The Second World War in Europe ended in the spring of 1945 with the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. The fate of the German people now lay in the hands of the four victorious powers, the USA, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France. Germany and Berlin were placed under a shared four-party administration.
In 1939 the Second World War started in Europe with the German invasion of Poland. Hostilities soon spread to western and northern Europe. The German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941 transformed it into a global conflict, leading Great Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union to enter into a war-time alliance. France achieved the status of the fourth Allied power in the beginning of 1945.
With Germany’s unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945 in Berlin’s Karlhorst district, the Allies had achieved one of their central war aims. By way of the Berlin Declaration of 5 June 1945 the four-power military authorities assumed supreme authority in Germany and Berlin. Henceforth the decisions of the victorious powers, individually in their respective zones and jointly in the Allied Control Council for Germany as a whole, became the law of the land. The capital of the vanquished German Reich, Berlin, was occupied by all four powers.
At the final Allied conference of the Second World War, the Potsdam Conference, the Allies agreed on occupation policies concerning demilitarisation, denazification, democratisation, decentralisation and reparation. However, mounting tension between the Western powers and the Soviet Union created a situation in which essential decisions were no longer taken jointly but separately by the military governments in their respective zones and sectors of occupation.
After the Soviet troops had occupied the Reichstag on 1 May 1945, German defeat was imminent. On 2 May, Soviet intelligence received a radio message from the German 56th Armored Corps requesting an armistice. Later that morning, corps commander General Helmuth Weidling signed the order of surrender, which was then conveyed to all soldiers of the Berlin garrison.
The army of the Soviet Union conquered Berlin in April/May 1945. Two months later the Western Allied troops also entered the city. On 4 July 1945, the American Independence Day, U.S. troops officially took charge of their occupation sector in southwest Berlin. In September 1994, after almost 50 years, the Allied troops withdrew from Berlin.
On 5 June 1945 the supreme commanders of the Western powers met for the first time with their colleague from the Soviet Union. In Berlin-Wendenschloss they signed the Berlin Declaration, proclaiming the unconditional surrender of Germany and the assumption of supreme authority by the four victorious powers.
German Emperor Wilhelm II had Cecilienhof Palace built for his son Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife, Crown Princess Cecilie. It was the last palace built by the Hohenzollern dynasty that ruled Germany until 1918. The use for the Potsdam Conference in 1945, made it world famous.
The building of the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin was used as a SS guest house during the Second World War. It currently houses a memorial whose permanent exhibition, ‘The Wannsee Conference and the Genocide of European Jews’, provides information on the history of the persecution of Jews.
On 26 April 1945, Berlin Tempelhof Airport came under the control of Soviet combat troops led by General Vasily Chuikov. With ready for take-off aircraft parked in underground hangars, Tempelhof provided the last escape route for the Nazi leadership and was therefore a priority in Chuikov’s attack plans.
On 16 April 1945, the Soviet forces started to encircle Berlin in a pincer movement. Five days later first Soviet units entered Berlin from the east and fought their way to the city center. On 2 May, two days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, all remaining German forces in Berlin were ordered to surrender.
In the summer of 1945, world history was written in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. The three government leaders of the victorious powers met in person to discuss the new order in Europe and Germany. The results of the conference were contained in the Potsdam Agreement.
With the unconditional surrender of the German Armed Forces on 8 May 1945, the Second World War ended in Europe. The surrender took place in Berlin’s Karlshorst district, where the Soviet forces had set up their main headquarters after the fall of Berlin.
A memorial plaque placed at a site in the Wendenschloss quarter of Berlin on Niebergall Street recalls a historic event. Here stood a villa called the Waldgaststätte (forest inn) where on 5 June 1945 the commanders-in-chief of the four victorious powers signed the Berlin Declaration referring to future dealings with occupied Germany.