Celle Massacre

I am amazed and equally appalled that so little is known about this awful event which took place only a few days before Hitler’s suicide, and less than a month before the end of WWII in Europe. Maybe that is why it is only a footnote in history.

Prisoners, 2,862 Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Dutch, and French nationals, from the Salzgitter-Drütte and Salzgitter-Bad satellite camps of the Neuengamme concentration camp were loaded onto goods cars on 7 April 1945 and transported north. This transport had joined others the day before, making the total count around 3,420 men and women.

At the goods station in Celle on the night of 8 April 1945, the train carrying 3,420 prisoners was hit by American bombs. Several hundred prisoners died from the resulting explosion of a nearby munitions train and because they were unable to leave the train cars in which they had been locked.

Those who were able to escape from the train were hunted down by the SS, the police, members of the Wehrmacht and the Volkssturm, the local Hitler Youth and some residents of Celle. 200 to 300 prisoners were shot or beaten to death.

The prisoners who were caught and survived were detained on the spot near the Neustadt wood. Some 30 persons were executed on suspicion of looting. Most of the surviving prisoners were marched to Bergen-Belsen, while others were detained at the army’s Heide barracks. Of the approximately 3,420 prisoners who had been in Celle on 8 April only 487 survivors reached Bergen-Belsen on the morning of 10 April — the same day British forces entered Celle. Some prisoners may have been shot on the 25 km march to the camp, some died at Heidekaserne military barracks nearby, left to die with no food, water or medication. They were discovered by 15th Infantry Division, British 2nd Army, on 10 April.

Bergen Belsen was liberated on April 15,1945.

Only 14 military and police personnel and political leaders were tried in the Celle Massacre Trial, which began in December 1947. Seven were acquitted of murder or accessory to murder because of insufficient evidence, whereas four were found guilty as perpetrators and sentenced to between four and ten years in prison. In addition, three were sentenced to death. One of the death sentences was overturned on appeal and the other two were reduced to 15–20 years’ imprisonment as part of a clemency issued by the British military governor. All those imprisoned were released by October 1952 for good behaviour.

sources

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11345915

https://www.kz-gedenkstaette-neuengamme.de/en/history/satellite-camps/satellite-camps/celle-massacre-on-8-and-9-april-1945/

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Nemmersdorf massacre-Murder of civilians

No one can deny that the Nazis committed unspeakable atrocities during World War 2,against civilians. But the Nazis were not the only ones.

On October 21, 1944, the Soviet Red Army was steamrolling the German army on the Eastern Front, reaching the town of Nemmersdorf, at the time it was a German rural town in East Prussia, though today the town finds is part of Russia and is called Mayakovskoye.

The 2nd Battalion, 25th Guards Tank Brigade, belonging to the 2nd Guards Tank Corps of the 11th Guards Army, crossed the Angerapp bridge and established a bridgehead on the western bank of the Rominte river on 21 October 1944. The German forces tried to retake the bridge, but several attacks were repelled by the Soviet tanks and the supporting infantry. During an air attack, a number of Soviet soldiers took shelter in an improvised bunker that was already occupied by 14 local men and women. According to the testimony of a seriously-injured woman, Gerda Meczulat, when a Soviet officer arrived and ordered everybody out, the Soviets shot and killed the German civilians at close range. During the night, the Soviet 25th Tank Brigade was ordered to retreat back across the river and take defensive positions along the Rominte. The Wehrmacht regained control of Nemmersdorf and discovered the massacre.

A Soviet officer had ordered the civilians to be killed. There were some conflicting reports in relation to the age and gender of the victims , as well as the number of victims, with both sides trying to spin the incident to their respective advantage.

Nazi German authorities organized an international commission to investigate, headed by the Estonian Hjalmar Mäe and other representatives of neutral countries, such as Francoist Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It heard the report from a medical commission, which reported that all of the dead females had been raped (they ranged in age from 8 to 84). The Nazi Propaganda Ministry (separately) used the Völkischer Beobachter and the cinema news series Wochenschau to accuse the Soviet Army of having killed dozens of civilians at Nemmersdorf and having summarily executed about 50 French and Belgian noncombatant prisoners-of-war, who had been ordered to take care of thoroughbred horses but had been blocked by the bridge.

After the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, new sources became available and the dominant view among scholars became that the massacre had been embellished and actually exploited by Goebbels in an attempt to stir up civilian resistance to the advancing Soviet Army.

