There are many reasons given for East Meets West Day, sports teams, political aspiration and cook-offs. The truth of the matter is this was a very important day in 1945. It was when American troops, the 1st American Army, and Soviet troops, the 1st Ukrainian Front, met at a small town in Germany on the Elbe River. It is the effective day that all resistance in Germany came to an end. The town was Torgau, a provincial capitol in Eastern Germany. The day was originally named Elbe Day as elements of both armies reached across a bridge and shook hands.
Many proposed that the Americans keep going and take all of Germany, Poland and defeat the Russians and communism before it was too late. The Americans, moving quickly across Germany, were actually held up so that the Russians could capture as much territory as possible. This arrangement had been settle by the Yalta Agreement long before the end of the war. Most of the front line troops knew little of the agreement, nor did they care. They found friendly faces greeting them instead of an enemy bent on their destruction.
Thousands of Germans made their way west to surrender to the Americans rather than face the Russians. The Russians had suffered tremendously over the years of the war and they wanted revenge for their own losses, the Americans were deemed to be a little more lenient. With the war over and Germany was divided up between the Russians, Americans, French and English, the area where the two armies met fell into the hands of the Russians and became a part of the Iron Curtain. The Cold War would begin and an entirely different type of fighting would begin.
But on April 25th, 1945 this was one of the happiest days for those who were there. For them the war was effectively over and friends stood face to face, both sides having survived the atrocities of war, a real reason to celebrate.
How to celebrate: Just remember them. They lived and died for all of us and should never be forgotten. Now that the Elbe is free to visit again, try an attend one of the re-enactments of the event. Read a book about the Elbe Meeting where the East Met The West.