Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

All over Europe, the Lights Come on Again News of the Peace Reaches a Small Town in Austria; British Prisoners Walk Free as German Soldiers Trudge Home Series: WOLRD WAR II COMMEMORATING THE FINAL YEAR. FIFTH IN A SERIES. Today the Monitor Continues a Yearlong Series of Articles That Examine World War II and Its Aftermath. Other Articles Ran Jan. 30, Feb. 13, March 6, and April 10. Former Monitor Writer Joseph C. Harsch Covered World War II from Washington, D.C., the Pacific, and Europe

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

All over Europe, the Lights Come on Again News of the Peace Reaches a Small Town in Austria; British Prisoners Walk Free as German Soldiers Trudge Home Series: WOLRD WAR II COMMEMORATING THE FINAL YEAR. FIFTH IN A SERIES. Today the Monitor Continues a Yearlong Series of Articles That Examine World War II and Its Aftermath. Other Articles Ran Jan. 30, Feb. 13, March 6, and April 10. Former Monitor Writer Joseph C. Harsch Covered World War II from Washington, D.C., the Pacific, and Europe

Article excerpt

VICTORY Day in Europe was a big and exciting event in all the major cities of the Grand Alliance, but on the battlefields in Germany, it came quietly.

Combat had largely ceased on all those battlefields when the news spread after April 30, 1945, that Hitler had committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. Fighting had already ceased along the western front after Eisenhower's troops closed on the Elbe River.

They first reached the Elbe on April 11. As the units came up to the river, they no longer had an enemy in front of them. No German tried to recross the Elbe. Those German units still under orders East of the Elbe were concerned with the Russians coming at them from the east, and by then most German commanders were retreating in front of the Russians in the hope of surrendering to the Western Armies.

All along the Western front after April 30, individual German commanders and various German government officials were establishing lines of communication to the Allies. I was in Salzburg, Austria, on May 5 and was invited to accompany a truce party through the German lines the next morning. The purpose was to reach the headquarters of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, who then was commander in chief of German forces in West Europe.

We set off in early morning on May 6, a convoy of several jeeps and a radio communication van. In the first jeep was a German staff officer wearing an overcoat with red lapels. As we passed the last Allied checkpoint and headed toward the first German position, the officer stood up and showed himself as prominently as possible. Fortunately he was seen as we rounded a turn and faced the muzzle of a German antitank gun. We were allowed to pass. All our vehicles flew large white flags.

We had driven along without further incident through largely forested and mountainous country for perhaps an hour when we heard a large explosion up ahead. We soon came to a place where the road, which at that point was clinging to the side of a mountain, had been blown off. That part of the German line was held by an SS unit that had refused orders to let our convoy pass. We had no chance of getting through. So back we went to Salzburg for the night, and started off again the next morning, May 7.

This time taking a different route, we sailed through without incident, passing through the resort town of Kitzbuhel, Austria. We ended up in the evening at Zell-am-See, Austria, a small resort on a lake. We were housed in a hotel (which I revisited years later and found unchanged). The commanding officer of the unit went off to confer. The rest of us settled in the lounge of the hotel to listen to the news on the radio.

One word came over the radio loud and clear, waffenstillstan. Everyone there knew enough German to figure out what was being reported. An armistice had been signed at Eisenhower's headquarters at Reims, France.

I looked out over the lake and saw a light come on over on the far shore, then another and another. In a minute or so, lights came up all around the lake until it was ringed with a necklace of light.

Soon the lounge door opened and in came a soldier in a British uniform. He said that the guards had opened the gates of his prison camp and gone away. …

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