It was the last battlefield in The Netherlands, the uprising of Georgian forces during the last days of the Second World War on the island of Texel in the "waddengebied" in Holland. The Georgian Revolt is also known as the Russian War on Texel. It was a large scale mutiny at the end of WW2 of Georgian troops that were part of the German Wehrmacht. The uprising on the island was directed against the losing Germans. It started in the night of 5 to 6 April 1945 and ended on 20 May 1945 when the Canadian army arrived on Texel. More than two weeks after the end of the war in the Netherlands. A total of 1.114 people (German and Georgians soldiers and local inhabitants of Texel) died in this last battlefield of the Netherlands.
The 822nd Georgian Battalion Queen Tamar
Thousands of Georgians had been taken prisoner of war by the Germans during the Blitzkrieg of 1941-1942. The living conditions in the camps where they ended up were so bad that many voluntarily enlisted in the German so-called Ostlegion program. It seemed to them the only way to survive the war. The Battalion was one of the battalions from the German so-called Ostlegion program. These battalions were partly composed of Soviet POWs who often had to live in appalling conditions in POW camps. Some inmates died from cold, malnutrition and prevalent epidemics. To escape these circumstances, many people more or less forced themselves to choose a place in the 'Ostlegion'. Others volunteered to serve in the German army in the hope of defeating or expelling communism in their homeland. All these soldiers, volunteers or not, were regarded by the Soviets as traitors to the country.
Arriving at Texel
Before arriving on the island of Texel on 6 February 1945, the 822nd Battalion (the last personel count that took place on April 5, 1945 the Battalion consisted of 756 Georgians and 246 German soldiers) and led by Commander Klaus Breitner had passed through France to Zandvoort, where it remained stationed for 17 months. From there the battalion went to Den Burg and took up residence in a bunker complex, which consisted of fifty thin-walled bunkers.
Strengthening the Atlantikwall
The orders of the 822nd Battalion had was to strengthen and improve the Atlantic Wall. On Texel, this consisted of 550 structures, including three coastal batteries and two anti-aircraft batteries.
822nd Georgian battalion
Date of the battle
Duration of the battle
Reason for the battle
Commanders of the Battle of Texel
Sjalva (Sjaliko) Georgiëvitsj Loladze
On April 5, battalion commander Major Klaus Breitner ordered the Georgian volunteer commander, former Soviet captain, Sjalva (Sjaliko) Georgiëvitsj Loladze, to get ready with his battalion to depart at 07:00 the next day. The Georgian pro-German voluntary troops would - together with German soldiers and Dutch and Flemish volunteers from the Waffen-SS and Sicherheitsdienst - be deployed against the western Allies in the eastern Netherlands (against, among others, the 1st Polish Armored Division, of the First Canadian Army, 2nd British Army).
If the Georgians wanted to rehabilitate themselves for having entered German service, it had to be done quickly and before the final German defeat, since the Allies were already near of Berlin and Bremen, and the end of the war would be a matter of days.
The sign to revolt is given
At exactly 1:00 AM on April 6, 1945, the Georgians revolted against the Germans. It started at Den Burg. They called this operation the Day of Birth. Every Georgian knew exactly which German from the battalion to kill. Immediately after 1 a.m. about 200 Germans were killed. There was no bullet involved: most German officers and soldiers were killed in their sleep with knives and bayonets.
Nevertheless, the plan of the Georgians almost immediately suffered fatal damage: it was of the utmost importance that no German should manage to escape and inform the Texel artillery batteries and the mainland of the uprising.
Attempts by the Georgians to capture three German positions: "De Mok", "Loodsmanduin" and the South Battery in the south of Texel failed, as Major Klaus Breitner had managed to reach the southern battery to alert the German troops. Breitner informd Den Helder by telephone. "The "Sondermeldung Texel" in which the revolt of the Georgians is reported to the Hitler bunker, is promptly answered: "Kill all Georgians immediately", is the command." Breitner is furious about the "high treason" the Georgian soldiers are committing.
As a result, people on the mainland were aware of the uprising at an early stage. Although the German army was already in a state of dissolution, a counter-offensive quickly got under way. The same day, the ferry Forward brought about 600 German soldiers with machine guns, mortars, tanks and a few artillery pieces via the Mok to put down the uprising. The German soldiers were led by Major Erich Neumann. The same ferry later transported many hundreds of seriously injured to the mainland to field hospitals. From 3.30 pm a simultaneous shelling on Den Burg was carried out by the southern battery, the German guns of the Mok and the guns of Fort Erfprins (Den Helder). In this twenty-minute shelling, 1.800 shells were fired at Den Burg. On April 7, another 200 Germans were deposited on the Mok.
