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May 8, 1945 The day WWII ended

May 8, 1945 marked the official end of the Second World War in Europe. The announcement of the end of hostilities was welcomed with joy and relief in most European countries – neutral Switzerland included. Photographers of the period captured this historic day on film.

It is 70 years since the Second World War ended in Europe – it would continue until early September in Asia. Surrounded by Soviet troops in the chancellery bunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30. A few days later, on May 8, the German military authorities surrendered.

The conflict, which began on September 1, 1939, is the worst ever experienced by humanity. Over 50 million people died – both soldiers and civilians. Entire cities were reduced to rubble; countries were ruined and devastated. The jubilation that can be observed when the end of the conflict was announced reflects the extent of the catastrophe.

Neutral Switzerland was one of the few countries in Europe to escape the conflict. Nevertheless, the war was also felt by the population in the mobilisation of troops, the fear of invasion, many kinds of restrictions and the arrival of refugees and prisoners of war. As a result, Switzerland also welcomed May 8, 1945 with joy and relief. However, the attitude of the Swiss during the war, which was judged too close to Nazi Germany, later became the subject of controversy.

(Images: RDB, Keystone, text: Olivier Pauchard,

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The citizens' meeting

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