The German army's official surrender in Reims on 8 May 1945 - Victory in Europe (VE) day - tasted particularly sweet for the canny, local Champagne winemakers and workers who spent much of World War Two outfoxing the occupying forces, writes Julian Hitner.

Timeline: Champagne and World War 2

3 September 1939
Britain and France declare war on Nazi Germany (left)

10 May 1940
Enemy tanks enter France; Champagne cellars are ransacked over the following months (right)

22 June 1940
France surrenders; Otto Klaebisch is subsequently appointed weinführer of Champagne (left)

13 April 1941
The CIVC is established to present a united front to the occupiers

24 November 1943
De Vogüé is arrested and spends the next 18 months at Ziegenhain concentration camp, until the end of the war (right)

Summer 1944
Otto Klaebisch returns to Germany in disgrace

30 August 1944
General George S Patton and the Third Army liberates Reims (left)

Spring 1945
Supreme Commander Dwight D Eisenhower moves his headquarters to Reims

8 May 1945
The Third Reich unconditionally surrenders at Reims; V-Day in Europe (right)


8 July 1962

De Gaulle and Adenauer attend mass at Notre-Dame de Reims to celebrate the Treaty of Friendship (left)

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. How the winegrowers concealed their Champagne from the Nazis
  3. 3. Champagne's greatest wartime defender: Count Robert-Jean de Vogüé (1896-1976)
  4. 4. Timeline: Champagne and World War 2
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  • This looks to be a commemorative item, but to be sure we’d have to consult one of our Champagne experts. Although it is found on e-Bay with the claim is was brought back by a soldier, the Champagne House, Champagne Demiere, did not make it’s first Champagne until 1945. “Jack” was not born until 1956. http://www.champagnedemiere.com/petite-histoire-de-la-maison-demiere/
    We hope this helps.

  • Philip Bowler Crellen

    hello. I have recentley purchased a bottle of 1940 Flandres Dunkirk Champagne. I was wondering if this was a genuine WW2 item or if it was a commemorative item.

  • Jill Barth

    Great piece. Thank you!