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The Berlin Surrender Pens

(This page revised March 20, 2024)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

On May 9, 1945, the German surrender document executed at Karlshorst, Germany, ending World War II in Europe, was signed with several pens. What were they, who used which one, and where are they now?
The Karlshorst HQ

The Soviet High Command Headquarters in Karlshorst, Germany.
Credit: Russian State Archives. Used under 17 U.S.C. §107, Fair Use.

The Prelude

The Signing

A new Instrument of Surrender was written, adhering to the form set out by the EAC, and typed up in English, Russian, and German, including the stipulation that the English and Russian versions were the only authoritative texts. The Allied signatories gathered at the appointed time, and that was when things started to go wrong. The French members of the party quickly pointed out that the Tricolore, the French flag, was not to be found among the flags that were placed, each on its own staff, in a fan array on one wall of the hall. The Soviet hosts, quick to oblige, had the requisite flag manufactured on the spot — but the first attempt produced the flag of the Netherlands (left below), and a second flag, correctly French (right below), had to be made.

Netherlands flagFrance flag

There exists a motion picture of the surrender, produced by the United Newsreel Corporation and now in the U.S. National Archives; but the inherently poor video quality of the film’s image makes it possible to positively identify only the pen, to be discussed later, that was used by the two witnesses to the signing.

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The Germans

Soennecken 1310
Keitel signing
Keitel signing close-up
Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel signs the German Instrument of
Surrender, Karlshorst, Germany, May 9, 1945. U.S. Army photo.

As can be seen in the photo above and the two following, the same young Soviet officer, serving as a sergeant at arms, stood next to each of the Germans, handling the papers and watching carefully as the men signed.

Von Friedeburg seems to have had a knack for being present at surrender ceremonies. After having headed the German delegation that surrendered to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath on May 4, he had accompanied Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, who was the only German signer of the Act of Military Surrender at Rheims on May 7. Now he was the second person to sign at Karlshorst. After changing seats so that he was in the chair formerly occupied by Keitel, he signed in the space to the left of Keitel’s signature, using one of the two dip pens on the table. The other dip pen can be seen on the table just beyond the document. The inkwell, the blotter, and the pen von Friedeburg used are visible in the photo above.

Von Friedeburg signing
Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg signs the German Instrument
of Surrender, Karlshorst, Germany, May 9, 1945. U.S. Navy photo.

At the time of the signing, Stumpff was the de-facto commander of the Luftwaffe, having had that unofficial position thrust upon him by Hitler‘s having unceremoniously relieved Hermann Göring from all his positions, expelled him from the party, and ordered his arrest. Stumpff was therefore the third and last German signatory at Karlshorst. He used the same dip pen that von Friedeburg had used before him, signing in the right-hand space left by Keitel.

Stumpff signing signing
Generaloberst Hans-Georg von Stumpff signs the German Instrument
of Surrender, Karlshorst, Germany, May 9, 1945. U.S. Army photo.

The Allies

The Soviet headquarters in which the ceremony took place had been established by Marshal Zhukov for himself and his staff in mid-April, shortly after the April 16 opening of the Battle of Berlin. As the chief Soviet official present, and arguably the best commander in the Red Army, Zhukov hosted the surrender ceremony. As the host, he wore a full-dress uniform and maintained a cold military bearing throughout. At the beginning of the ceremony, he stood and read aloud the Instrument of Surrender; he then spoke not a word until after the signing was finished. When the Germans had all signed, Zhukov signed with his personal pen, an unidentified model that was of either Soviet or German manufacture.

Zhukov signing
Zhukov signing close-up
Marshal Georgy Zhukov signs the German Instrument of Sur­ren­der, Karlshorst, Germany, May 9, 1945. U.S. Army photo.

As noted earlier, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, as the supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, would have been the logical choice to sign on behalf ot the Western Allies, but because he outranked Marshal Zhukov, he chose to yield the honor to his second-in command, Deputy Supreme Commander Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, who was Zhukov’s equal in rank.

