Pays-Bas / Champ de Bataille

The battle for the Grote Markt


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On Sunday afternoon, the entire city center south of the Grote Markt in Groningen was liberated by the Canadians. Canadian tanks fire from positions around the Herestraat, Gelkingestraat and Oosterstraat on the east and north sides of the Grote Markt, where the Germans resisted fiercely. Ten tanks from Fort Garry Horse attack the Germans via the Kromme Elleboog in the flank. Meanwhile, many fires rage in the city, caused by Canadian or German shelling.

Not only the buildings on the Grote Markt are on fire, there is also a conflagration on both sides of the Oude Ebbingestraat, destroying twenty shops. The fire destroyed almost the entire eastern side of Ebbingestraat until Jacobijnerstraat was destroyed. In Groningen, the liberators have to deal with Dutch SS men who have dressed up as civilians and unexpectedly attack the Canadians. One of them is caught trying to start a fire.

Around 8.30 pm the Canadians give the Germans at the Grote Markt an ultimatum via a loudspeaker: they have another half hour to surrender. The Germans do not react and at 9 pm the Canadians fire on the north side of the Grote Markt. The Germans retreat to the State Archives and the Martinikerkhof. During the night, the Germans also withdrew to the provincial house. In the morning they open fire on the French-speaking battalion Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, who are trying to capture the Grote Markt. Shortly thereafter, tanks from the Fort Garry Horse arrive and shell the Martinikerkhof. Despite the hopeless and useless nature of the situation, the Germans still set up a defense in the Prinsentuin. Dozens of civilian refugees from the city center who have sought safety here flee to the Martinikerk. For inexplicable reasons, however, the mood among the Germans suddenly changes: they surrender on Monday morning at 11 a.m. They also call on other units to lay down their weapons.

Canadian soldier Charles “Chic” Goodman recalls: “I reached the Grote Markt when the battle was just over. In the middle of the market lay a horse that had been shot dead. When the last shots were fired, the church bells of all churches in the city of Groningen could be heard. Several civilians came out and ran to the horse with knives to cut off pieces of meat. The next morning there was nothing left of the horse. Then I realized how starving the people were.”