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VE Day: The fall of Nazi Berlin in pictures

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Image caption Berlin finally fell after more than two weeks of brutal street-by-street fighting

After nearly four years of intense fighting, Soviet forces finally launched their assault on Berlin on 16 April 1945.

Nazi Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and killed tens of millions of the country’s civilians and soldiers.

But now, Adolf Hitler’s Germany was on its knees. A depleted and disorganised garrison faced off against two full Soviet army groups attacking from the east and south.

In total, some 1.5 million Soviet troops encircled and then assaulted the capital. It was the last major offensive of the war in Europe.

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Image caption Soviet forces encircled the city and attacked on the ground and from the air
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Image caption Civilians tried to flee the city as Soviet forces advanced

Adolf Hitler refused to leave the capital, spending the last days of his life underground in the so-called Fuhrerbunker in the centre of the city.

He last appeared above ground on his 56th birthday – 20 April 1945 – to award medals to those defending the city.

That same day, Soviet forces began to shell the city centre. Berlin was completely surrounded by 23 April.

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Image caption The Nazis used old men and children to defend their capital – here Adolf Hitler awards medals to boy soldiers
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Image caption In total about 1.5 million Soviet troops encircled and assaulted the capital of Nazi Germany

Nazi forces were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, and could do nothing but slow the Soviet advance.

On 30 April 1945, Hitler killed himself, the day after marrying Eva Braun. Their bodies were taken above ground and burned in a bomb crater nearby.

Not long afterwards, Soviet forces captured the Reichstag. A famous staged photo shows a Soviet soldier lifting the flag of the USSR above the historic parliament building.

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Image caption The famous image of a Soviet flag hoisted over the Reichstag

The city officially surrendered on 2 May, though fighting continued until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May.

Berlin itself was left in ruins. Occupying Soviet troops gave out bread and essentials, but some soldiers also committed atrocities against civilians.

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Image caption The city was badly damaged in the fighting
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Image caption Soviet forces gave out soup and bread to civilians who remained after the fall of the city

Berlin was occupied by the victorious Allied powers after the war.

Civilians began to clear up the city, and the leaders of the US, UK and USSR all met in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam just months after the war ended to shape the peace.

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Image caption Civilians quickly began the long task of clearing up the city
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Image caption British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Berlin in July 1945, and sat on a chair outside Hitler’s bunker

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