios resulting in delays of several films.