Europe marked the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied forces in a low-key way due to restrictions on coronavirus locking across the continent.
The big celebrations planned have been canceled or considerably reduced, and European citizens have been invited to mark the moment in private.
Unlike the UK, Victory Day is a traditional public holiday in France, but it was clearly much darker this year, the country being subject to strict coronavirus lockdown.
Small ceremonies were allowed at local memorials, the government having granted exceptions to restrictions at the request of mayors and veterans.
President Emmanuel Macron led a small ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. He laid a wreath and rekindled the flame of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on a deserted avenue on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Mr. Macron was accompanied by former presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, each attentively observing social distancing. Mr. Macron used a hand sanitizer after signing the official register.
He also laid a wreath on the statue of one of his predecessors, Charles de Gaulle, the general revered for having led the French Resistance from London after the fall of France in 1940.
He urged people to display flags on their balconies to honor the resistance fighters and the forces of Free France.
Although VE day is a very different occasion in Germany, it is also considered a day of release.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior officials have laid wreaths at the Memorial to the Victims of War and Violence in Berlin, standing in silence as a trumpet plays on an empty Unter den Linden boulevard.
“The corona pandemic forces us to commemorate alone,” said President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He recalled that, on May 8, 1945, “the Germans were really alone” and “morally ruined”.
“We have made an enemy of the whole world,” he said in a national television speech, adding that 75 years later “we are not alone.”
Steinmeier stressed the responsibility of the Germans to “think, feel and act as Europeans” in this time of crisis and to deal with intolerance as soon as it emerges.
“We Germans can say today that liberation day is a day of gratitude,” said Steinmeier. “Today we must free ourselves – from the temptation of a new nationalism; fascination with the authoritarian; distrust, isolation and hostility between nations; hatred and turmoil, xenophobia and contempt for democracy. “
“If we do not keep Europe united during and after this pandemic, we will prove that we do not deserve May 8,” he said.
Merkel spoke by phone with Macron, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark the moment.
Russia, then part of the Soviet Union, claimed tens of millions of lives during the war. It marks the day of VE Saturday