The former chief of staff of the German Fourth Army, Major General Erich Dethleffsen, testified on 5 July 1946 before an American tribunal in Neu-Ulm:

“When in October, 1944, Russian units temporarily entered Nemmersdorf, they tortured the civilians, specifically they nailed them to barn doors, and then shot them. A large number of women were raped and then shot. During this massacre, the Russian soldiers also shot some fifty French prisoners of war. Within forty-eight hours the Germans re-occupied the area.”

Karl Potrek of Königsberg, the leader of a Volkssturm company present when the German Army took back the village, testified in a 1953 report:

“In the farmyard stood a cart, to which more naked women were nailed through their hands in a cruciform position … Near a large inn, the ‘Roter Krug’, stood a barn and to each of its two doors a naked woman was nailed through the hands, in a crucified posture…. In the dwellings we found a total of 72 women, including children, and one old man, 74, all dead…. Some babies had their heads bashed in.”

While the Germans claimed that most of the 653 residents of Nemmersdorf were killed, Soviet records showed only 20 to 30 killed. It was generally believed that the Germans had inflated the number of deaths, grouped evidence of other isolated atrocities to embellish the size of this massacre, and might even had created the situations where civilians would be killed by the Soviets (for example, some accused the German military of using civilians to shield one of the attacks on the Angrapa bridge). The Soviet claim of only 20 to 30 killed was equally fantastic, as the Soviet Union was also known to take great liberties with numbers even with its official state records. The actual number of deaths was likely somewhere in-between.

Regardless what the numbers were, it was nonetheless a massacre on civilians which never should have happened.

sources

https://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=198

https://www.bridgemanimages.com/it/noartistknown/wwii-nemmersdorf-massacre-1944/nomedium/asset/2497462

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemmersdorf_massacre

https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/45432/were-the-events-in-nemmersdorf-a-pr-stunt-of-the-nazi-propaganda

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17,000,000 + deaths.

An estimated 17.3 million people were murdered by the German Nazi regime and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945, according to data published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The estimates are based on the regime’s own reports as well as demographic studies of population loss during World War II.

The numbers are broken down in groups: Jews, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, Non-Jewish Polish civilians, Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), People with disabilities living in institutions, Roma & Sinti (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Repeat criminal offenders and so-called a-socials, German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory, Homosexuals. Then there were also some smaller groups like the Freemasons and Esperanto speakers. The number is likely to be higher because there are no determined numbers for the German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory. The numbers who died afterwards due to suicide and/or diseases contracted during the imprisonment in the camps.

However lets go with that number of 17.3 million. This number is just to big to fathom for most pictures, to put his in perspective. That number is approximately the same as the current population of the Netherlands, or Syria. It would also be about the same as the combined population of Belgium and the whole Island of Ireland. Just imagine within 12 years the Nazis wiped out a whole nation or even several nations combined. This number of 17.3 million does not include military casualties. They were mainly civilians who were murdered.

Four of those 17.3 million were the Olivier family. Mozes Olivier, born February 4, 1891 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Betje van Thijn Olivier, born May 23, 1895 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Jeannette Olivier, born September 12, 1923 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Anna Olivier, born October 30, 1921 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

They were all murdered in Auschwitz on September 21,1942.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/chart/24024/number-of-victims-nazi-regime/

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/documenting-numbers-of-victims-of-the-holocaust-and-nazi-persecution

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/187373/mozes-olivier

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Coming face to face with the Holocaust

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In April 1945 the allied troops forced the citizens of Neunburg,Germany to face up to some of the atrocities ordered and  committed by their elected government. They were made to look at bodies of Jewish  and other slave laborers in woods outside Neunberg, where they were marched from a Nazi Gestapo camp and where thy had been killed by firing squads.

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Civilians of Neunburg  were ordered to disinter and rebury victims in the city cemetery.Chaplains of U. S. Third Army held short services for the victims.

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Source

Truman Library

Rüsselsheim massacre-The lynching of six American airmen.

russelsheim-map

Not all war crimes during WWII were committed by armed forces, some of them were done by ‘regular’ citizens and factory workers.

Russelsheim, Germany, is a typical industrial town, producing Opel cars in partnership with General Motors. The town, just east of Mainz, with a population of 60,000, has a historic district, and is not unlike any of the hundreds of towns throughout Germany. This town, chartered in 1437, is the center for the assembly of autos, and is the sixth largest engine producer in the world.

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Walking through the town it seems typical with the hustle of busy townspeople and the attractive homes. Underneath this calm existence enjoyed by the citizens, one would not suspect that Russelsheim hides a dark secret better left untold.They hope someday to outlive the horrible massacre, so terrible as to defy description.

During World War II, Rüsselsheim, an industrial town that housed many key targets, including the Opel plant, was bombed several times by the Royal Air Force (RAF). The RAF followed a policy of “area bombing” of cities at night while the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) relied on “precision bombing” by day.