At the insistence of the Georgians, the Texel resistance calls on all Texel men to join the fight against the Germans. Placards are posted in Den Burg with the request to report to the Texla bunker complex and to pick up arms against the occupying forces. Even though it is unclear to most what is going on and what is expected of them, many Texel men answer the call. Of the two hundred men who showed up, half have military experience and receive a weapon. In the end, the call ends in a fiasco and hardly anyone fights.
Wardairy of Piet Bremer
April 5th, 1945
Mother woke me up a few times during the night, because she heard distant gunfire at Texla or somewhere else, and was afraid that they were stealing sheep. I listened, but I didn't hear anything, and I didn't care. In the morning, the entire church service for Jaap and Mar (married for 12 1/2 years) returned early, because no one was allowed to enter Den Burg. They shouted that the 'Moffen' (Dutch curse word for Germans) were leaving. How did they know?
Nel Bakker told us that the 'Russians' (Georgian soldiers of the 822 Georgian Battalion) had revolted and had overpowered the Germans. They had captured them and there were also dead German soldiers lying in the street. Russian guards where everywhere. I thought it was too crazy to believe it, and so did Nel.
Cannons fired occasionally, which to me was a sign that the Germans were practicing, that happened quite often. If they dwere to fight each other in the villages etc. you would use guns, but not batteries I thought to myself. The Russians were waiting for German airborne landings. Occasionally there was very heavy shooting. The batteries started firing, so violently that the sky seemed to tear. The shells seemed to burst high above, and I still thought it was just gun practice, even though Den Helder, Ongeren and Loodsmansduin fired at the same time. Loodsmansduin and Ongeren are shooting at each other?
The 'Kommandatur' (Located in Hotel Texel) in Den Burg was massacred during the night. That killing touched me more as a thrill than as an abomination. It was around 11am when I heard about it. Oudeschild was still offering resistance.
A little later the first planes fly over our heads in a misty sky, but that was it. I was surprised there were no reinforcements coming. At the moment we were in completely in liberated territory and the front is somewhere, but I don't know where exactly. Job shows up, because there's more action and more to see here. Just as he leaves Broere, Loodsmansduin starts to burn on Ongeren, with a hellish noise grenades hit Den Burg and Texla. The shellfire now continues, so that it howls past us and thunderous roars fills the air. The aim is good, because no grenade go stray.
After the shelling, we heard machine gun and rifle fire in Den Burg. It's still not safe. The NSB may be targeted by the resistance. Just before this all went down, the Dutch flag flew at Bloemwijk, but it had disappeared immediately when the shelling started. It was not a happy sight and it mocked the reality that it still was not safe.
April 6th, 1945
Next morning German reinforcement troops had landed and they took Den Burg immediately after the shelling. Now I understood that last night we had Germans on the East side, while the Russians on the West side moved from the Dennen to Walenburg. Nel had seen them fighting each other and had also heard cries for help, but we did not understand that the Germans were attacking. The Russians had now retreated to Eierland. Den Burg is hopelessly devastated and everyone has to clear debris to make the streets passable. There are many dead people.
Piet Bremer dairy excerpts
In the fighting that lasted for weeks, the Georgians lost more and more ground. The tide of battle was turning against the Georgians. More Germans were arriving on Texel every day; the reinforcements were slowly retaking the island. It was no easy fight; the Georgian rebels tenaciously held on to the airfield in the hope that the Allies would come to their aid. Most recently there was fighting around the Eierland lighthouse near De Cocksdorp. After the uprising was crushed, the Germans combed the entire island in search of remaining opponents. Several hundred of them were able to hide with the help of the Texel population and would survive the raids.
Desperate for assistance, the Texel lifeboat the "Joan Hodshon" left for England on April 8, 1945, with on board: 4 Georgians and 10 Dutch residents from Texel. The 4 Georgians committed desertion for this mission and they set off to summon help. After a 24-hour voyage across the North Sea, they arrived on the English coast. The Georgians were taken to Kempton Park, south of London and interrogated. During the questioning, the men appealed for Allied intervention.
They had no way of knowing that the British were already well aware of the mutiny; codebreakers at Bletchley Park had been intercepting German radio communiques about the situation on Texel. The Allied brass had chosen not to intervene. All their efforts were focussed on defeating Germany, and their commanders did not see any way to divert any troops or planes to help the Texel rebels.
