The Allied victory in 1945 was the result of a series of costly final attacks on Germany. In the west, American, British, Canadian, and French forces completed the liberation of occupied countries and penetrated deep into Germany. From the east, the Soviets
broke through Germany’s final defences and besieged Berlin in a ferocious assault that resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties. From the air, American, British, and Canadian bombers continued to pummel German cities until the target list dwindled.
Together, the two corps made the First Canadian Army complete and they fought side-by-side for the first time since the beginning of the war. The Canadians’ were tasked mainly with the liberation of the Netherlands, whose people were devastated by
starvation. There was much very hard fighting in these final weeks of the war. Thousands of Dutch civilians in major cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam or Utrecht were saved by food and fuel parachuted in by Allied aircraft or driven through German
lines in trucks during a truce established in the western Netherlands on this front on 28 April. The grateful Dutch greeted their Canadian liberators with great enthusiasm, forging bonds of amity and shared memories of the war unbroken to the present
Canadians also came face-to-face with the war’s worst atrocity: the Holocaust, Nazi Germany’s systematic extermination of Jewish people and others, claiming millions of lives. On 12 April 1945, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division freed nearly 1,000 Dutch
Jewish prisoners from Kamp Westerbork, a transit camp the Germans had abandoned. Three days later, British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen, a notorious camp complex with more than 60,000 emaciated prisoners. Some Canadian service members later assisted
in providing vital aid to camp survivors.