Torgau Elbe

Starting in the summer of 1944, Germany were pushed back on all fronts. In the west, the western allies advanced towards the german homeland and in the east the soviet Red army had forced the germans to retreat on a broad front. In 1945, both fronts came together and approached each other at a rapid pace. April 25, 1945, at the town of Torgau, about 50 kilometers east of Leipzig, american and soviet troops met for the first time. This occured when an American reconnaissance patrol crossed the river Elbe and met with Soviet troops on the river’s eastern shore. The next day, the meeting was officially recreated between west and east, and this time between the commanders of respective units. Additional photographs were taken on April 27. At this time the most famous photo was taken when American and soviet soldiers shaking hands on the destroyed bridge over the Elbe. This bridge had been blown up by the retreating Germans on April 25.

Current status: Demolished with monument (2011).

Location: 51°33'31.45"N 13°00'36.07"E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

This meeting was initially used as a symbol of a new friendship between west and east. But soon after the war ended the friendship was gone and a new war occured on the horizon, this time a Cold war. The old bridge was rebuilt the same year (1945) but was replaced in 1993 by a new modern bridge next to the old one. Attempts were made to save the old bridge as a historical memorial, but that didn’t happen and the bridge was demolished in 1994. Only part of the bridge foundation on its west side remains. About 100 meters north of this there is a memorial dedicated to the meeting April 25, 1945. The monument is a typical Soviet monument. simply because Torgau ended up in what became communist East Germany after the war.

Follow up in books: Beever, Antony: Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (2004).