On Hitler’s birthday, 20 April, the uprising was entering its third week. The Germans had captured the last Georgian stronghold: the lighthouse on the northern tip of the island.
Loladze was captured a few days later and shot. The Germans were taking no prisoners. Any Georgians who did surrender were ordered to remove their Wehrmacht uniforms, as they no longer had the right to wear them. They too were shot. Despite the crackdown, more than 200 Georgians remained in hiding. Periodic skirmishes continued for weeks. In fact, not even the surrender of all German forces in the Netherlands on May 5, ended the fighting on Texel. Skirmishes persisted after V-E Day three days later. It was only when Canadian troops landed on the island on May 20 that the rebellion on Texel finally came to an end.
The Canadian commanding officer, Lt. Col. W.D. Kirk, was astonished by what he found there. “They are still fighting spasmodically,” he wrote in the unit’s war diary. And noting the surreal nature of the fighting, he added, "it would seem to be a musical comedy situation". The captured Germans were swiftly taken off the island, while the Georgians were given time to bury their dead.
The Canadians were impressed with what the mutineers had accomplished. Lieutenant General Charles Foulkes, commander of Canadian troops in the Netherlands, wrote a letter to the Soviets praising the Georgians for their contribution to the Allied victory. That document, and another one penned later by General Eisenhower, helped the Georgians receive amnesty upon their return to Stalin’s Soviet Union. Instead of being punished for their 'treason', the survivors were allowed to live out the rest of their lives in peace and would later be held up as national heroes for what they had done. Their 45-day fight against the German army, which did not end until two weeks after the war was over, is now remembered as the final battlefield of the Second World War in Europe.
The Georgian uprising has cost the lives of 91 Texel residents and about 515 Georgians. The number of Germans killed was estimated at around 800 immediately after the war, presumably because Canadian reports added up German casualties and prisoners. In the second half of the twentieth century, historians assumed more than 812 German deaths, but local studies into the uprising show a considerably lower number of 471. When the Canadians liberated the island, 219 surviving Georgians depart from Texel on 17 June 1945. The material damage was great, dozens of Texel farms went up in flames, especially in the Eierland polder.
Because the Texel population had celebrated the liberation exuberantly but prematurely, 14 random Texel residents were arrested and taken to "de Mok" on 6 April. The driver of the car in which the 14 Texel residents were taken away did not drive fast, as a result of which four of the fourteen Texel residents managed to escape. The ten remaining persons were shot by the Germans that same afternoon at "de Mok" without trial. The victims were:
- Bookseller Johan M. Duinker
- Brothers Andries and Herman Pen from hotel De Oranjeboom
- Shoemaker Jan Witte
- Retired civil servant and former athlete Piet Ruimers
- Office clerks Gerrit Broekman and Jos Oremus
- Mechanic Cornelis Witte
- Farmhand Pieter J. Keijzer
- Mason Willem Keijzer
In the days that followed, 61 captured Georgians were also executed by the Germans. The remains of the executed Texel and Georgians were only found on 22 May in a mass grave on the beach. Another mass grave contained 41 Georgians and was located at De Cocksdorp at Hoeve Buitenzorg. They were executed on April 21, 1945.
The Georgians soldiers, together with other compatriots who died or were executed on Texel, were reburied in the Soviet cemetery Loladze on the Hoge Berg between Den Burg and Oudeschild. The cemetery is now the last resting place of 481 Georgians and 4 North Caucasian soldiers.
After the liberation of Texel, 221 surviving Georgian and 4 North Caucasian soldiers returned to the Soviet Union on June 17th 1945, dressed in Allied uniforms. They received letters of recommendation from the Dutch resistance and from the Canadian army command. They were nevertheless punished for serving in the enemy army. Many of them - despite their belated acts of resistance - were sent to Soviet labor camps for a number of years, a smaller number were allowed to return home immediately. A rehabilitation of the survivors took place in the Georgian SSR in 1956 in the wake of de-Stalinization.
In 1979 the responsible German officers were tried before the 'Landesgericht' in Oldenburg. They were acquitted for the alleged murder for lack of evidence, the executions were not prosecuted as permitted under the law of war. The prime suspect, Insel Commander Erich Neumann, died in 1976.
A warm thank you to the people of Texel, Ronald Keijser (Atlantantikwall Texel) and Irene Maas for helping me get the data and the information right.