Operation Battle of Texel

The 'Battle of Texel' was the Georgian uprising against the Germans on the Dutch island of Texel (5 April/20 May 1945).

The battle resulted from the insurrection of the 882nd Infanteriebataillon 'Königin Tamara' (Queen Tamara) of the German army’s Georgische Legion on the German-occupied island of Texel. The battalion comprised 800 Georgians and 400 Germans under officers primarily of German origins. The 'Battle of Texel' was one of the last battles of the European theatre in World War II.

The heavily fortified island of Texel was part of the German 'Atlantic Wall' system of defences. However, the Allied 'Neptune' (iii) landings in Normandy relegated this region of the 'Atlantic Wall' to relative insignificance. The men of the rebellious battalion were former Soviet soldiers from the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic who had been taken prisoner on the Eastern Front. The prisoners had been given the choice between remaining in prisoner of war camps, which would have meant abuse, starvation, and very possibly death, or serving in the German military and thus gain a degree of freedom, and the battalion was established on the basis of men who opted for the latter. Anti-communist emigrés living in western Europe also joined the unit.

The 822nd Infanteriebataillon had been established at Kruszyna near Radom in German-occupied Poland during June 1943 and was used initially to fight partisans. On 24 August 1943 the battalion was ordered to the west to relieve troops of the 950th Infanterieregiment (indisches) of the Indische Freiwilligen-Legion. The Georgian battalion arrived at Zandvoort in the German-occupied Netherlands on 30 August. Between September 1943 and a date early in February 1945 it was stationed at Zandvoort as part of the Unterabschnitt 'Zandvoort' (Zandvoort sub-section). On 6 February the battalion was posted to the Unterabschnitt 'Texel'. Preparations then started, late in March 1945, for the transfer of several of the Georgian battalion’s companies to the Dutch mainland to oppose the advancing Allied forces, and it was this which triggered the rising.

Shortly after 00.00 on 5/6 April 1945, the Georgians rose and gained control of almost the whole 178.83-sq mile (463.16-km²) island. About 200 German soldiers were killed in the initial uprising, either in their quarters or while standing guard, walking the roads of the island in groups or individually that night and the following day. Members of the Dutch resistance participated and assisted the Georgians. However, the uprising was posited on an expected Allied landing which did not occur. Furthermore, the Georgians failed to secure the naval batteries on the island’s southern and northern coasts: the personnel of these artillery installations were the only Germans still alive on the island.

A counterattack was ordered and the intact artillery batteries on the island began to fire on the locations in which it was believed the insurgents were, and about 2,000 infantrymen of the 163rd Marineschützenregiment were deployed from the Dutch mainland. Over the next five weeks the naval infantrymen retook the island. The fighting was particularly heavy in the northern part of the island at Eierland and around the lighthouse. The German troops then combed the island for any remaining Georgian soldiers, while the Dutch inhabitants sought to hide them. The German commander of the 882nd Battalion, Major Klaus Breitner, stated long after the war that the uprising was 'treachery, nothing else'. The captured mutineers were ordered to dig their own graves and remove their German uniforms, and were then executed.

During the rebellion, 565 Georgians, at least 812 Germans and 120 residents of Texel were killed. The physical destruction was great, for dozens of farms went up in flames. The bloodshed lasted beyond the German capitulation in the Netherlands and Denmark on 5 May and even beyond Germany’s general surrender on 8 May, and in fact continued until Canadian troops arrived 20 May 1945 to enforce the German surrender, and disarmed the remaining German troops.

The Georgian survivors may have feared facing the same fate as that of most Soviet collaborators: forced repatriation, under the agreement reached at the 'Argonaut' conference in Yalta, often followed by incarceration and banishment and, for officers, execution. The 228 Georgians who survived by hiding from the German troops in coastal minefields, or who were concealed by Texel farmers, were handed over to the Soviets. After arrival at a collection camp in the USSR, 26 Georgians were singled out and banished together with their families, and others were sent to gulag prison camps. Those still alive in the mid-1950s were rehabilitated and allowed to return home.

Canadian troops landed unopposed on Texel on 17 May 1945, effectively liberating the island. Over a two-day period the Canadians disarmed 1,535 Germans. Soviet SMERSH (counter-intelligence) forces arrived on Texel and took charge of 228 Georgians still alive. A Canadian report prepared for the commander of the SMERSH contingent recorded 470 Georgian and 2,347 German casualties on Texel.