Where is the signed original of Reichspräsident Dönitz's authorization to German representatives to ratify the "Instrument of surrender signed at Berlin" stored today?

Is a facsimile of the original available online? As you see – this is a copy (right page); I'm looking for the original.

P.S. By the protocol of meeting Keitel was asked "do you have an authority to surrender?" (means Reichspräsident agreement) He replied "yes". I suppose that he had an officially written Dönitz agreement but possibly in one copy. When there were 4 files (for Russians, Americans, GB and France?) 3 of them got copies.

I became interested in that because there are online flames where WWI story (Armistice of Compiègne) is repeated for WWII "Reich had never surrendered, they had no authority to sign it" (btw, that is true for Jodl in Reims who had agreement to sign only ceasefire - Waffenstillstandsabkommen - but not surrender - Kapitulation - and only with Eisenhower forces).

  • 3
    You want to know where the signed original of this document is today?
    – Steve Bird
    Nov 15 '18 at 11:20
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    @Spencer , the page on the right is a copy of Donitz agreement without his sign. I want to find an original. By the way Reins Surrender includes signed ReichsPresident agreement but text of it formally not allow Jodl to sign the Surrender. Text of agreement for Berlin Surrender allow "kapitalation" clearly but it is not signed. That is why it is an interesting puzzle. Nov 15 '18 at 15:34
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    It is "checked " (by General Sosnovski?) - what means it is an ad hoc copy. I'm not sure in translation: which word is used on English documents for this type of resolution "is a copy with all correction made by me, checked". (there are corrections in the doc) . верено - means "it is correct" "correctly" Nov 15 '18 at 16:48
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    @RomanPokrovskij - It’s «Верно / Сосновский», not «верено», but the meaning is still the same, ”Correct / Sosnovskij”
    – jmster
    Nov 16 '18 at 7:40
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    Oh that last paragraph gives this an 'interesting' twist. Nov 17 '18 at 11:17

Short Answer

The US and UK national archives do not appear to have digitized versions of a signed copy online of the Dönitz memo authorizing Keitel et al to sign the surrender in Berlin. Since the US national archive includes a digitized signed copy of the earlier Dönitz memo authorizing Jodl to sign the surrender at Reims, this suggests the following possibilities:

  1. There was no signed copy from Dönitz authorizing Keitel et al to sign the surrender instrument in Berlin (this does not seem likely, and circumstantial evidence suggests this is not the case);
  2. There were multiple signed copies, one for each Allied power represented at the surrender ceremony in Berlin, but the US and UK either lost or did not include them in their archives (this also does not seem likely, again with contrary circumstantial evidence);
  3. There was only one signed original, current location in another archive but undetermined at present (this seems most likely based on circumstantial evidence, with the original probably in Russian archives).

Long Answer

1. There was no signed copy from Dönitz authorizing Keitel et al to sign the surrender instrument in Berlin.

This possibility does not seem likely, in fact there is circumstantial evidence to the contrary. Jodl had signed authorization from Dönitz to sign the surrender in Reims. A digitized copy of this signed memo from Dönitz is available in the US national archives (see below). To provide signed authorization for the surrender ceremony in Reims, but not for the surrender ceremony in Berlin would be inconsistent and illogical, not to mention a breach of standard practice.

enter image description here
Signed Dönitz memo authorizing Jodl to sign the instrument of surrender to the Allies in Reims.
Source: US National Archives

To the best of my ability, here is a translation of this authorization document into English (anyone please improve if you can):

Headquarters 6 May 1945

I authorize Colonel-General Jodl, 
Chief of the Wehrmacht Command Staff in the Wehrmacht High Command, 
to conclude an armistice agreement with General Eisenhower's headquarters.

[seal] [signed] Dönitz
Grand Admiral

This signed memo, in the US national archives, from Dönitz authorizing Jodl to surrender in Reims is both a documented precedent for and circumstantial evidence of also providing a signed memo authorizing Keitel et al to surrender in Berlin.

2. There were multiple signed copies, one for each Allied power represented at the surrender ceremony in Berlin, but the US and UK either lost or did not include them in their archives.

