VE Day: France celebrates liberation from fascism and Macron's victory over Le Pen

Newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron appeared alongside outgoing leader Francois Hollande to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and the end of World War Two in Europe. This was Macron's first official engagement as president-elect, less than 24 hours after the independent centrist declared he had beaten the present day forces of extremism in the shape of his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.

Macron and Hollande lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in ParisStephane de Sakutin/AFP
Veterans attend the ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during WWII under the Arc de Triomphe in ParisStephane de Sakutin/AFP
President-elect Emmanuel Macron and outgoing President Francois Hollande attend a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in ParisPhilippe Wojazer/Reuters
A person holds a mask of National Front presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, as people gather with French and European flags near the Eiffel Tower and a banner with the message, "France tells Hate: Never Again" the day after presidential electionsPascal Rossignol/Reuters
Gendarmes secure the Champs Elysees next to a newsstand with a magazine cover showing French President elect Emmanuel MacronEric Gaillard/Reuters
Outgoing French President Francois Hollande and President-elect Emmanuel Macron attend a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de TriompheStephane de Sakutin/AFP
The motorcade of French president-elect Emmanuel Macron and outoing president Francois Hollande drives down the Champs Elysse after attending the ceremony to mark Western allies' World War Two victory in EuropeDavid Ramos/Getty Images
French president-elect Emmanuel Macron greets veterans during a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Nazi GermanyFrancois Mori/AFP
Outgoing French president Francois Hollande and president-elect Emmanuel Macron hug during the ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Nazi GermanyStephane de Sakutin/AFP
French president-elect Emmanuel Macron and outgoing president Francois Hollande attend the ceremony under the Arc de TriompheStephane de Sakutin/AFP
People wave French and EU flags to celebrate the defeat of the French far-right party Front National during a rally in front of the Eiffel Tower in ParisFrancois Guillot/AFP
Veterans attend a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in ParisFrancois Mori/AFP

On 7 May 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender at the Allied headquarters in Reims, France, to take effect the following day, ending the Second World War in Europe.

On 30 April 1945, with Soviet troops laying siege to Berlin, Adolf Hitler and his lover Eva Braun retired to their bunker beneath the Chancellery. Both took their own lives. Charred remains, believed to be theirs, were found in a nearby bomb crater. It was the end of the Third Reich, which Hitler claimed would last 1,000 years.

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30 April 1945: Russian soldiers fly the Red Flag, made from tablecloths, over the ruins of the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945Yevgeny Khaldei/Hulton Archive
1 May 1945: Servicemen in New York cheer the news that Hitler died in his Chancellery in BerlinKeystone/Getty Images

Hitler left behind the horrific legacy of concentration camps and his plans to exterminate the Jewish race. The Nazi genocide left more than six million dead, with the Jews of Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union being the most numerous among the victims. Up to 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, perished at Auschwitz during Nazi Germany's wartime occupation of Poland. It was the centrepiece of Hitler's "final solution" – the eradication of Jews across Europe.

3 May 1945: Young prisoners interned at Dachau concentration camp cheer the American troops who liberated the campHorace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images

Germany's surrender was authorised by Hitler's successor as German head of state, Karl Dönitz. The instrument of military surrender was signed on 7 May in Reims, France, and on 8 May in Berlin.

7 May 1945: This instrument of surrender was signed at General Dwight D Eisenhower's headquarters in Rheims by General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Staff of the German Army. At the same time, he signed three other surrender documents, one each for Great Britain, Russia, and FranceOffice of War Information

Throughout Europe, peace led to massive rejoicing. Released from the black-out and long hours in the war factories, the people of Britain swarmed out into the streets to celebrate.

In London, crowds gathered to hear Prime Minister Winston Churchill's radio broadcast, piped through loudspeakers in Trafalgar Square. They flowed up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Churchill, appeared on the balcony. Future monarch Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.

May 8, 1945: Crowds gather in Trafalgar Square in London to celebrate VE day, held to commemorate the official end of Britain's involvement in World War IIFred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images
8 May 1945: People look at crowds on the Champs Elysees Avenue from the top of the Arc de Triomphe as Parisians gather in the streets to celebrate the unconditional German surrenderAFP

Hollande says his successor's inauguration will be on Sunday (14 May). The president added the transfer of power would take place just a week after Macron's election as the youngest president in modern France, with 66% of the vote.

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