On the 75th anniversary of VE Day we're exploring some of the maps that tell this compelling story...
The Map Archive Commemorates VE Day
On 7 May 1945, after the final fall of Berlin, Germany surrendered to the Allied powers, and that surrender was officially accepted on the following day, 8 May, which is VE (Victory in Europe) Day. Ecstatic celebrations erupted in both the UK and USA, but the aftermath of World War II brought displacement, devastation and, ultimately, the Cold War. On this 75th anniversary, we're exploring some of the maps that tell this compelling story.
The Fall of Berlin
On 16 April the Soviets began their advance on Berlin from the east, north and south, engaging the Germans in a gruelling battle for the Seelow Heights, which overlooked the most direct route westwards. Marshal Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front began shelling Berlin’s city centre on Hitler's birthday, 20 April. Facing defeat, the Germans tried to fight their way through the Soviet lines, extending west of the city, and suffered terrible losses. Now exposed to Marshal Zukhov's relentless advance, Berlin's increasingly depleted and desperate defenders fought house-by-house and street-by-street, but on 28 April the Soviets crossed the River Spree, opening the way to the Tiergarten, Gestapo headquarters and the Reich Chancellery. On 30 April Hitler and others of the Nazi high command shot themselves or took poison in the Führerbunker. The city’s garrison surrendered two days later.
After World War II, Europe faced a refugee crisis. The International Refugee Organization was formed in 1946 to establish processing facilities for the estimated 11 million people who had been left displaced or stateless as a result of the conflict. Large numbers emigrated or remained in the temporary refugee camps that spread from northern Germany to Sicily.
Immediately after the Potsdam and Yalta agreements in 1945, the Soviet Union consolidated its control in eastern Europe, installing puppet regimes in Soviet-occupied territories and heightened tension between the Soviet Union and NATO members made discussions about repatriation difficult. The Cold War had begun.
The 'Marshall Plan', (or 'European Recovery Program', ERP) was authorized by President Harry Truman and named after US Secretary of State George Marshall. Over four years about $17 billion, representing roughly 5 percent of US GDP, was to be spent on the promotion of a stable and prosperous western Europe to provide a bulwark against the expansion of the communist USSR. The biggest recipient was the UK, with 26 percent of the aid, 18 percent went to France and 11 percent to West Germany.