May 8, 1945: The Liberation of Prague

Liberation Day is a national holiday celebrated in the Czech Republic on 8 May each year. This is the same date as the celebration known as V-E Day, VE Day or Victory in Europe Day that is celebrated across much of Europe.

As the names suggest, the day signifies the victory of the Allied forces against the Axis forces at the end of World War II in 1945. In particular, the Czech Republic celebrates Liberation Day as the day its people were freed from Nazi rule. The day was originally celebrated on 9 May, but this was changed in 1989 to 8 May. Some people call the holiday Liberation from Fascism Day.

On May 8, with Allied troops approaching from west and east, the Czechs negotiated a cease-fire with the Germans. The situation was now critical; the Czechs lacked the machinery and the weaponry to continue fighting the Germans, and the city’s Old Town was in flames. Part of the cease-fire was a guarantee, from the Germans, that the city would not be harmed further. The Czechs knew that, with help on the way, the cease-fire would be far more beneficial to them than it seemed on the surface.

A previous agreement between American and Russian forces stated that the Red Army would be the one to liberate Prague; however, some American Army forces had come as far as the suburbs of Prague, and some negotiators persuaded General Toussaint, commander in charge of the German forces, to agree to the cease-fire.

On May 9, 1945, the Red Army entered Prague. The city had been saved; its currently UNESCO – protected monuments were, for the most part, intact. And the war was, now, finally over.

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