During the war, Eisenhower had received several Parker “51” pen sets as gifts from his old friend Kenneth Parker, and because he could not use all of them he took pleasure in passing them on to those around him. Tedder signed with a “51” that he had received from Eisenhower. The clip on this pen had been sprung outward as a result of Tedder’s having kept the pen in the pocket of his uniform; the fabric of British uniforms was thicker than that used by the Americans, and wartime Parker clips, which were made of silver-gold vermeil instead of gold-filled brass, were notorious for their lack of springiness. Tedder’s pen was Yellowstone, a yellowish brown color, shown here by a representative pen.

Parker “51”
Tedder signing
Tedder signing close-up
Air Vice Marshal Arthur Tedder signs the German Instrument of
Surrender, Karlshorst, Germany, May 9, 1945. U.S. Navy photo.

The Witnesses

Following the protocol established at the Rheims surrender, the official signatures were witnessed by two additional officers, but when it was their turn to sign, neither was able to produce a pen. Not wanting to sign with either of the dip pens that were on the table, de Lattre borrowed a pen from his chief of staff, Colonel André Demetz. De Lattre signed and then handed the pen to Spaatz, who signed the surrender — and then decided he would just keep the pen as a souvenir. De Lattre had to ask for it back so that he could return it to Demetz. I have yet to identify this pen.

de Lattre signing
De Lattre signing close-up
General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny signs the Ger­man Instrument of Surrender, Karlshorst, Ger­ma­ny, May 9, 1945. Photo © 1945 Associated Press. Used under 17 U.S.C. §107, Fair Use.

With Spaatz’s signature, the surrender was complete, and World War II in Europe was finally ended. The signing had taken less than four minutes.

Instrument of Surrender

The Aftermath

The Christian Science Monitor’s May 9, 1945, Second Edition carried on page 11 what was perhaps the most incisive description of the chilly atmosphere in the hall. Of the end of the signing ceremony, it reported as follows:

As the signing was completed Marshal Zhukov rose and said coldly in Russian, “I now request the German delegation to leave the room.” Marshal Keitel rose, snapped together the folder in which he was carrying his copy, and marched out haughtily followed by the other Germans.

Soviet staff quickly cleared the room and redressed it for a banquet, which of course included large amounts of champagne and vodka. The party, according to those who were present, lasted for approximately five hours. There was dancing, and whether it was the alcohol or the high spirits (or both), a gleeful Marshal Georgy Zhukov was seen to be performing a Russian folk dance.

This article is one in a series about the historic pens used at the official German and Japanese surrenders that ended World War II.

  1. In French, and in English today, the name of the city is spelled Reims. In English, it was formerly spelled Rheims, and that is how it appears in the English copies of the surrender documents. For historical continuity, I have chosen to adhere to that convention.  Return

  2. The surname of the Soviet emissary at Rheims is customarily spelled Susloparov in English, but his signature on the Act of Military Surrender reads Sousloparov. For historical continuity, I have chosen to adhere to that version. The spelling in Russian (Суслопаров) is the same for either transliterated version.  Return

  3. Heer = the army branch of the Wehrmacht.  Return

  4. Butcher, Harry C., My Three Years with Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR, Naval Aide to General Eisenhower, 1942 to 1945 (New York: Simon &Amp; Schuster, 1946), 834.  Return

  5. The Flensburg Government was the rump government under Großadmiral Karl Dönitz that was set up by Nazi Germany upon the suicide of Adolf Hitler. It lasted about three weeks before being replaced by the Allied occupation.  Return

  6. Quoted from the narration of the United Newsreal film.  Return

  7. Clifton Webb, eyewitness account for the London Daily Herald.  Return

  8. Generaloberst = Colonel General.  Return

  9. Generaladmiral = Admiral General. This flag rank, between Admiral (U.S./British Admiral) and Großadmiral, (U.S. Fleet Admiral/British Admiral of the Fleet), had no direct equivalent in the U.S. or British systems.  Return

  10. Because the actual signing occurred on May 9, the Soviet Union considered that date, not May 8, to be the official end of the Great Patriotic War, and the Russian Federation still does so.  Return

  11. Many pen lovers have misidentified this pen as a Pelikan 100 or 100N. The proportions of the cap crown are not correct for either Pelikan model, and the pen overall is thicker than the famously slender Pelikans, especially considering the extended length of the Pelikans when posted. When taken together, the pen’s proportions and the broad engraved cap band adjacent to the gentle curve of the cap lip are unique to the Soennecken No 1310 “Medicus.”  Return

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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