World War II ended 70 years ago today with the unconditional surrender of Germany's armed forces. Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945, and his successor signed the surrender instrument in Berlin eight days later, a day after a similar document was signed in Reims, France. The highpoint of Soviet/American cooperation, the military defeat of the Third Reich, was quickly replaced by suspicion and recriminations and, in short order, the Cold War.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of memorials in Berlin to World War II. One of them, a Soviet War Memorial, is in Treptower Park in what used to be East Berlin. The photo below was taken in the late summer of 1983. I toured East Berlin with the other members of my class from Berlin's "School of Standards," a course introducing all new American soldiers to the special responsibilities of serving in Berlin. The memorial is actually a mass grave of approximately 5,000 soldiers from the Red Army who were killed in the Battle of Berlin in the spring of 1945. It's a moving memorial, a haunting place, and the picture, which I've posted on this blog before, nicely connects the high and low points of the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States during the 20th century.