On the afternoon of August 24, 1944, an American B-24 bomber named Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am, commanded by 2nd Lt. Norman J. Rogers Jr, was shot down while taking part in an attack on Hanover and the crew parachuted down near Hutterup.

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One lookout alerted both the local fire brigade and the military detachment at the nearby airfield and patrols were dispatched to find the downed Americans. One of the nine airmen, Staff Sgt. Forrest W. Brininstool, had serious flak injuries to his abdomen. After landing on the farm, he was given first aid by an elderly couple and in return, Brininstool gave them his silk parachute, a valuable item for peasants. Within a few hours, most of the crew were captured by German personnel and taken into an interrogation room in the town hall in Greven.After that, most of the crew-members, including Rogers, were taken to an air base near the town where they slept for the night. Brininstool was taken to a medical clinic where he was operated on for shrapnel wounds then was moved to a hospital in Münster to undergo a second operation.

The next morning, Brininstool still remained behind in the hospital while the others were loaded onto a train for a trip south to the Dulag Luft in Oberursel, north of Frankfurt. At every stop along the way, after German civilians noticed the Americans on the train, crowds would form at the windows, shouting in anger at the “terror fliers” and shaking their fists, spitting on the windows.

On the night of August 25, the RAF sent 116 Avro Lancasters

683-12to Rüsselsheim in order to attack the Opel factory on a bombing mission, dropping 674 2,000-lb bombs and more than 400,000 incendiaries on the city, destroying the plant and damaging the railtracks, more by far than any previous air raid on Rüsselsheim in World War II. Towards the end of the bombing raid, a German air raid warden, Joseph Hartgens, mobilized residents in Russelsheim to put out the fires in their homes.

In the morning of August 26, most of the American bomber crewmembers were still proceeding to their original destination. However, the train line was heavily damaged by the RAF in the previous night so the airmen were taken off the train and forced to walk to Rüsselsheim to catch another train. The prisoners were escorted by two German soldiers. As the Americans marched through Rüsselsheim, the townspeople, assuming the fliers were Canadians who had taken part in the previous night’s raid, quickly formed and immediately turned into an uncontrollable angry mob.

Two women, Margarete Witzler and Käthe Reinhardt, shouted out, “There are the terror flyers. Tear them to pieces! Beat them to death! They have destroyed our houses!” One of the crew-members replied back in German, “It wasn’t us! We didn’t bomb Rüsselsheim!” Nevertheless, one woman threw a brick at the crew and that precipitated a riot during which the townspeople attacked the prisoners with rocks, hammers, sticks and shovels. Three Opel workers arrived with iron bars and starting beating the men to death to the cries of the crowd.

The mob was joined by air raid warden Josef Hartgen, who was armed with a pistol.The German soldiers who guarded the crew-members made no attempt to prevent the beatings.

After the airmen collapsed from the beatings, Hartgen lined them up in the curb and shot six in their heads but ran out of ammunition, leaving two of the airmen, William M. Adams and Sidney Eugene Brown, alive. The mob then put the airmen on a cart and took them to a cemetery. Those who moaned were further beaten.

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During the attack, an air raid siren sounded and the mob ran for cover. Adams and Brown managed to crawl from the bloody cart and fled toward the Rhine River, avoiding capture for four days. However, they were discovered by a policeman and brought to their original destination, the camp in Oberursel where they remained until after the war in Europe ended.

When the Third Army took Russelsheim in March, 1945, only seven months later, they were told that eight British airmen had been murdered by the citizens of the town. Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States established a military tribunal which would put on trial anyone involved in commiting a crime against Allied POWs. They would be classified as war criminals. The U.S. Army would investigate the beating deaths of the eight airmen in Russelsheim. Captain Luke P. Rogers was assigned to investigate any alleged crimes. He chose the Russelsheim crimes as his first investigation. It was still believed the crew members were “British”, not Americans. Rogers proceeded to Russelsheim with his assistant and a group of interpreters. He was presented with a list of twenty-one alleged conspirators. Gathering eyewitness accounts of the “Death March” Rogers was sickened by the brutality of the event. He had many of the instigators in custody, but was actively searching for Josef Hartgen, the reported leader of the mob. Rogers released four of those he arrested for lack of evidence. His next step was to dig up the bodies of the crewmen. His team was shocked to find only six bodies after expecting to find eight. They were further shocked to learn that they were Americans, not British as previously assumed.

