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World War II: What does May 8th represent in France?

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The May 8 concert will be held without an audience on Saturday May 8, 2021 in Paris, on the Champs Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe.
The May 8, 2021 concert in Paris, on the Champs-Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe, without an audience. (© Presidency of the Republic)

If it is easy to remember that May 1st, a public holiday, is Labor Day, it is not always easy for everyone to explain it. Why May 8 is also a public holiday in France.

This year falls on a Sunday, and, as in every year, it will lead to a commemoration, especially by the President of the Republic. Because May 8, 1945 marked the « end of the war in Europe »Remember the French government.

What happened on May 8, 1945?

After several years of war and terror in Europe, the Allied forces landed in France in June 1944 and advanced toward Germany, entering in February 1945.

“Three days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker, on April 30, the Nazi forces defending Berlin surrendered on May 2, 1945,” the French government recalls.

In this context, the unconditional surrender of Germany was signed in Reims on the night of May 6-7 by the Wehrmacht’s Chief of Staff.

The Surrender Act establishes the cessation of hostilities for May 8 at 11:01 p.m. Then a new procedure for the surrender of the Third Reich was signed in Berlin between the German military command and the Allied military command. The war officially ends on the European continent.

French government

May 8, 1945: The end of World War II in Europe only

However, May 8, 1945 did not mark the end of World War II, but only the victory of the Allied forces in this conflict in Europe.

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Because conflict continues in Asia in particular, between the United States and Japan, vie-publique.fr completes. Emperor Hirohito announced on August 15, 1945 the atomic bombing of the United States on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945), then Nagasaki (August 9, 1945), as well as the Soviet attack in Manchuria. Japan surrender.

The true end of World War II was thus marked by the signing of Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945.

Since when is May 8th a public holiday?

May 8th hasn’t been a holiday all the time since the end of World War II in Europe.

In 1946, a law passed to commemorate the Allied victory on this date, only if it was a Sunday, otherwise the Sunday after May 8.

In 1953, May 8 became a public holiday, before the deputies of the Fifth Republic changed this decision, in favor of the second Sunday in May.

In 1968, May 8th again became the date of remembrance, without being a public holiday.

In 1975, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing canceled the commemoration of the victory over Nazi Germany, replacing it with Europe Day « in order to revive Franco-German reconciliation. »

Finally, in 1981, May 8 was declared a public holiday “in memory of the end of World War II and its fighters”.

Since then, rituals indicate that every 8 May, the President of the Republic reviews troops on the Place de l’Étoile, re-ignites the torch of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and lays a wreath.

government

On Sunday, May 8, 2022, Emmanuel Macron, the day after his inauguration for his second term, will chair this ceremony in Paris.

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