8 May in History: Nazi Germany surrenders, Javed Burki, JS Mill, Joan of Arc and small pox





World War Two in Europe ends as Germany signs the Instrument of Surrender

Marshall Georgy Zhukov is seen here reading the terms of surrender. Marshall of the British Royal Air force Arthur William Tedder is seated beside him.


Representatives of the Supreme Command of the Red Army, the United States, United Kingdom and Germany sign the German Instrument of Surrender in Berlin on May 8, 1945, bringing World War II in Europe to an end.

The surrender was signed after Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April and Red Army troops captured Berlin the previous week. While fighting in Europe came to an end, the war itself would continue till the dropping of Atomic bombs over Japan and subsequent surrender by the Japanese forces.

The day is celebrated as Victory in Europe Day in the West on May 8 but Victory Day is celebrated in Russia on May 9, when the agreement actually came into effect.

“We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High Command, hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to the Supreme High Command of the Red Army all forces on land, at sea, and in the air who are at this date under German control,” read a part of the surrender agreement.

Between 50-80 million people, more than 3 per cent of the world population at the time were killed in roughly six years of war. The Soviet Union suffered the most – between 20 to 27 million deaths, followed by China – which lost between 15 to 20 million people.


Javed Burki is born


Javed Burki is born on 8 May, 1938 in Meerut, British India. He played 25 test matches for Pakistan between 1960 and 1969 with a batting average of 30. 47 and went on to become a referee for the ICC. The Oxford University graduate ultimately joined the Pakistan Civil Services soon after retiring from cricket and served at a number of posts.


Smallpox is eradicated


The World Health Organisation announces the eradication of the Smallpox disease on May 8, 1980. It is not clear how many perished in fighting the 10,000 year old disease, but 2 million died as recently as in 1967 alone.

Oswald Spengler dies

Oswald Spengler dies on May 8, 1936 at the age of 55. The German historian is widely renowned as the author of the two-volume The Decline of the West which laid out his theory of world history.

Heavily influenced by Nietzsche and Goethe, Spengler likened all cultures to organic organisms with predictable and limited lifespans. He saw cultures as having a thousand years of prosperity and a thousand years of decline and predicted that the decline of western civilisation would begin around the year 2000. For him, all cultures move through a period of ‘seasons’- The Spring when a culture identifies its basic principles (religion or core philosophy) and Autumn, which he describes as a ‘civilisation’ when the prosperity achieved in the past slowly begins to crumble away.

Spengler also identified a total of eight “High Cultures” – Babylonian, Indic, Sinic, Egyptiac, Mesoamerican, Magian (Jews, Early Christian & Muslims), Faustian (post 10th – century West) and Classical/Apollonian.

Joan of Arc lifts the Siege of Orleans


A painting by Jan Matejko depicts Joan of Arc leading the military escort for King Charles VII for the Crowning ceremony in the city of Reims.

A 17-year-old teenage girl, Joan of Arc lifts the siege of Orleans in 1429, marking a decisive French victory over the English during the Hundred Years’ War. She led the final charge of French forces against the English besiegers, forcing them to withdraw from the city.

Joan of Arc has been celebrated in France ever since as a Heroine and has been an integral part of popular culture ever since.

The English, who could not stomach a 17-year-old peasant girl defeating its army, thought that she was possessed by the devil. In 1430, one year after her victory at Orleans, she was ambushed, captured and put to trial by a pro-English bishop.

Proclaimed guilty of heresy, she was burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431 at the age of 19.



David Attenborough is born

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is born in Middlesex, England on May 8, 1926. The British Naturalist and Television presenter has worked with the BBC on a number of documentary television series over the course of his career and helped to popularise science all over the world. A strong advocate of science and environmental preservation, he has also authored a number of books.

He is widely renowned for the Life and Planet Earth series and has one of the most recognisable narrative voices in the industry.



John Stuart Mill dies

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”


John Stuart Mill, the British Philosopher and Civil Servant dies at the age of 66 on May 8, 1873. One of the most influential thinkers in Western Philosophy, he made significant contributions to and was a major proponent of Liberalism and Ethical Utilitarianism. ‘On Liberty’, published in 1859, is widely considered to be his most important work.

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
– John Stuart Mill

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