This possibility also does not seem likely. The Allies were meticulous in establishing and maintaining records and documentation (as evidenced in the amount of and nature of documentation found in their national archives). It is possible the US and UK have signed copies but have simply not digitized them for inclusion in the rest of the digitized record they have made available concerning the surrender of Germany to the Allies, but again circumstantial evidence suggests that if a signed version was available to the US and / or UK, it would appear in the archives along with all the other signed surrender documents. Why include an unsigned copy in the US national archives if the US has a signed copy available?

The US and UK national archive copies of the document from Dönitz authorizing Keitel (Army), Friedeburg (Navy), and Stumpf (Air force) to sign the Allied instrument of surrender on behalf of the government and military of Germany are included in the surrender document files without Dönitz's signature. The link on the OP's Question shows the US national archive version (see below):

enter image description here
Copy of Document from Dönitz authorizing Keitel, Friedeburg and Stumpf to surrender to the Allies
Source: US National Archives

Here is the copy in the UK National Archives:

enter image description here
Transcript of Document from Dönitz authorizing Keitel, Friedeburg and Stumpf to surrender to the Allies
Source: UK National Archives

To the best of my ability (with excellent help from LangLangC - thanks!) here is a translation of this document into English:

Supreme Commander
of the Wehrmacht [Armed Forces / Military]

Headquarters, the 7th May 45

/Please give the answer with the preceding  
 "business signature" (signature) from above, the date and
 indicate short content. /

I authorize   
General Field Marshal Keitel   
as Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht and Commander-in-Chief of the Army,     
General Admiral von Friedberg     
as Commander in Chief of the Navy,    
Colonel-General Stumpf    
as representative of the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe 

to ratify the unconditional surrender of the German forces 
to the Commander in Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Force 
and the Soviet - High Command.

Grand Admiral.   

Since the version of the documents in the US national archives has signatures on all the surrender instruments, it is reasonable to assume that if there was a signed version available of the Dönitz authorization memo available to the US, the US national archives would have included it with all the other signed documents. Neither the US nor UK archives exhibit a signed version.

In looking through other sources, I also checked Wikisource and iBiblio, which both have transcripts only (and no English version of the Dönitz authorization memo).

3. There was only one signed original, current location in another archive but undetermined at present.

Having ruled out possibilities #1 and #2 (through circumstantial evidence, not documentary proof), this leaves #3 as a possible answer. But in which other archives might the signed authorization memo to Keitel et al be?

The Bundes-Militärarchiv archive copy of surrender documents provided in the link in LangLangC's answer is a fantastic find (+1 from me) but it does not contain a copy of the Dönitz authorization memo requested in the question. If there is a copy in archives in Germany, perhaps there is another source to investigate (?)

The next place to look (which I have not been able to research) would be Russian archives. Perhaps another researcher here on H:SE can turn up something there. This seems the most likely place where the signed original would be. The handwritten note in Russian at the bottom of the transcribed copy of the Dönitz memo to Keitel et al in the US national archives presents a clue to this effect.

In an earlier comment from Roman Pokrovskij and also a comment from jmstr the Russian text at the bottom of the US copy reads

«Верно / Сосновский»

which jmstr translates as

"Correct / Sosnovskij"

This suggests the Soviets had (and retained) an original (likely signed) version which they provided to the other Allied powers present in the Berlin signing (Berlin being under Soviet control). The Allies transcribed it and the Russians checked and verified their transcriptions as evidenced in the US national archive digitized copy shown above.

All of this circumstantial evidence suggests Possibility #3 as the most likely answer, with the original most likely being found somewhere in a Russian archive.

A Report of the Surrender in Berlin

In closing, I found a digitized copy of the May 10, 1945 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 90, Number 112 in the University of California-Riverside's California Digital Newspaper Collection, and the lead on Page 1 under the headline Victory Guns of Moscow Thunder as Stalin Tells Of Surrender By Germans which reads, in part, as follows (note at the end of the quote that Zhukov and Tedder ask Keitel if Keitel has a copy of the surrender document to be signed, is aware of its significance, and if the German supreme command (Dönitz) agrees that it be signed - they do not ask if there is any signed authorization from Dönitz to do so, only if Dönitz agrees that it be signed):

The final act in Germany's capitulation took place in the main hall of the German military academy of engineering at the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Rheinsteinstrasse in ruined Berlin at 12:45 a.m.

There Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, supreme commander of the German armed forces; Gen. Admiral Hans Georg Friedeburg, commander of the German navy, and Col. Gen. Hans Stumpf, chief of the Luftwaffe, ratified the articles of surrender.

Marshal Gregory K. Zukov signed for Russia and Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur William Tedder, deputy supreme commander, for the Western Allies.

Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, commander of the American strategic - air forces in Europe, and Gen. Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, commander in chief of the French army, were present as witnesses.

Radio Moscow, broadcasting a description of the surrender scene, said Keitel was flushed and his eyes filled with tears as he rose and strode to the table to sign the surrender articles.

Zhukov and Tedder entered the hall of the military academy exactly at midnight last night, the broadcast said. The Allied delegates sat in a row beneath their national flags.

Members of the Allied delegations and Soviet commanders who participated in the capture of Berlin sat at a central table, while the table for the German delegation was at one side.

"Gentlemen." Zukov said, "We are gathered here to accept the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces. I propose to come straight to business and invite the representatives of the German army."

Keitel, Friedeburg and Stumpf entered with their adjutants at 12.08 a.m.

"We are about to sign the act of the surrender of the German army," Zhukov said. "Are you in possession of the act, are you aware of its significance and is the German supreme command in agreement that such an act be signed?" Tedder asked the same questions.

"Yes," replied Keitel.

It does not appear, based on that exchange, that a signature from Dönitz was requested, only verification from Keitel that Dönitz approved.

This may not be satisfactory as a complete answer. Perhaps Russian archives will yield definitive results.

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    You did a great work, thank you. Master class. I still expect that Keitel had signed agreement, since Jodl had it (with different content) in Rheims. And also because it is a standard practice. Nov 17 '18 at 10:09
  • @RomanPokrovskij yes I suspect there was a signed copy from Dönitz - but only one. My theory is that since this signing took place in Berlin, under control of the Soviets, that the one signed copy was retained by the Soviets and the attending US and UK representatives transcribed it in order to have a record of it. Evidence to this effect is the Soviet handwriting at the bottom of the US copy in the US national archives - the Soviets verified for the US that the transcription was correct. The original, I suspect, is somewhere in Russia. I may edit this into my answer but I have no proof.
    – Kerry L
    Nov 17 '18 at 12:56
  • @LangLangC I agree with your observation but not necessarily with your conclusion. It is possible neither Jodl nor Keitel had possession of either document at the surrender signings, but note the format of the stamped and hand-writtend date: month-day-year. That is the American date format. The European, as evidenced at the top of both the Jodl and Keitel memos (6 May 45 and 7.5.45) is day-month-year. Also the only legible word in the bottom left stamp is "IN" which I read as a receipt stamp of a clerk (IN at 10:00, May 14) in an American office (with an IN and OUT box for documents).
    – Kerry L
    Nov 17 '18 at 16:00
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    The USNA version of the Keitel letter. Strangely, Dönitz himself seems to support your approach copy while it lasts, bad site Nov 17 '18 at 16:29
  • It seems that Waffenstillstandsabkommes (from Jodl authority) is more ceasefire agreement. I see it by usage - Germans dosn't use it in context of WWII (and prefer Kapitulation der Wehrmacht) but use if for Korea, Palestina etc. cases It is another interesing question are they distinct legally. Nov 17 '18 at 21:18

As this question is now about the mere existence of a certain document from a row of events, and their validity, this answer kept growing due to the necessity to also incorporate circumstantial evidence. Dönitz signed two documents. One for Jodl, a quite different one for Keitel.

The official archive, the Bundes-Militärarchiv, Signature BArch RW44-I/37 would be the first port of call.
Online to be found here, with scans:

Die deutsche Kapitulation 1945
In der Galerie werden die im Bundesarchiv, Abt. Militärarchiv überlieferten Dokumente zur deutschen Gesamt-Kapitulation 1945 und den vorausgegangenen Teilkapitulationen gezeigt.

__The German Surrender 1945
In the gallery the documents handed down in the Federal Archives, Dept. Military Archives on the German total surrender in 1945 and the preceding partial surrenders are shown.

