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

In this gallery, we look back at VE Day and the events leading up to Germany's surrender.

On 30 April 1945, with Soviet troops laying siege to Berlin, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun retired to their bunker beneath the Chancellery. Both committed suicide and 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.

VE Day Germany surrender WW2
Late April 1945: Street fighting between German and Soviet troops in Berlin during the battle to gain control of the capitalIvan Shagin/Getty Images)
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
April 30, 1945: Russian soldiers fly the Red Flag, made from tablecloths, over the ruins of the Reichstag in BerlinYevgeny Khaldei/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 1, 1945: Servicemen in New York cheer the news that Hitler died in his Chancellery in BerlinKeystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 1945: The supposed corpse of German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, found by Soviet soldiers in the ruins of the Reichskanzlei in Berlin. It turned out to be the body of a double, deliberately left in an attempt to confuse Allied troopsKeystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 1945: A Soviet soldier sits on the bed in the bunker of Hitler's Chancellery, where he and Eva Braun are believed to have poisoned themselvesKeystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
1945: War correspondents are shown the grave where Adolf Hitler's charred body is alleged to have been buried, behind the Chancellery in BerlinFred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images

By the time he had been defeated, Hitler left behind the terrible legacy of concentration camps and his plans to exterminate the Jewish race. The Nazi attempt at 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.

The Nazis set up Dachau in March 1933, weeks after Adolf Hitler took power, to detain political rivals. It became the prototype for a network of camps where six million Jews were murdered, as well as Roma, Russians, Poles and homosexuals. More than 200,000 people were being held in the camp when US troops liberated it on 29 April 1945, two weeks after the British liberated Bergen-Belsen. Pictures of starved inmates and piles of bodies were among the first images the world saw of the Holocaust.

VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 3, 1945: Young prisoners interned at Dachau concentration camp cheer the American troops who liberated the campHorace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 4, 1945: Prisoners at Dachau celebrate the liberation of the concentration camp following the arrival of the men of the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US 7th ArmyHorace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 3, 1945: Members of the 42nd Rainbow Division of the 7th Army uncover some of the horrors of the concentration camp at DachauHorace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 1945: A pile of corpses found by troops of the US 7th Army at Dachau concentration camp in Germany. These prisoners had been gased and their bodies were awaiting cremationHorace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images

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

VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 7, 1945: This instrument of surrender was signed at General Dwight D Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims 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
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 8, 1945: German General Hans-Jurgen Stumpff of the Luftwaffe, German Field Marshal and German chief-of-staff Wilhelm Keitel, and Admiral Hans-Georg Von Friedeburg of the German Navy pose before officially signing the German definitive act of surrender at the headquarters of the Soviet forces in the Berlin suburb of KarlshostAFP

Throughout Europe, peace brought 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. Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.

That night, a giant "V" from two floodlights was created above St Paul's Cathedral – a symbolic gesture for a city that had spent years in darkness.

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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
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May 8, 1945: American soldiers celebrate VE Day in Trafalgar Square with women from the Auxiliary Territorial ServiceKeystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 8, 1945: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill waves to crowds gathered in Whitehall on VE DayKeystone/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 8, 1945: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, are joined by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham PalaceIWM
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 8, 1945: Mrs Pat Burgess of Palmers Green, north London, waves a newspaper containing the news of Germany's surrender in World War II. She hopes this means that her husband will soon be home for goodReg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images
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May 8, 1945: VE Day revellers hitch a ride on a lorry in LondonCentral Press/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 8, 1945: Soldiers ride on a beer delivery truck through Piccadilly Circus on VE Day. The statue of Eros, protected during the war by advertising hoardings, can be seen in the backgroundKeystone/Getty Images
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May 8, 1945: A sailor and a civilian clamber on top of a bus stop in Whitehall, to get a better look at London's VE Day celebrationsKeystone/Getty Images
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May 8, 1945: Passing the crowds outside Buckingham Palace on VE Day, a father takes his child on a tour of London's West End in unorthodox styleReg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images
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May 8, 1945: Residents of Tilloch Street in Islington, London enjoy a tea party in the streetCentral Press/Getty Images
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May 7, 1945: An American soldier in London reads the news of the German surrender at the end of World War IIJ Wilds/Getty Images
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May 8, 1945: People in London gather around one of the many bonfires lit to celebrate VE DayTopical Press Agency/Getty Images
VE Day Germany surrender WW2
May 9, 1945: St Paul's Cathedral is floodlit during celebrations of the end of the war in EuropeStevens /Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
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May 8, 1945: New Yorkers cheer upon hearing reports of Germany's unconditional surrenderFox Photos/Getty Images
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May 8, 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
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May 8, 1945: A crowd celebrates VE Day in Montreal, QuebecMontreal Star/Library and Archives Canada/Reuters
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May 8, 1945: Military personnel and civilians celebrate VE Day on Sparks Street in Ottawa, OntarioCanada Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/Reuters