The Georgian Legion
The main Georgian Legion as part of the German Wehrmacht was formed in December 1941 and became operational in the second part of 1942. It’s ranks were for one part filled by Georgians residing in Western Europe. Many of these Georgians were supporters of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (est. 1918), but were forced to leave their country when the Soviets invaded it in 1921. Thousands of people died during this period, many of whom civilians.
So when Germany in their turn invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, these men saw a chance to free Georgia from the Soviets and volunteered for service in the German Wehrmacht.
The other part of the ranks were filled by Georgians that had already fought against the Germans in the Red Army and had ended up as a prisoner of war in one of the many overcrowded POW camps. These men faced an almost certain death, as the Germans left these imprisoned men largely to their fate without food, water or shelter. Germany looking to fill the gaps of their ranks, gave some of them a way out by volunteering for service in the Wehrmacht.
During the course of World War 2, roughly 30,000 Georgians would enlist in the German Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS.
The 822nd Georgian Infantry Battalion
The 822nd Infantry Battalion “Königin Tamara” of the Georgian Legion was formed in June 1943 at Kruszyna (Silezië) in occupied Poland and consisted of 800 Georgians and 400 Germans of which the majority of officers were German. The Battalion was initially deployed to fight partisans on the Eastern Front, but at the end of August 1943 it was transferred to the Western Front to relieve troops stationed at Zandvoort in the Netherlands. Here it manned part of the “Stützpunktgruppe Zandvoort”, a sector of the Atlantic Wall, until it was posted to the North of Holland on the Island of Texel (pronounced “Tessel”) in early Februari 1945.
The Atlantic Wall on Texel
This island was also part of the Atlantic Wall. During the years of German occupation a network of bunkers and strongpoints had been constructed on it. The Georgian Battalion took up it’s assigned positions, while the rest of the defenses were manned by German Wehrmacht Units already present at Texel.
During this time it became clear that Germany was losing the war. Hitler’s forces were in permanent retreat since 1944; in the East the Red Army had reached the Oder river only 40 miles from Berlin and from the West the Allies had liberated France, Belgium and the South of the Netherlands. The Battle of the Ardennes or Operation “Wacht am Rhein”, the last counteroffensive of the Germans, had failed miserably.
It was just a matter of time before all of the Netherlands would fall into Allied hands and the Nazi Reich would collapse.
The Georgians found themselves in a complicated situation. As part of the German Wehrmacht they would soon be deployed to fight the Allied advance. Their beloved Georgia was still in the hands of one of these Allies, their sworn enemy Soviet Russia. The Wehrmacht hadn’t even come close to liberate it during the Eastern campaign.
The Battalion realized that upon capture or surrender they would surely face a heavy penalty for committing treason. In an attempt to try and clear their name, or at least soften the penalty, they have been working on a plan ever since they were stationed in Zandvoort. The plan is to revolt against the Germans and hold the island until the Allies come to relieve them.
When on the 5th of April 1945 Battalion Commander Major Klaus Breitner gives the Georgian Commander Sjalwa Loladze the order to march half of the battalion off to the East of the Netherlands, the Georgians decide it is time to execute the plan.
April 6th – The Georgian Revolt
The first part of the plan is largely based on surprise, by attacking the Germans in their sleep during the night they hope to gain the advantage. To avoid alarming neighboring German units the Georgians decide to strike with knives and daggers. Because the Germans wear the same Wehrmacht uniform as the Georgians, they choose a password that the Germans can’t pronounce; “Djenj Rozdjenjie”, meaning “Day of Birth”.
That night of the 6th of April at 01:00h the Georgians begin their massacre. Sources claim that during the first hours between 180 to a little over 400 German soldiers are killed. The execution of the plan during the first few hours can be seen as a success, although in some cases the silence is broken by the use of machine gun fire and hand grenades, awakening the suspicion of the Germans on the Island.
The Georgians are also unable to prevent the escape of a few German soldiers. Among them is their Commander of the 822nd Battalion Major Klaus Breitner, who manages to reach Texel’s South Battery and alert the German Command stationed on the mainland in Den Helder. The order in the form of “Sondermeldung Texel” leaves no doubt; “Kill all Georgians immediately”. Major Breitner, outraged by his Battalions treason, will personally lead multiple counter attacks on his muting Battalion.
Alerting the Germans on and off the Island makes the execution of the second part of the Georgian plan much harder. This is to take control of the whole Island and hold it until the Allied Forces will come to their aid. To do this they divide the group into six units. Each is assigned a strategic strongpoint on the Island to seize and hold. The most important objectives are to capture the North- and South Batteries. Both of them are manned only by German forces and have heavy guns that will pose a serious threat.
Commander Loladze has the task to capture the Ortskommandatur in Den Burgh and the Battalion Headquarters at Texla.
