Elbe Day

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In an arranged photo commemorating the meeting of the Soviet and American armies, 2nd Lt. William Robertson (U.S. Army) and Lt. Alexander Silvashko (Red Army) stand facing one another with hands clasped and arms around each other's shoulders. In the background are two flags and a poster. ElbeDay1945 (NARA ww2-121).jpg
In an arranged photo commemorating the meeting of the Soviet and American armies, 2nd Lt. William Robertson (U.S. Army) and Lt. Alexander Silvashko (Red Army) stand facing one another with hands clasped and arms around each other's shoulders. In the background are two flags and a poster.

Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, is the day Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany, marking an important step toward the end of World War II in Europe. This contact between the Soviets, advancing from the East, and the Americans, advancing from the West, meant that the two powers had effectively cut Germany in two.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Elbe major river in Central Europe

The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia, then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km (68 mi) northwest of Hamburg. Its total length is 1,094 kilometres (680 mi).

Torgau Town in Saxony, Germany

Torgau is a town on the banks of the Elbe in northwestern Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district Nordsachsen.

Contents

Elbe Day has never been an official holiday in any country, but in the years after 1945 the memory of this friendly encounter gained new significance in the context of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Cold War Geopolitical tension after World War II between the Eastern and Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. The historiography of the conflict began between 1946 and 1947. The Cold War began to de-escalate after the Revolutions of 1989. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 was the end of the Cold War. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany and its allies, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.

History

The first contact between American and Soviet patrols occurred near Strehla, after First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue, an American soldier, crossed the River Elbe in a boat with three men of an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. On the east bank they met forward elements of a Soviet Guards rifle regiment of the First Ukrainian Front, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gardiev. The same day, another patrol under Second Lieutenant William Robertson with Frank Huff, James McDonnell and Paul Staub met a Soviet patrol commanded by Lieutenant Alexander Silvashko on the destroyed Elbe bridge of Torgau. [1]

Strehla Place in Saxony, Germany

Strehla is a small town in the district of Meißen, Saxony, Germany. It is located on the river Elbe, north of Riesa. This place name means arrow in Sorbian. Strehla includes the following subdivisions:

A lieutenant is the junior most commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police and other organizations of many nations.

On April 26, the commanders of the 69th Infantry Division of the First Army and the 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Guards Army met at Torgau, southwest of Berlin. Arrangements were made for the formal "Handshake of Torgau" between Robertson and Silvashko in front of photographers the following day, April 27.

69th Infantry Division (United States)

The 69th Infantry Division, nicknamed the "fighting 69th," was a Division of the United States Army formed during World War II. It is distinct from the 69th Infantry Regiment.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

The Soviet, American, and British governments released simultaneous statements that evening in London, Moscow, and Washington, reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital of and largest city in England and the United Kingdom, with the largest municipal population in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Moscow Capital city of Russia

Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 13.2 million residents within the city limits, 17 million within the urban area and 20 million within the metropolitan area. Moscow is one of Russia's federal cities.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city, located on the Potomac River bordering Maryland and Virginia, is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Commemorations

At the 2015 commemoration of Elbe Day, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak bows his head after laying a wreath at the Spirit of the Elbe marker in Arlington National Cemetery. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak bows his head after laying a wreath at The Spirit of the Elbe marker in Arlington National Cemetery (16638416373).jpg
At the 2015 commemoration of Elbe Day, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak bows his head after laying a wreath at the Spirit of the Elbe marker in Arlington National Cemetery.

Monuments at Torgau, Lorenzkirch, and Bad Liebenwerda commemorate the first encounters between U.S. and Soviet troops on Elbe Day. In the United States, a "Spirit of the Elbe" plaque at Arlington National Cemetery commemorates the day.

Bad Liebenwerda Place in Brandenburg, Germany

Bad Liebenwerda is a spa town in the Elbe-Elster district, in southwestern Brandenburg, Germany. It is situated on the river Schwarze Elster, 57 km northwest of Dresden, and 28 km east of Torgau.

Arlington National Cemetery Military cemetery in the United States

Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., in whose 624 acres (253 ha) the dead of the nation's conflicts have been buried, beginning with the Civil War, as well as reinterred dead from earlier wars. The United States Department of the Army, a component of the United States Department of Defense (DoD), controls the cemetery.

In 1949 the Soviet film studio Mosfilm commemorated Elbe Day in the black-and-white film Encounter at the Elbe .

During the Cold War the meeting of the two armies was often recalled as a symbol of peace and friendship between the people of the two antagonistic superpowers. For example, in 1961 the popular Russian song "Do the Russians Want War?" evoked the memory of American and Soviet soldiers embracing at the Elbe River.

Joseph Polowsky, an American soldier who met Soviet troops on Elbe Day, was deeply affected by the experience and devoted much of his life to opposing war. He commemorated Elbe Day each year in his hometown of Chicago and unsuccessfully petitioned the United Nations to make April 25 a "World Day of Peace." His remains are buried in a cemetery in Torgau.

American singer-songwriter Fred Small commemorated Joseph Polowsky and Elbe Day in his song "At The Elbe".

In 1988 a plaque titled "Der Geist der Elbe" ("Spirit of the Elbe") was mounted on a stone near Torgau at the site of the encounter between troops of the U.S. 69th Infantry and the Soviet Guards.

In 1995 the Russian Federation issued a three-ruble coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of Elbe Day. [2]

By 2010, the 65th anniversary of the event, Elbe Day events in Torgau were held annually on the weekend closest to April 25, attracting tourists to the city. [3] Also in 2010, the U.S. and Russian presidents for the first time issued a joint statement on April 25 commemorating Elbe Day and the "spirit of the Elbe". [4] [5]

The meeting at the Elbe is represented in the war strategy game R.U.S.E. , released in 2010 and 2011 and based loosely on World War II events.

See also

Citations

  1. Time Magazine
  2. "3Rubles The Liberation of Europe from Fascism. The Meeting on the Elbe". numista.com.
  3. Vetter, Rene (2010). "Elbe Day - english" . Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  4. "Russian and U.S. presidents issue statement marking Elbe Day 65th anniversary". RIA Novosti. 2010-04-25. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  5. Xuequan, Mu (2010-04-26). "Medvedev, Obama issue joint statement marking 65th Elbe Day anniversary". English.news.cn. Xinhua News Agency.Missing or empty |url= (help)

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