The Three Surrenders

The Surrender in Berlin

During some difficult correspondence between General Eisenhower and Soviet General Antonov, it was agreed that another signing of a German surrender should take place in the Soviet High Command HQ in Karlshorst, Berlin and that Marshal Georgi Zhukov would represent the Red Army. This ceremony has been referred to as a "ratification of the Reims document" and "a more formal ceremony of surrender".

The Soviet HQ at the former German Engineering School in Karlshorst on the 7th May 1945.
Photo credit: Russian State Archives.

For reasons of protocol, Eisenhower appointed Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder as his representative. The Allied delegation also included General Spaatz, General de Lattre de Tassigny and Admiral Harold Burrough.

The Soviets insisted that the German delegation be more senior than the Reims signatories and General Field Marshal Keitel, Admiral von Friedeburg and Colonel General Stumpff (heads of the army, navy and air force) were flown from Flensburg to Tempelhof Airport in a US aircraft.

General Field Marshal Keitel (Army), Admiral von Friedeburg (Navy) and Colonel General Stumpff (Air Force).

The western delegation flew from Reims to Tempelhof Airport and arrived at the former German Army Engineering School in Karlshorst before noon on the 8th May 1945.

The initial meeting between Tedder and Zhukov had to be delayed due to the late arrival of Stalin's representative, Andrei Vyshinsky.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Marshal Georgi Zhukov and Andrei Vyshinsky

An issue that quickly arose was the absence of the French flag in the surrender hall. This problem was finally solved by the Russians making one......although the first attempt produced the Dutch flag.

A more serious issue concerned who of the western allies would witness the document of surrender. Following some timely vodka and food, it was agreed that General de Lattre de Tassigny (France) and General Spaatz (USA) could witness the document but on a line lower than that of the principals (Tedder and Zhukov.....British/US and USSR).

The final problem was that several sentences were missing from the Russian text of the surrender documents, causing a delay of just over one hour. It was therefore just after midnight on the 9th May 1945 when Marshal Zhukov called the meeting to order and ordered the German delegation to enter the should be remembered that the time of surrender agreed in Reims (23:01hrs CET on the 8th May 1945 ) had now already past.

The German delegation in the surrender room at Karlshorst with their aides standing behind.

The Soviet press were difficult to control and "surged forwards until they all but engulfed the top table, pushing and struggling amongst themselves to thrust their cameras within inches of Keitel's furious face while he signed. Reporters stood on chairs until other reporters pushed them off"....from the eye witness account of Clifford Webb of the Daily Herald.

General Keitel signs the Instrument of Surrender.

Marshal Zhukov signs the Instrument of Surrender.
Surrender images: Bundesarchiv.

When it was time for the witnesses to sign, it was discovered that neither had pens. However, by 00:20hrs on 9th May 1945 the ceremony was complete and the Germans were ordered to depart.

As the time of signing was past midnight and therefore the 9th May 1945, this date became the official victory celebration day in the USSR and Eastern Bloc.

Great confusion surrounds the timings of this ceremony but the authoritative Deutsche Welle (Germany's international broadcaster) published an article in 1970 which attempted to confirm these details. However, other articles and books indicate that the ceremony was over by 23:45hrs CET on the 8th May 1945 which, in Moscow time, was already the 9th May 1945.

An extract from the Russian Karlshorst document which ratified the date and time of surrender agreed at Reims.

The final page from the Russian version of the surrender document....von Friedeburg, Keitel and Stumpff.
Followed by.......Tedder, Zhukov and witnessed by Spaatz and
de Lattre de Tassigny.

The conference room was quickly cleared and turned into a banqueting hall. There then followed five hours of good natured eating, drinking, toasting, hand shaking, back-slapping and loud music.

Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Zhukov and General Spaatz drinking one of many toasts.
The familiar head of interpreter Lt Cherniaeff  can be seen in the background.

For additional images of the Karslhorst surrender location click this link.