The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was WHAT IF
Sue’s Jibber Jabber prompt word is WIN
The Word of the Day challenge is THEME
Fandango’s writing challenge for today is APROPOS, a word which means “something both relevant and opportune” or “in an opportune time”
Putting these together, I have come up with…
“IF” Day in Winnipeg
As World War Two is raging across Europe, town counselors in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, asked the question, “WHAT IF the enemy conquers Europe, and proceeds to conquer Canada?”
Deciding to do something dramatic to demonstrate this APROPOS question, the city arranged for a takeover, calling it “IF Day.” This THEME had a two-fold purpose: it would give the citizens a small but realistic picture of what European cities were enduring — and what we’d be in for if the Axis powers would WIN the war — and it would prompt the sale of more war bonds.
Importing German army uniforms from Hollywood, and hiring actors for key roles, the city staged a takeover On Feb 19, 1942. The morning started with a mock battle involving more than 3,500 Canadian troops and reservists who battled it out realistically with weapons, tanks, smoke and gunshots. (This was, in fact, the largest military mobilization ever yet seen in the province.)
Citizens heard gunfire in the city’s outskirts; artillery smoke drifted over; routed Canadian forces fled through the downtown. Then came lines of “enemy” troops and armored personnel carriers, conducting their victory parade down Portage Avenue, which was renamed Adolfhitlerstrasse. Nazi soldiers marched into City hall; the Mayor and City counselors were arrested and led away to “an unknown fate.” The Nazi flag was hoisted over the city center.
A mock newspaper was printed up, the first section announcing the “victory” at Winnipeg and filled with Nazi propaganda. Among other proclamations, the Boy Scout troops were ordered to disband. The city’s Jews had to wear Star of David armbands. The latter part of the paper, however, contained serious accounts written by a number of the city’s immigrants, detailing what the Nazis had already done to their homelands.
As the day went on, citizens were harassed. One on-site reporter’s papers were seized and torn up; a city bus was stopped and all passengers had to provide ID. According to news accounts, this wasn’t polite questioning, either; they were “rough” searches. At once point Nazi officers stomped into a restaurant to arrogantly harass the staff and force out existing diners. According to an account written by Tristan Hopper, “This wasn’t just a few swastika flags carried through the town; civilians were quite literally being harassed and verbally abused by fake Nazis.”
“If Day” was a great demonstration and a huge success in rallying the citizens against Nazism. The sale of war bonds at that time raised $65 million. Still, “If Day” had to present a sanitized version of what Nazis actually did to captured cities. The year 1942 went down as the deadliest year of the Holocaust, as Nazi death squads used mass shootings and burnings to obliterate whole communities in Ukraine, Poland and other captured territory in Eastern Europe.