April 25th 1945: Elbe Day
On this day in 1945, during the Second World War, Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe in Germany - the day is now known as Elbe Day. The event was a momentous show of unity of the Allied Powers as the war drew to a close while the Allies advanced towards Berlin. The first contact was between an American delegation led by First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue of the 3rd Battalion, 273rd Infantry, 69th Infantry Division, who took his men across the river and were greeted by Russian Lt Col Alexander Gardiev, Commander of the 175th Rifle Regiment of the 58th Guards Division, 34th Corps. The two groups agreed on a formal handshake to be photographed the next day. Each side commended the other, with Moscow holding a gun salute and US General Omar Bradley praising the Soviet success in pushing the Germans back from Russia. A few days after the Elbe meeting, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler committed suicide and Germany soon surrendered - the war was finally over.
"We meet in true and victorious comradeship and with inflexible resolve to fulfil our purpose and our duty. Let all march forward upon the foe."
- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
"This is not the hour of final victory in Europe, but the hour draws near, the hour for which all the American people, all the British people and all the Soviet people have toiled and prayed so long."
- US President Harry Truman
"Our task and our duty are to complete the destruction of the enemy to force him to lay down his arms and surrender unconditionally. The Red Army will fulfil to the end this task and this duty to our people and to all freedom-loving peoples."
- Soviet leader Joseph Stalin