The Stories Behind Our Favorite V-E Day Photos from MyHeritage Users

The Stories Behind Our Favorite V-E Day Photos from MyHeritage Users

May 8, 1945 marked the end of one of the darkest periods in modern history. With the formal acceptance of Germany’s unconditional surrender, Europe emerged from under the shadow of the Nazi regime. Hitler was gone, Germany had collapsed, and the Allies had prevailed. The euphoria and relief felt by the people of Europe and North America was palpable — it spilled onto the streets as people gathered en masse to celebrate their freedom.

Today, in 2021, those living in countries with successful vaccine campaigns may have a small inkling of the relief one might feel having made it to the other side of an extended global crisis, but we can only imagine what it felt like to see the end of the Third Reich. Even people who didn’t witness the horrors committed by the Germans first-hand spent 6 years living in fear for their loved ones and anxiety about the fate of the world at large. There would be no returning to life as they’d known it before, but moving into this new, post-war era must have been nothing less than exhilarating.

The photos of these jubilant celebrations offer us a unique glimpse into the electric atmosphere of joy that filled the Allied countries on that day. But beyond the collective story of a world celebrating its freedom are the stories of the individuals captured in these photos. The MyHeritage Research team found some wonderful V-E Day photos from MyHeritage users and reached out to them to discover those stories. We also colorized and enhanced them using the MyHeritage photo tools.

Here’s what we found.

Roma Helfand in Toronto, Canada

The woman at the top is Roma Helfand, nee Rosenzweig. She was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1926, and emigrated to Toronto, Canada with her immediate family in 1938 — narrowly escaping the terrible fate suffered by those they left behind, who perished in the Warsaw ghetto.

This photo was taken in downtown Toronto in front of the city hall. Roma is celebrating the end of the war with her friends, who are holding up a newspaper with the headline “Unconditional Surrender.”

The Clarkes of Holly Road, Ellesemere Port, Cheshire, England

This photo captures a party organized by the residents of Holly Road in Ellesmere Port to celebrate the end of the war. Most people in the photo are women and children, since most of the men of the town were still in the frontlines. “The males were far from home and most of the residents of the town in 1945 were the mothers and their children,” says MyHeritage user Derek Clarke, whose grandfather and stepmother are standing in the middle of the photo. “My grandfather fought in WWI, and in WWII he was too old to fight, but he worked for a company that produced oil.”

June Amy Richards in Perry Barr, Birmingham, England

This photo depicts another neighborhood party in England, this time at Dewsbury Grove in Perry Barr, Birmingham. Like in the previous photo, most of the residents in attendance are women and children. June Amy Richards, 92, remembers this party well. She was there with her parents, and remembers how despite the tight food rationing toward the end of the war, everyone seemed to find an amazing amount of food to bring to the party!

June remembers that her father installed a metal “Anderson shelter” behind their house as the war began, and then piled soil over the roof and used the area to grow vegetables for extra food. She remembers having to get out of bed and run to the cold, damp shelter when the air raid siren sounded, and then wait, trying to get some more sleep, until the all-clear. She remembers feeling cold and bored rather than afraid.

Marilyn Byford in Chelmsford, Essex, England

The baby on the right edge of the picture is MyHeritage user Marilyn Byford, currently 77, from the U.K., held in the arms of her mother, Grace Reeve (nee Pilgrim).

The picture was taken during a party in Cramphorn Road, Chelmsford, Essex. Marilyn’s grandparents moved there with their children in about 1912 from Suffolk, travelling by horse and cart.

“When my mum died in 2013, I found a copy of this picture and kept it,” says Marilyn. “Sadly, Cramphorn Road, the place where this photo was taken in 1945, was demolished in the 60s and a new estate was built there.”

“My mother had memories from the war,” Marilyn says, “and she used to tell me how lucky she was to survive it. She was in a factory that was bombed — the siren went off, and naturally some people ran to the right, some to the left. She remembered there was a gentleman that said to her, ‘Come with me, dear, I’m always lucky.’ She listened to him, and survived, while most of those who went the other way died.”

Sarah Shai in Helwan, Egypt

The photo was taken on V-E Day in the British Air Force base at Helwan in Egypt. In the center of the photo is Sarah Shai (nee Berferman), grandmother of Tzahi Friedman — a 49-year-old MyHeritage user from Israel.

“My grandmother and grandfather, the late Sarah and Avraham, were born in Tel Aviv, Israel,” says Tzahi. “They both volunteered for the British Army during World War II, after the ‘Hebrew settlement’ was called upon to help in the war against the Nazis. During her service, my grandmother volunteered to serve in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). It is also interesting to note that my grandmother enlisted in the British Army while her father (Isaac Berfman), who also served in the British ranks, was captured by the Nazi army. In the picture my grandmother is with her friends at the same time wearing a Greek tunic. To this day I’m not sure why they decided to wear this particular outfit, but I’m sure it was some kind of joke that was associated with the victory over the Nazis.”

Betty Schroder in Glasgow, Scotland

In Glasgow, people started to gather early in the morning and stayed in George Square, where a parade passed through during the day.  The celebrations went on, not only until late into the night, but over the course of 3 days, with the factories closed and a 2-day public holiday.

The lovely woman waving from the left fender is Betty Schroder, mother of Stan Schroder, who lives in Perth, Australia.

Many thanks to the users who shared their V-E Day photo stories with us! If you have historical photos of your ancestors, you can upload them to MyHeritage and use the Photo Enhancer and MyHeritage In Color™ to bring them to life.