Rogers gathered all his evidence, and turned it over to the War Crimes Branch. Lt. Col. Leon Jaworski would present the case against the Russelsheim civilians. Finally the much wanted instigator, Josef Hartgen, was captured and rushed to Wiesbaden for interrogation. While in jail he attempted suicide by slashing his wrist on the mattress springs. He was rushed to the hospital, and after recovering was returned to jail.

Part of the Geneva Convention of 1929 states that “Prisoners must at all times be treated with humanity and protected particularly against acts of violence”. Also, the Hague Convention stipulates that “In addition to the prohibitions provided by special conventions, it is expressly forbidden to kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer any means of defense, has surrendered at discretion”. It was specified that “German civilians are bound to observe the laws of war”.As Loen Jaworski was the Trial Judge Advocate, the defense was led by Lt. Col. Roger E. Titus. He had the unenviable position of defending the enemy. A group of eleven of the accused, including Hartgen, were first on trial.

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All pleaded not guilty. Testimony against them was by 21 witnesses. The trial lasted six days, with eyewitness testimony to the cold-bloodied assassinations by Josef Hartgen, and chilling accounts of the bludgeoning of the airmen. They could not account for the two missing men, as everyone was certain there had been eight originally. As the trial proceeded Josef Hartgen was accused of extreme brutality, and vicious and unthinkable conduct in the execution of the defenseless airmen. Five of the group, including Hartgen, were found guilty and sentenced to death. The remainder were given varying prison terms.

Hartgen_hanging

The question lingered as to what happened to the two crewmembers, Sgt. William M. Adams, and Sgt. Sidney E. Brown. The crew originally consisted of nine, with S/Sgt. Brininstool wounded and sent to a German hospital, and six executed.

Three weeks after the trial General Davidson received a letter from Sgt. William M. Adams, and Sgt. Sidney Brown. Both had been returned to the U.S. The letter fully explained their experience during the “Death March”, and their miraculous escape, only to be captured four days later. They offered to supply any information they had concerning the ordeal. They had survived the beatings. While the cart with the bodies was at the cemetery awaiting burial, Adams and Brown were able to crawl from under the bodies and escape. After their recapture they were sent to Stalag Luft IV, a POW camp for airmen. Both were liberated in May by the Ninth Army and the British Army. They Returned to the U.S. and gave the authorities what information they had. In the meantime Hartgen and four others were hung on Nov. 10. Otto Stolz was convicted of beating the airmen and helping Hartgen load the bodies in the cart, and accompanying the cart to the cemetery where he fatally beat some of the airmen who were still alive. He was sentenced to death and hanged. It must be noted that none of the women were executed even though they were the primary instigators who excited the crowd to riot and helped in the beatings. The bodies of Austin, Dumont, and Sekul were transferred to their respective hometowns, while the bodies of Rogers, Williams, and Tufenkjian are buried in France.

Tufkenjan

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Massacre of Kondomari

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

The Massacre of Kondomari  refers to the execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II.The shooting was the first of a series of reprisals in Crete. It was orchestrated by Generaloberst Kurt Student, in retaliation for the participation of Cretans in the Battle of Crete which had ended with the surrender of the island two days earlier.

Bernhard-Hermann Ramcke, Kurt Student

The massacre was photographed by a German army war propaganda correspondent whose negatives were discovered 39 years later in the federal German archives by a Greek journalist.

The civilian population of Crete had joined in the defence of their island alongside Greek and British armed forces. There are many accounts of them killing parachutists, some as they were still hanging in their parachutes as they landed. Some might regard this as a matter of self defence but the Germans interpreted it as “partisan” activity because they were not wearing uniform, and in their eyes outside the rules of warfare. There were also rumours that bodies had been mutilated or that even some parachutists had been tortured – although a much more likely explanation that bodies – necessarily left on the landing grounds – very rapidly decomposed in the heat.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

 

Following Student’s order, the occupants of Kondomari were blamed for the death of a few German soldiers whose bodies had been found near the village. On 2 June 1941, four lorries full of German paratroopers from the III Battalion of Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 under the command of Oberleutnant Horst Trebes surrounded Kondomari. Trebes, a former member of the Hitler Youth, was the highest-ranking officer of the Battalion to have survived the Battle unwounded.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

Men, women and children were forced to gather in the village square. Then, a number of hostages was selected among the men while women and children were released. The hostages were led to the surrounding olive groves and later fired upon. The exact number of the victims is unclear. According to German records, a total of 23 men were killed but other sources raise the toll to about 60. The whole operation was captured on film by Franz-Peter Weixler, then serving as a war propaganda correspondent (kriegsberichter) for the Wehrmacht.

