The Georgian uprising on Texel
The Dutch Island Texel was the location of the last battle of World War II in Europe, fought out between the Germans and muting Georgians. A vicious battle claimed many casualties on the both sides. This battle that went on after the German capitulation is largely forgotten today but a Soviet cemetery and a small museum about the uprising can still be found on Texel.
Texel is the most western Island only 15 minutes by ferry from Den Helder and a favourite tourist destination for both Dutch and German holiday makers. The Wadden Islands were part of the heavily defended Atlantic Wall during World War II. Georgian prisoners of war were given the choice to work for the Wehrmacht or die of starvation in the POW camps. Many Georgian soldiers chose to work for the Germans and joined the German garrison on Texel. At the end of the war it became clear that the Germans had lost the War and Stalin would be unforgiving for Red Army soldiers who surrendered let alone cooperated with the Germans. The Georgians decided to start muting against the Germans, a viscous battle with many casualties erupted. The battle claimed much civilian causality, 120 residents of Texel died besides the 812 German and 562 Georgian soldiers. The Georgians are buried in a Soviet cemetery that still exists today and is well maintained. The cemetery and a museum telling the story of the “Russian War” on Texel airport are a good reason to take the ferry to Texel to find out more about one of the last World War II battles in Europe.
Georgians on Texel
Some Red Army prisoners of war from Georgia the Caucasus and other areas of the Soviet Union were given the choice to die in the POW camps or fight for the Germans. Many people in these republics had suffered terribly under Stalin and had little allegiance to the Soviet Union. They had little choice to join the German army in battalions part of the Ostlegionen (Eastern Legions) as the alternative was to starve to death in the prison camps. The Georgian battalion that later took part in the battle on Texel was formed in Poland in June 1943 were they had to fight the partisans. Soon they were sent to the Dutch beach resort Zandvoort were they were stationed until February 1945. On 6 February 1945 the Georgian battalion was posted to the coastal defence of the Island Texel. The total occupation force on Texel then existed of 400 Germans and 800 Georgians.
The Georgians decide to rise up
The coastal defence of Texel became largely insignificant after the June 1944 D-day landings in Normandy. Many capable German units were already transferred to the front from coastal defence positions like Texel. In late March it became clear that the Georgians also would be moved to the mainland to fight the allies on the front. This could only end with the death of all the Georgian soldiers, they would either die in battle, be shot by the Germans if they refused to go or be killed by Stalin as traitors if they would be captured by the allies. This left the Georgians the conclusion that rising up against the Germans would be their best option. Most of them would probably die but those who would survive could have a change to go back to the USSR and be pardoned by Stalin. A secret meeting was held under leadership of Georgian commander Schwalwa Loladse and the plans for the uprise were made and given the code name “Djenj rozjdjenije” translated day of birth.
The battle commences
The planned uprising started in the night of 5 April 1945. The Georgians killed around four hundred Germans with knives or bayonets. Most of these German soldiers were killed in their sleep or from behind while they were standing guard. These actions were noticed as one German solider was able to shoot in the air to raise alarm. The Georgians took control of almost the whole Island except the naval batteries on the southern and northern coasts of Texel. The Dutch resistance had requested an allied landing during the days after the up rise but this landing never took place, liberating Texel was not a priority for the allied command.
The Germans counter attack
The Germans launched a counter attack led by fanatic commander Klaus Breitner the day after the uprise and started shelling the Georgian positions from batteries on the mainland, the island Vlieland and those on Texel that the Georgians had not captured. 2,000 German Navy riflemen were brought to the Island to help breaking the Georgian resistance. Fierce fighting went on for two weeks before the Germans had retaken most of the Island. The last position the Georgians were able to hold was the Eastern part of the Island around the lighthouse. A group of Texel residents undertook a mission to England with the life boat “Joan Hodshon” to convince the Allies to send troops to Texel to help the Georgians and the resistance. The request was declined by the allied command as the situation on Texel did not have any strategic importance. The locals suffered a lot since both the Germans and the Georgians demanded full cooperation on punishment by death in case of non compliance.
