Eastern Europe 1939-1945: Berlin

How should we report the fall of Berlin?

Extract from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s statement officially announcing the defeat of Germany 1945

Catalogue ref: FO 371/46785

Extract from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s statement officially announcing the defeat of Germany 1945
Extract from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s statement officially announcing the defeat of Germany 1945

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What is this source?

This source is an extract from Prime Minister Churchill’s official announcement to the British Parliament that the war against Germany was over.

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The official date was May 8th 1945 and it became known as VE-Day, that is, Victory in Europe Day.


What’s the background to this source?

After Hitler’s early successes in 1940 only Britain and her Empire allies stood against Germany. However, Hitler attacked the USSR in 1941 and gave Britain an ally. Throughout the war Britain, and then the USA, supplied the USSR with supplies and equipment by air and by dangerous sea convoys. They also played their part in defeating Germany by invading occupied France in June 1944 and then advancing on Germany. However, there is little doubt that the USSR actually took on the major share of the fighting against German forces and also suffered the highest casualties.

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One of Hitler’s key aims in WW2 was to invade and destroy the Soviet Union and build a German empire in Eastern Europe. He invaded the USSR in June 1941 and at first it looked like he would succeed. However, he was stopped by the Russian winter in 1941 and then by stubborn Soviet resistance in 1942-3. By the start of 1943 the tide began to turn against the Germans. By 1944 all German forces were driven out of the USSR. By 1945 the Red Army was moving into Germany and it took Berlin in May 1945.


It’s worth knowing that...

Before the war Churchill was a bitter opponent of the USSR’s Communist system of government and he made no secret of the fact that he did not trust Stalin. However, once they became allies the relationship between Churchill and Stalin improved. They did admire each other. Even so, it was doubtful whether they ever really trusted each other.

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In 1943 Churchill commented in an official telegram about the activities of the USA and British forces in the Mediterranean. He declared that: ‘Our present activities in the Mediterranean, important though they are, could only be regarded as an inadequate contribution compared with the efforts which Russia was making’.


How will you use this source?

  1. What was Churchill announcing?
  2. Why was the ceasefire not being followed in all areas?
  3. What does Churchill say about the Soviet Union?
  4. What does this tell you about the Soviet contribution to Germany’s defeat?
  5. Are there any parts of this source you could use in your script for your task using the starter source film clip?

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