On May 8, 1945, people filled the streets to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Canadians had been at fighting since September 1939 and were ready for peace.

The news of victory in Europe brought great joy to a Maritime woman who had fled Germany as a young teenager six years earlier.

Marianne Ferguson's family left their native country after growing threats. Her father's business was trashed during Kristallnacht, also referred to as the ‘Night of Broken Glass,’ when German Nazis attacked Jewish property and people.

“The man set his dog on me and he let him out, a big police dog, and he said go get her and the dog had me by the elbow and someone lifted me up and here it was the milkman, who was delivering the milk, and he put me on his wagon took me to school,” recalls Ferguson. “When my parents heard that they said ‘we have to go, we can't stay.’”

The family made their way to Canada, coming through Pier 21 in Halifax.

“The memory was excitement,” says Ferguson. “We children were excited to get everything, you know, all the new ways of how people lived and eveything, but my parents were apprehensive.”

Other family intended to follow, but would never arrive.

“We lost a lot of people in the concentration camps and we were hoping maybe we would find someone, but we didn't.”

Ferguson volunteered for years at Pier 21 when it opened as an immigration museum and has heard and told many war stories. There is one story she wishes she had an ending for – what happened to the milkman who lifted her to safety, an act of kindness at great risk to himself.

While the Ferguson’s family was rejoicing, the day took a violent turn in central Halifax where celebrations turned into a full-scale riot.

There were hard feelings between service men and shop keepers – many felt they had been gouged during war time. The tension boiled over that day with celebrations quickly turning to vandalism.

“Over 500 businesses were damaged, some 200 stores were looted and, sadly, three of the rioters were killed,” says Ken Hynes, curator at the Army Museum Halifax Citadel.

Many others, who had fought for freedom, found themselves behind bars after the riots.

Keith’s Brewery was the only business to remain unscathed – the owner had swung open their doors, offering free beer to toast victory in Europe.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Marie Adsett