The last battle of World War II in Europe ends
The Georgians who survived the German counter attack went into hiding in the fields hay stacks, houses of local residents and so on. The German capitulation in the Netherlands and even the unconditional surrender of Germany were no reason for German commander Breitner to stop hunting down the Georgians and Dutch who helped them. Captured Georgians were forced to dig their own grave before they were executed. Breitner later justified this by stating that he was not fighting the allies but dealing with a mutiny. The fighting finally ended when the Canadians landed on Texel on 20 May 1945, the last European battle of World War II was over.
The aftermath of the Russian War
The Soviet Union send SMERSH operatives to Texel to collect the 228 Georgians that were still alive. SMERSH (meaning Death to Spies) was a Soviet Counter intelligence agency responsible for identifying and punishing Red Army soldiers who conducted treason or other offences against the Soviet Union. The Georgians had good reason to fear deportation or even execution upon their return in the Soviet Union. Most were send to the Gulags, those who survived were rehabilitated after Stalin’s death in the mid 1950’s. The Soviet ambassador would visit the graves of the fallen soldiers every year on the 4th of May. The story is that he was driven in a blinded car in the ferry to avoid that he could spy on the Dutch Naval fleet based in Den Helder. A documentary about the Georgian uprising was made in 1979 by the Dutch channel NOS. Georgians survivors Artemitze, Zghenti and Congladze and German commander Breitener were interviewed to construct a complete account about the Georgian uprising. Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili visited the graveyard in 2005 to honour the Georgian soldiers.
The Dutch Secret Service weighs in
The Dutch Secret Service (BVD) took an interest in Texel after the end of the war. Many people on Texel wanted to visit the Georgians in the USSR or stay in contact via other means. This plus the daring help given to the Georgians during the rebellion raised suspicion with the Secret Service that many islands were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. Strange persons were seen on the island for years photographing those involved with the rebellion. The result was that many islanders did not visit the annual commemoration service anymore and were afraid to contact the Georgians. A documentary about the Georgian Uprising in 1979 brought the subject back in the Dutch national cognisance and also criticised the role of the Secret Service. The government refused to reveal the nature of the BVD operations on Texel bud did donate funds to subsidize a permanent exposition about the Georgian uprising.
Georgian cemetery Texel
An estimated 470 Georgian soldiers are buried on the Georgian cemetery Loladse (named after commander Schwalwa Loladse) at Oudeschild near Den Burg Texel’s main town. The cemetery is a situated on a hill on a beautiful part of the island many people visit it every year. The soldiers are buried in twelve long rows with red roses planted on the graves. Commander Loladse is buried in an individual grave with a bronze memorial plate laid down inn 1966. A monument build in 1953 is made up by a granite wall with emblems of the Soviet Union and Texel. The gate to the cemetery, decorated with bronzed relief’s was brought from Georgia in 1973. A memorial stone dedicated to Cornelia Boon-Verberg was also brought from Georgia in 1985. Cornelia Boon-Verberg tried to keep a warm relation between Texel and Georgia after the war ended. The Georgian cemetery is very well maintained and a serene and impressive place for a short stop when cycling on the Island of Texel.
Museum of the Georgian uprising
Postweg 126, De Cocksdorp
16 Apr to 30 Oct, 11.00 – 17.00, Mondays closed
The Museum of the Georgian uprising is housed inside the Texel Aviation and War Museum at Texel Airport. The Aviation and War museum itself is an interesting museum with a sizable section dedicated to the Atlantic Wall on Texel. Scale models and photographs of German bunkers and batteries during the war give visitors a good impression what Texel looked like during the war. The exposition about the Georgian Uprising has its own area with manu photographs, scale models, uniforms and other exhibits relating to the So called Russian War. The museum building is located on the ground of Texel Airport, visitors can enjoy the view of small aircraft taking off and landing plus see parachutist coming down every ten minutes. The airfield is also home of a flying Antonov An-2, seeing this bird in action is a great experience for every aviation enthousiast. Texel is easy to reach by ferry and a great day out for everybody, Comtourist recommends spending a day on the island and spend some time at the airport.