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What Happened After VE Day?

On 8 May 1945 millions of people across the world celebrated Allied victory in Europe. But VE Day did not signal an end to the Second World War. Allied servicemen who had fought their way through Europe prepared for their transfer to the Far East and the Pacific, where fighting would continue for three more months. The possibility of redeployment was a stark reality for many soldiers. British troops jokingly redefined the acronym for the British Liberation Army (BLA) - the designation for the force sent into action in north-west Europe - as 'Burma Looms Ahead'.

VE Day marked the start of the political, economic and physical reconstruction of the continent. In June 1945, 50 countries signed the United Nations Charter and pledged to maintain international peace and security. Millions of refugees and displaced persons, whose lives had been violently uprooted by the war, began the long and difficult process of recovery and repatriation. Leading Nazi officials faced trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Between 17 July and 2 August, the leaders of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union met at Potsdam to confirm the division of Germany and the nature of its occupation. The relationship between the former wartime Allies, although tense from as early as 1942, became increasingly strained as they struggled to reach agreement on the shape of post-war Europe.

The United States and the Soviet Union had emerged as ideologically opposed 'superpowers', each wanting to exert their influence in the post-war world. In a speech given on 5 March 1946, less than a year after the war’s end, Churchill delivered the words that would come to define much of the post-war era: 'From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent'.