From the Arc de Triomphe to Gdansk, Europe celebrates

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With moments of memory or military pomp, Europe is marking 70 years since defeating the Nazis in a war that changed the continent forever. The observations began overnight in Poland and will continue through the weekend.

“With this signature, the German people and armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victor’s hands,” Alfred Jodl – a general in Adolf Hitler’s army until the dictator killed himself a week before – said after signing the Nazis’ surrender in 1945. “In this war, which has lasted more than five years, both have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world.”

A previously unthinkable number of people died in Europe during World War II – 8 million Germans, 5.6 million Poles, 24 million Soviets, plus over 6 million European Jews – many of them at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. The war killed 60 million in Europe and Asia, an estimated 45 million of them civilians.