This day in 1945, near the end of World War II, marked the first time the troops of the Western Allies and the Soviets came into direct contact in Germany. It was a turning point because the territory of the Third Reich was then divided into two separate parts. The Soviets and Americans met at the Elbe River, approximately 120 kilometers south of Berlin.
The first contact with the Soviets at the Elbe was made by American Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue, who crossed the river in a boat with three other soldiers. On the east bank of the river they met Soviet troops from the First Ukrainian Front. The Soviet commander at that location was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gardiev. The first meeting took place in the small town of Strehla, which lies on the Elbe River between Dresden and Torgau. Interestingly, the name of that place “Strehla” comes from the Sorbian word for “arrow” (many places in eastern Germany have names of Slavic origin).
It should be noted that the war was not over yet. In fact, Hitler was still alive in Berlin, and some of the minor Axis nations (such as Croatia) were still in the war. Indeed, much of Austria and the Czech Republic were still held by the Axis powers.