75 years ago, the world sighed in relief. After six gruesome years and over 70 million lost lives, World War II was finally over. May 8, 1945, marked both the end of a ruthless regime and the war in Europe. The Allied Forces had brought the German Wehrmacht to its knees, and at 11:01 p.m., the war in Europe was officially over. In the U.S. and the UK, the day is celebrated as “Victory in Europe Day,” and for decades, May 8 (and in some cases May 9) has been a holiday in various European countries – but not in Germany. However, for its 75th anniversary, the Day of Liberation has been declared a one-time holiday in Berlin.
“Today we are laying the cornerstone of the American Memorial Library. It is to be open to all who desire to enter and learn what men of all nations and all beliefs have thought and written. It is the freedom to learn, to study, to seek the truth. This is the essence of a free society. This is the source of our greatest strength.”
It’s the year 1952 – a hot June day in West Berlin. The city’s mayor, Ernst Reuter; U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John McCloy; and American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, are laying the cornerstone for the first American public library in Germany, the Amerika Gedenkbibliothek (American Memorial Library). In his speech, Acheson not only gives hope to the people of Berlin – who live in a divided city after a horrendous war – he also delivers a message that is perhaps more topical than ever.