 

 

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

Franz Peter Weixler, Wehrmacht kriegsberichter (Army war correspondent) photographed and preserved his negatives of the massacre. Weixler was later charged with treason and held by the Gestapo. Here is an English translation his original statement for the trial of Hermann Goering.

“The punitive expedition consisted of Trebes, another lieutenant, an interpreter, two sergeants and about twenty five parachutists of the Second Battalion. As a photographer assigned to my division I was permitted to accompany this commando. Near the village of Malemes, we stopped and Trebes showed us the corpses of several soldiers, obviously in the process of decay. He incited the men against the civilian population. We continued our drive to the village of Kondomari.

The men got off, and ran into the few houses of the little community. They got all men, women, and children onto the little square.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

A German soldier brought out the coat of a parachutist which he had picked up in one of the houses. and which had a bullet hole in the back. Trebes had the house burned down immediately.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

One man admitted having killed a German soldier, but it was not possible to convict any of the others of any crimes or plundering, and I therefore asked Trebes to stop the contemplated action and give us orders to return, taking with us only the one man. Trebes however gave orders to separate the men from the women and children; then he had the interpreter tell the women that all of the men would be shot because of having murdered German soldiers, and that the corpses would have to be interred within two hours.

When Trebes turned his back for a few moments, I made it possible for nine men to get away. Trebes had the men form a half circle, gave the order to fire, and after about fifteen seconds, everything was over.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

I asked Trebes, who was quite pale, whether he realized what he had done, and he replied that he had only executed the order of Hermann Goering, and avenged his dead comrades. A few days later he received the Knights Cross from Goering for his “braveness” in Crete.”

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-166-0525-30,_Kreta,_Kondomari,_Erschießung_von_Zivilisten

The following day an even worse massacre was conducted in the village of Kandanos, where 180 civilians were killed, possibly by a squad also led by Horst Trebes. The village was razed to the ground.

THE HALIFAX VE-DAY RIOTS

 

9f2fb106-d475-4208-b2bb-4de6549dedf9_thumbnail_600_600On 7 and 8 May 1945, riots broke out after poorly coordinated Victory in Europe celebrations fell apart in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Several thousand servicemen (predominantly naval), merchant seamen and civilians drank, vandalized and looted.

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Word of Germany’s surrender in World War II was met by celebrations across Canada, but in Halifax, Nova Scotia the VE-Day celebrations rapidly turned into riots. For two days, military personnel and civilians roamed the streets, drinking, smashing windows, looting businesses and setting fires.

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A major North American port, Halifax had doubled its size during World War II, from about 70,000 people to 130,000.

The resulting overcrowding in Halifax, scarce food, and inadequate facilities had led to a buildup of tensions between military personnel and permanent residents of Halifax.

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The planning for VE-Day in Halifax was poor. In meetings before VE-Day there had been an agreement that the navy, army and air force would look after their own personnel and the Halifax city police force would take care of civilians. In reality, the military and civilian police could not handle mobs of mixed military personnel and civilians, and nobody could control 25,000 servicemen on leave who wanted to celebrate, but had nothing to do, and nothing to drink.

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When the news of the German surrender was announced on radio on Monday morning May 7, 1945, people in Halifax, as in many other Canadian cities, ran into the streets to celebrate.

Restaurants and liquor stores in Halifax were closed to let workers celebrate. There were no taverns in Halifax.

The navy wet canteens opened around noon and closed at 9 pm that evening. When the canteens closed, thousands of sailors streamed into the streets of Halifax, joining the throngs of civilians and other servicemen.

A group of sailors wrecked a tram car. When the police arrived, the sailors smashed the police van.

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By midnight the Halifax liquor stores were being hit by rioters.

On the second day, VE-Day, it started all over again at about noon.

Civilians and other servicemen joined the mob as vandalism and looting broke out and spread.

A mob broke through the police cordon at the brewery – some even carted beer out in trucks. When the city and army police arrived, the mob had grown to thousands of civilians and military personnel, and the looting of the brewery went on unchecked.

Admiral Leonard Murray marched a parade of servicemen downtown to set an example for the looters. The marchers were jeered and shoved, and many joined the rioters.

Systematic destruction and looting continued as restaurants were looted and burned and all the businesses in the Halifax downtown district were looted and smashed.

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Admiral Murray and Halifax Mayor Butler drove through the downtown wreckage of Halifax using a loudspeaker to announce an 8 pm curfew.

By midnight it had begun to rain, and the riots faded.

Three people died – two of alcohol poisoning, and one a possible murder.

More than 500 businesses were damaged.Over 200 shops were looted.

Thousands of cases of beer, wine and liquor were looted.

Admiral Leonard Murray was forced to retire.

LeadersMurray

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