It might depend a bit on desired use for these. Wanting the "originals". But I guess they are not really on sale.

However, they are on record with:

"This is our Mona Lisa, so to speak," says Military Archives Director Michael Steidel, opening the cassette's closure with the signature RW 44-I. The original surrender documents that sealed the end of the Second World War come to light. They returned to Germany from the USA in the 1960s and have been kept in the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv since 1968, because of their special importance in a safe at 20 degrees and a humidity of 50 percent.

Only recently, says Michael Steidel, two museums asked again whether they could present the valuable documents in exhibitions. The military archives said no: "We won't give out the original, but we'd like to offer a reproduction. These documents have a material value that cannot be quantified," explains Steidel. A transport is too risky – for one of the most important constitutional documents in Germany.

In Freiburg, 55 kilometres of files from 1867 to the present are stored in five halls, including, for example, the plans of "Operation Walküre" of 20 July 1944. 4.5 kilometres are added each year, of which "only" one kilometre is archived after evaluation. […] The archive receives around 10,000 inquiries per year. It is accessible to everyone. Registration is required.
Frank Zimmermann: "Ein Archiv verwahrt das Kriegsende", NWZ, 2010.

Currently, some idiotic web-'designer' sold this office a 'solution' that effectively prevents access to the digital findbook.

There is a little problem with this part from the question:

By the protocol of meeting Keitel was asked "do you have an authority to surrender)?" (means ReichsPresident agreement) He replied "yes". I suppose that he had an officially written Donitz agreement but possibly in one copy. When there were 4 files (for Russians, Americans, GB and France?) 3 of them got copies.

The authorisation had to be before the ceremony of signing the document. At that time the lines of communication were no longer free for German documents to travel fast.

When it became obvious that the Germans were stalling, Eisenhower threatened to close the western front to all surrendering Germans from the east.[17] Had this happened, German soldiers attempting to cross the line to surrender would be fired on and all subsequent surrenders would have to be to the Soviets. When Dönitz learned this, he radioed Jodl full powers to sign the unconditional German Instrument of Surrender at 1.30 am on the morning of 7 May. […]
Antonov stated that, while the internal discussions of the German military in no way obligated the Allied Powers, Jodl's signature could not be accepted as valid if he was doing so as Dönitz's representative since Dönitz himself was clearly acting in bad faith. He proposed that the definitive act of surrender should make it clear that the Commanders in Chief of each of the German armed services were, in signing it, surrendering their forces on the authority of the German High Command - and not as delegated by Dönitz or the purported Flensburg government.[…]
Complying with that demand Dönitz issued a telegraphed communication from his "Supreme Commander Headquarters" (Der Oberste Befehlshaber Hauptquartier) granting the necessary full powers, and accordingly the second Act of Military Surrender was signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel as Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces and as acting Commander in Chief of the Army; by Admiral von Friedeburg as the Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine (navy), by General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff as Deputy Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe (air force) as Field Marshal Robert Ritter von Greim, the Air Force Commander, had been injured. At the time specified, World War II in Europe ended. On 9 May, Dönitz issued orders to the German Armed Forces regarding the military surrender.
WP: Flensburg Government

The important distinction here is the Jodl had one kind of authority given that needed oral confirmation:

enter image description here

Since there was no way out of the dilemma, it was decided to send Jodl to explain with all force to Eisenhower ‘why a complete capitulation is impossible, but a capitulation only in the west would be immediately accepted’. In the early hours of next morning, 7 May, Jodl’s wire from Eisenhower’s headquarters brought the depressing news that the Allied Commander-in-Chief insisted that total capitulation be signed that day, otherwise all negotiations would be broken off. Eisenhower’s demand was seen in Dönitz’s headquarters as ‘absolute blackmail’ since if refused it would mean the abandonment of all Germans beyond American lines to the Russians. But with a capitulation to go into effect at midnight on 8/9 May, it would give forty-eight hours to extract at least most of the troops still fighting in the east. With a heavy heart, Dönitz therefore gave Jodl powers to sign the capitulation. At 2.41 a.m. on 7 May Jodl, in the presence of Admiral-General von Friedeburg, signed the Act of Military Surrender together with General Walter Bedell Smith and the Soviet General Ivan Susloparov in Eisenhower’s headquarters in Rheims. All military operations were to cease at 23.01 hours Central European Time on 8 May – given the hour’s time difference, a minute past midnight on 9 May in London. Die Niederlage 1945, pp. 432–3 (7.5.45). Eisenhower had given Jodl half an hour to reach a decision, but communications difficulties with Flensburg delayed the arrival of his message and receipt of Dönitz’s approval. – DZW, 6, p. 774. See also Bodo Scheurig, Alfred Jodl: Gehorsam und Verhängnis, Berlin and Frankfurt am Main, 1991, pp. 331–3.
Quoted from Ian Kershaw: "The End. The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944 – 45", Penguin, New York, 2011.

