On April 30, Hitler took his own life. Shortly afterwards, Germany surrendered.
“Many thoughts were passing through my mind in those happy minutes. The difficult battle for Moscow where our soldiers had been fighting to the death while not letting the enemy enter our capital, Stalingrad in its ruins, thousands of destroyed towns and villages, millions and millions of victims of the Soviet nation that survived and won. So here it was. The final destruction of fascist Germany, the goal for which we had sacrificed ourselves for the last four years.”– Marshall Georgy Zhukov , from his memoirs
In Berlin and the rest of Germany, some Soviet soldiers now celebrated victory just as they had in Budapest, though those horror stories were eclipsed by the joyful, optimistic propaganda of the time. Behind the scenes, problems between Stalin and the Western Allies continued.
The Soviet leader still had not held the promised free elections in Poland, and the British and Americans refused to recognize Stalin’s Polish puppet government . Concerned about Stalin’s behavior, Churchill asked his military planners to consider a worst-case scenario: a British military attack on the Soviet Union. Called “Operation Unthinkable,” the final report, completed on concluded that “the result of a total war with Russia is not possible to forecast, but the one thing certain is that to win it would take us a very long time.”
U.S. president Harry Truman sent Harry Hopkins , one of Roosevelt’s most trusted aides, to meet with Stalin. The two men reached a compromise when they met in the Kremlin on May 27. Until elections took place, Poland’s government would include a few of the Poles favored by the West. But it was Stalin who had really won this long fight, since his own puppet politicians comprised a majority. Poland’s free elections, not surprisingly, did not take place for decades.
On June 24, 1945, an enormous victory parade was held in Moscow, celebrating not only Soviet success against the Nazi invaders, but also the triumph of the Red Army across Eastern Europe. The war in Europe was over, but Stalin still had some unfinished business.