Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 8, 1945 - VE Day: Lieutenant Chaim Herzog's Letter

On May 7, 1945, at 2am--after 5 years, 8 months and one week of bloodshed in the Second World War bloodshed--Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies in the city of Reims in France. The surrender became formal in Western Europe on May 8. That day, close to midnight, another surrender ceremony took place, in accordance with Soviet demands, in Berlin. This difference in dates is the reason that VE day is celebrated in the USA and Western Europe on May 8, while it is celebrated in former Soviet Union states (and in Israel, on the same dateline as Moscow) on May 9. Thus ended the Second World War in Europe. (The war in the Far East would end in mid-August that year.) This costliest, most deadly conflict in history took the lives of more than 60 million, including 6 million Jews, who were murdered in the Holocaust.

At the same time Chaim (Vivian) Herzog, son of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Isaac (Yitzhak) Herzog, and future President of the State of Israel, served as an intelligence officer in the British 32nd Guards brigade of the British Second Army, which took part in conquering Northwestern Germany. In autumn 1944, Herzog met his relatives who survived the Nazi occupation in Paris, not including his cousin Annette Goldberg who was deported to Auschwitz. Herzog hoped (in vain) that she might have survived. In May 1945, Herzog visited the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, a short time after it was liberated by the British Army. On May 5, Herzog was present at the surrender of the German forces between the rivers of the Weser and the Elbe to the British 30th Corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks.

Chaim Herzog in British Army uniform, 1944
Photographer: David Eldan, Government Press Office
On the morning of May 8, Herzog wrote to his parents and his brother Yaakov (later a senior diplomat in Israel's Foreign Service and the director-general of Israel's Prime Minister's Office) expressing his happiness and telling them about his latest experiences, including his participation in the surrender of the German army.

No comments:

Post a Comment