If Day shows how Nazi forces invaded Manitoba during World War II

Seventy years ago almost to the day, Winnipeg fell to the Nazis.

Selkirk fell first and by 6 a.m. on Feb. 19, 1942, Nazi forces were converging on the Manitoba capital. The sirens sounded and troops were stationed in a line five miles from city hall. The Nazis arrived at the first line of defence by 7 a.m. and opened fire, according to The Manitoba Historical Society.

After more than two hours of fighting and retreating, there was nothing left for Winnipeg to do other than surrender. Brandon and Flin Flon had also fallen by this time and Manitoba was considered a German province.

"At that point the Nazi soldiers rode around the city harassing Winnipeggers and harassed people who were on buses and in some cases they took people away to be interned," said Rhonda Hinther, Ph.D. with the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the If Day Documentary.

If you are wondering why you don't remember learning about these events in history class it is because it was all an act. According to the Historical Society, it was an incredibly realistic invasion, but all the shells were blanks and causalities faked, though ambulances did drive around picking people up.

It was all designed to show people what the world would be like if the Nazis did win and to raise money for Victory Bonds to support the war effort.

The event was publicized, but some people missed the notification in newspapers and were truly caught by surprise.

The mayor, premier and lieutenant-governor at the time were all arrested and imprisoned in an internment centre and the Union Jack over Lower Fort Garry was replaced with a Swastika.

Books relating to liberty, democracy and freedom were burned in front of the Main library (these were old books and were going to be incinerated at a later date) and Reichsmarks were given out as change instead of dollars. Even the Winnipeg Tribune paper published a section called "Das Winnipeger Lugenblatt" (The Winnipeg lies Journal).

Coverage of If Day wasn't contained to Canada. It is estimated nearly every major North American newspaper covered the event, meaning about 40 million people saw Winnipeg fall to the Nazis.

The campaign ran from Feb. 16 until March 9 with Manitoba raising more than $65 million for Victory bonds and was featured in a 2006 TV documentary called "If Day: The Nazi Invasion of Winnipeg."

As we know Winnipeg, or anywhere in Canada, never came under attack quite like this by the Nazis, but the event did show early guerilla marketing in action.

(Image courtesy of The Manitoba Historical Society)