Solemn commemoration services and street parties drew huge crowds yesterday as Europe celebrated the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat and the end of the continent's most devastating war.
Prince Charles wore naval uniform as he laid a wreath before London's monument to the dead of both World Wars, while US President George W. Bush paid tribute to American lives lost in the 1939-45 conflict at a cemetery in the Netherlands.
"On this day, we celebrate the victory they won and we recommit ourselves to the great truth that they defended: that freedom is the birthright of all of mankind," Bush said at Margraten, Europe's third-largest cemetery for America's war dead. He was joined in the event by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also attended ceremonies in their countries to mark the close of World War II in Europe.
Thousands of people, including Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, travelled to a former Nazi death camp in Austria to mark its liberation.
Russia paid the heaviest price of any nation for Adolf Hitler's aggression, losing some 27 million soldiers and citizens. Around 6 million Jews were murdered during World War II, which cost some 50 million lives in total. China and Poland also suffered massive losses, as did Germany, Japan, Britain, France, the United States and many other countries.
By comparison, some 10 million people perished in World War I, the previous most bloody conflict in Europe.
In London, meanwhile, World War II veterans and hundreds of other spectators watched Prince Charles place a wreath of blood-red poppies at the Cenotaph memorial in honor of some 260,000 Britons who died fighting Nazi Germany and her allies - mainly Japan and Italy.
Queen Elizabeth II will lead national commemorations on July 10, which has been named Britain's main day of commemoration, and some veterans expressed disappointment at the modest scale of yesterday's Victory in Europe Day event at the Cenotaph.
"We are all disappointed that the queen and the Prime Minister (Tony Blair) are not here, when we arrived we looked around and thought that this was a nonentity," said 83-year-old former Royal Air Force Corporal Leonard Hamer.
At the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Chirac laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier watched by troops from the many nations that united to crush Hitler.
They included Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and the United States.
At the former Mauthausen death camp in Austria, thousands took part in a ceremony to remember some 100,000 inmates killed by the Nazis there.
It was the last big Nazi death camp still operating when the US Third Army's 11th Armoured Division arrived in early May 1945.
About 6,000 of the camp's victims were Spaniards, enemies of fascist Spanish leader General Francisco Franco.
Poland's main VE Day celebrations took place on Saturday in the western city of Wroclaw. Yesterday, Prime Minister Marek Belka paid homage to soldiers who fought in WWII in a ceremony before Warsaw's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
(China Daily May 9, 2005)