Take note that Dönitz himself later confirms that he gave out such an authority like he gave to Jodl orally, but to Keitel this was then in writing:

enter image description here (Source freiheitistselbstbestimmtesleben.de, shady site)

The text is identical to National Archives Publication No. 46-4, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1945 or this National Archive version:

enter image description here

But after the last words of Keitel and this, a conundrum seems to resolve:

Dönitz received this information that morning, and, unwilling to concede to all the demands, decided to send General Jodl back to Eisenhower’s headquarters at Reims with yet another counter proposal. […] Jodl did not get very far with Eisenhower, and was simply informed that a surrender was to be signed on that very day under the terms laid forth the day before. […] This created a certain amount of activity in Flensburg, as Jodl had been chosen for the mission as one of the most outspoken opponents of unconditional surrender. Dönitz regarded it as unwise, for reasons cited in his May 1st radio addresses, and felt that forty eight hours was not enough time to withdraw forces from the Eastern Front still engaging the enemy. Dönitz also saw it as blackmail on the part of Eisenhower, and a violation of the Geneva conventions in that the Americans pledged to refuse the surrender of German soldiers should Germany fail to sign. After two hours of debate, at 12:40 a.m., Dönitz sent word to Jodl by a special radio link authorizing him to sign.
Jonathan Edward Klein: "At Zero Hour: The Government Of Karl Dönitz, With Reflections As Seen In German Literature", Thesis, Bowling Green State University, 2006.

The Jodl paper above is not an authorisation for the unconditional surrender; it is "for an armistice" (with conditions that Jodl should negotiate with Eisenhower). Jodl then had to wire back to sign unconditional surrender nonetheless. According to Keitel, when he was in Karlshorst he then had indeed a signed paper from Dönitz with him as he was flown by UK plane to Berlin. That was then phrased as seen in the Dönitz letter above or as in the USNA version.

On 8th May, after Jodl's return from Eisenhower's headquarters at Reims, I was commanded by the Grand-Admiral, acting as Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces—to fly by British transport aircraft to Berlin, with the preliminary instrument as signed by Jodl and Eisenhower's Chief of Staff.[…]
About an hour later, the general was back with the news that General Zhukov had agreed to twelve hours' grace being given, instead of twenty-four. He ended by asking for my credentials as the representatives of the victorious powers wished to inspect them; I would receive them back shortly. The signing was to take place 'towards evening', he added.[…]
They brought back my credentials and told me everything was in order, but apparently they still did not know at what time the Surrender was going to be signed.[…]
The ceremony began with a few introductory words; then Zhukov askedmewhetherIhadreadtheInstrumentofSurrender. Ireplied, 'Yes.' His second question was whether I was ready to recognise it with my signature. Again, I answered with a loud 'Yes!' The signing ceremony began at once, and, after I had been the first to sign it, the attestation. Finally, I and my party left the hall by the door close behind me.
Wilhelm Keitel: "In the Service of the Reich. (originally published as The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Keitel", edited with an Introduction and Epilogue by Walter Görlitz Translated by David Irving, Stein & Day: New York, 1979 (1966), p230–231.

So Keitel had one document from Dönitz with the signature of the OKW chief authorising the ratification of an unconditional surrender. Doubting its very existence at the time within the framework of a conspiracy theory with certain motives seems quite incompatible with the evidence available. Dönitz confirmed it, Keitel confirmed it etc.


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