“The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.
Top secret document sent by General Eisenhower to his superior officers to inform them that his mission was fulfilled - Germany was defeated and the war in Europe was over.
-from the Eisenhower Library
Truman and Stalin, in Color
Another great color photo of President Truman with someone you might not expect – Joseph Stalin.
Truman and Stalin met while attending the Potsdam Conference in Germany in July of 1945, shortly after the end of World War II in Europe.
History happened here - Watch JFK deliver his famous Berlin speech in Rudolph Wilde Platz.
“Ich bin ein Berliner” - JFK, Berlin, 6/26/63
On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech that electrified a crowd gathered in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. As he paid tribute to the spirit of Berliners and to their quest for freedom, the crowd roared with approval upon hearing the the President’s dramatic pronouncement, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).
President Kennedy used this handwritten note card while delivering his speech. On it, he phonetically spelled German phrases from his speech, including “Ish bin ein Bearleener.” Read More
The Unconditional Surrender of German
On May 7, 1945, the European conflict of World War II ended when Germany signed an unconditional surrender at Allied headquarters in Rheims, France.
In this photo, Colonel General Gustaf Jodl, German Chief of Staff signs the documents of unconditional surrender, under which all remaining forces of German Army are bound to lay down their arms.
On Jodl’s left is General Admiral Von Friedeburg of the German Navy, on his right is Major Wilhelm Oxenius of the German General Staff.
-from the FDR Library
The Fall of The Berlin Wall
“I’ve just arrived from Berlin. It is like witnessing an enormous fair. It has the atmosphere of a festival. The frontiers are absolutely open. At certain points they are literally taking down the wall and building new checkpoints. At Checkpoint Charlie, thousands of poeple are crossing both ways.”
On November 9, 1989, the East German government announces that border crossings into Western Europe will once again be allowed. Unexpectedly, checkpoint guards open the gates allowing crowds from both sides of the divided city to celebrate together.
The images of happy people from East and West embracing and celebrating around the Berlin Wall still resonate as the moment of German Unity. In fact, the fall of the wall raised more questions about German unity than answers. No one knew whether West Germany’s allies and protectors would allow a reunited and fully sovereign Germany or whether the Soviet Union would tolerate a united Germany in NATO. The task of integrating East Germany’s command economy with West Germany’s social market system was fraught with challenges.
Despite the uncertainty, the unification process was worked out in the next year, and East and West Germany officially became one on October 3, 1990.
These images show the west-side of the Berlin Wall, circa 1988.
-from the George Bush Library
“Things are going very, very well. I am in Berlin. There were one million people here last night at the very spot where the Wall used to stand -“
-Chancellor Kohl of Germany on the German Reunification Process
On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany were reunified, one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This memo transcribes the brief conversation which occurred between President George Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, describing the reunification celebration.
Making the Impossible Decision
On August 12, 1961, immediately before the construction of the Berlin Wall this couple makes the decision to pass their son over barbed wire to West Berlin.
The original caption:
A German fate at the fence of barbed wire!
It may be that a couple from Berlin will never see each other again because it became separated by the drawing of the line across Berlin. On August 12, one day before Ulbricht had ordered to surround West Berlin with barbed wire, a man was flying into West Berlin. His wife should follow him a few days later as the little son was still in a holiday-camp. In the meantime the nearly impenetrable “iron curtain” was drawn around West Berlin. The couple met at the fence of barbed wire. The “Vopo” guard was indulgent and allowed the meeting. The couple discussed their situation and they decided that the little son shall grow up in freedom. At a moment when the “Vopo” did not watch them the mother handed the child over the barbed wire.
The Berlin Wall
In the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, the people of East Berlin were awakened by the rumbling of heavy machinery barreling down their streets toward the line that divided the eastern and western parts of the city.
Groggy citizens looked on as work details began digging holes and jackhammering sidewalks, clearing the way for the barbed wire that would eventually be strung across the dividing line. Armed troops manned the crossing points between the two sides and, by morning, a ring of Soviet troops surrounded the city. Overnight, the freedom to pass between the two sections of Berlin ended.
This image is from the JFK50 interactive timeline.