May 8, 1945, is the date celebrated by the Allied nations of World War II as the end of the conflict in Europe. The Axis powers in Europe, led by the Nazi party, gave up the fight about a week after German leader Adolf Hitler committed suicide, and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was executed by Italian partisans on April 25. These deaths, combined with the high number of Axis soldiers being taken prisoner, ended any chance of an Axis victory in Europe.
Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, grand events were being planned across the U.S. and abroad to mark the end of the historic conflict. But the spread of the virus has resulted in most of these events being canceled. In their place, nations and organizations have announced ways for individuals to celebrate the day marking peace in Europe from their safety of their homes.
Officials in the United Kingdom have declared May 8 a national bank holiday. Queen Elizabeth II, the only living head of state to serve in the war, will deliver a message through the BBC at 9 p.m. from Windsor Castle exactly 75 years after her father delivered his V-E Day speech to the nation. It’s 3 p.m. here when her address is to be broadcast.
In Paris, French President Emanuel Marcon will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.
Here in the United States, the Department of Defense has a V-E day toolkit available online available for download. It explains what V-E Day is and ways to celebrate. The toolkit was released before the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. so suggestions of group activities should likely be avoided.
The First Division Museum has several suggestions online for ways to mark the occasion through virtual commemorations. One can plan a toast to video celebrations. They also have several educational curriculum and videos about the day for teens and adults.
Even amid a global pandemic, we can find ways to remember the sacrifices of our grandparents and great-grandparents who helped the Allies to victory. Whether raising a toast to acknowledge the work at home and abroad that led to victory or taking a moment of silence to remember the millions who lost their lives in the deadliest conflict in world history, we can remember that an overwhelming challenge can be overcome with a collective effort.