At Dönitz's urging, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and General Alfred Jodl attempted to direct what was left of the Wehrmacht towards the armies invading from the west.
On 4 May Dönitz sent Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, his successor as naval commander in chief, to the headquarters of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at Lüneburg, with orders to negotiate a surrender to the Western Allies. Montgomery informed Admiral Von Friedeburg that only unconditional surrender to all the Allies was acceptable, and that this was non-negotiable. Nevertheless, authorized by Dönitz, Von Friedeburg signed an instrument of surrender for all German troops in the Netherlands, Denmark and Northwestern Germany, which was accepted by Montgomery on behalf of the Allied Powers. This 4 May surrender, which became effective at 8:00 am on 5 May, included the Flensburg area (being part of Northwestern Germany), and thus meant Dönitz's seat of government could no longer be defended and would soon come under Allied control.
After the partial 4 May surrender, Dönitz instructed von Friedeburg to go to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force to negotiate terms for a general surrender with General Eisenhower. Since Von Friedeburg's meeting with Montgomery, the British and American position of not accepting a German surrender to the Western Allies only had been made clear to the Germans; the Western Powers insisted on unconditional surrender, including cessation of hostilities with their Soviet allies.
On the next day, 5 May, Von Friedeburg arrived at General Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters at Rheims, France, to negotiate a total surrender. Jodl arrived a day later. Dönitz had instructed them to draw out the negotiations for as long as possible so that German troops and refugees could move west to surrender to the Western Powers. Eisenhower made it clear that the Allies demanded unconditional surrender. When it was obvious that the Germans were stalling, Eisenhower threatened to close the front unless it stopped. Had this happened, German soldiers attempting to cross the line to surrender would be fired on and all subsequent surrenders would have to be to the Soviets. When Dönitz learned this, he radioed Jodl full powers to sign the unconditional German Instrument of Surrender at 1.30 am on the morning of 7 May. Just over an hour later, Jodl signed the documents. The surrender documents included the phrase, "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 23.01 hours Central European Time on 8 May 1945." U.S. Army General Walter Bedell Smith (Eisenhower's chief of staff at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) signed on behalf of the Western Allies (the Western Allies had a unified command structure, and formed a single expeditionary force, the "Allied Expeditionary Force"; thus one representative signed for all the Western Allies), and General Ivan Susloparov (the Soviet liaison officer at SHAEF) signed on behalf of the Soviets. French Major General François Sevez signed as the official witness.
As soon as the Soviets learned that the Act of Military Surrender had been signed at General Eisenhower's headquarters in Rheims, they demanded that the act of surrender be repeated in Berlin, at Marshal Georgiy Zhukov’s headquarters. General Susloparov didn't have the necessary powers to accept the surrender on behalf of the Soviet High Command, and as soon as he tried to radio Soviet Headquarters in Berlin to inform them that the instrument of surrender had been signed, he saw orders not to sign the documents. Given this situation, Susloparov and the representatives of the Western Allies present at Rheims extracted from Jodl a written undertaking that the Germans would execute a "formal ratification" of the Act of Military Surrender that had just been signed.
A second instrument of surrender was accordingly signed at Soviet Headquarters in Berlin on 8 May shortly before midnight. Marshal Zhukov signed for the Soviet High Command, and the British Marshal of the Royal Air Force A.W. Tedder signed on behalf of the Western Allies (Tedder acted as Eisenhower's representative at the Berlin ceremony, and signed "on behalf of the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force", in his capacity as Deputy Supreme Commander). French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and U.S. Army Air Forces General Carl Spaatz signed as the official witnesses. The Allies had demanded that representatives of the German Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the High Command of the Armed Forces, should sign the ratification of unconditional surrender. Complying with that demand, Dönitz's message appointing the German representatives and granting the necessary powers authorised Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel to sign as representative of the High Command of the Armed Forces and also as representative of the Army, named Admiral Von Friedeburg to sign as the representative of the German Navy, and appointed General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff to sign for the German Air Force. Thus empowered by Dönitz, Keitel, Von Friedeburg and Stumpff signed the second instrument of surrender in Berlin as the representatives of Germany. At the time specified, World War II in Europe ended. On 9 May, Dönitz issued orders to the German Armed Forces regarding the surrender.
Read more about this topic: Flensburg Government
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