Losing the advantage – German Counter offensive
During the morning of the 6th many of the objectives are met and the Georgians manage to secure two-thirds of the Island. Many villages have been freed of the Germans and the Georgians have taken over the bunker complexes at Ongeren and Texla. Around 09:00 in the morning they control Texel from the North tip to the town of Den Burg in the South. Unfortunately they fail to capture the strategically important North- and South Batteries.
Meanwhile the Germans are slowly recovering from the surprise attack. They have started bringing in reinforcements to Texel from the mainland and are getting ready for a counter offensive. Around noon the North and South Batteries together with the Batteries at Den Helder start shelling the Island interior and heavy fighting erupts in and around the town of Den Burg.
When the Georgians refuse a German call for surrender, Den Burg is heavily shelled resulting in the death of 89 civilians. In the afternoon the Georgian forces retreat from Den Burg and later also the bunker complex Texla, which both are recaptured by the Germans in the early evening. Georgian wounded who had te be left behind at Texla are executed.
On the 7th of April Den Burg, Texla, Ongeren and Oudeschild are back in German hands. The Georgians manage to make a stand at the village of De Koog, the nearby airfield Vlijt and the Lighthouse near De Cocksdorp on the North end of Texel. Still unable to take the North Battery, this German strongpoint is sticking like a thorn into their side.
The Georgians have their focus on the village of De Waal on the center of the Island, in an attempt to push back the Germans. They launch a counter attack during the afternoon and take the village. After this they try to push for Den Burg again, but this attack is broken off. In the evening the Germans shell De Waal. The village is badly damaged and many civilians flee to the country side.
While the fighting still rages in the village of De Waal, the Georgians in the North are receiving fire from the North Battery and the neighboring Island Vlieland. The Lighthouse and the nearby bunkers receive heavy fire. In the evening the Germans launch an attack, but the Georgians manage to hold their position and break the attack. The lighthouse is badly damaged.
On April 8th the Germans recapture De Waal forcing the Georgians to fall back to the Eierland polder. The Georgians resolve to fighting from the many farms that lie in this area. Many are destroyed and set ablaze. They also retry to capture the North Battery in a desperate attempt. Unfortunately this is unsuccessful.
In the West the Georgians still hold the village of De Koog. At the end of the afternoon of April the 8th the Germans set their sights on recapturing the village. Even though the Germans bring reinforcements and attack in full force aided by the fire power of the South Battery, it takes them until the 10th of April to capture it. The Germans suffer heavy losses. The Georgians fall back to a defensive line at Vlijt Airfield.
On the defensive
In a meeting at the Vlijt Airfield bunker complex the Georgian senior officers decide to change their tactics. They only have a few hundred men left that can fight against a growing number of German soldiers. And they need all of them to cover their defensive line and watch their back. So to delay their capture as long as possible they will go on the defensive. If soldiers or units are cut off they are expected to take action to stall the enemy as long as they can, even to their death. Surrender is no option, on mutiny stands the death penalty.
Even though the Germans are determined to drive them off the Island of Texel, the Georgians offer fierce resistance. During the Battle for De Vlijt Airfield they inflict heavy losses and even force the Germans to retreat South to Ruigendijk.
The Germans let all the artillery in the area concentrate their fire on the airfield followed by large infantry attacks. Finally the Georgian lines seem to crack, when on the 14th of April the village of De Cocksdorp is abandoned and on the 16th the Georgians give up Vlijt Airfield.
The last stronghold
The remaining Georgian defenders gather at the last stronghold at the Texel lighthouse on the North tip. Their number is now just over a hundred. The Germans know it is just a matter of time. They seal off the perimeter around the lighthouse and attack on the 18th of April. It takes another two days to take the bunkers and the lighthouse. A little more than thirty Georgians manage to escape capture, while the rest of them are executed at Hoeve Buitenzorg by the Germans.
For the Georgians that managed to get away the fight is far from over. They go into hiding and resolve to guerrilla actions. The frustrated Germans repeatedly organize manhunts during the last week of April and the beginning of May in which they comb out the Island for Georgian survivors.
Officer Sjalwa Loladze has also managed to keep out of German hands and is hiding out on a farm in the Waalenburg polder. The Germans surround the farm during their hunt and set it on fire. Loladze together with others survives the fire by hiding in the basement, but is later killed when trying to escape. It is clear that the Germans are not aware of his death, when they demand his extradition a few days later.
On May 5th Germany surrenders the Netherlands to the Allies and on the 9th of May WW2 in Europe is finally over. But not on Texel. The Germans as wel as the Georgians refuse to lay down their arms. The tensions between the German forces there and the remaining Georgians result into deadly confrontations on multiple occasions, even far into May. This only ends when the Canadian Forces come to the Island on the 20th of May and finally disarm both parties.
At the end of the battle it had cost the lives of over a hundred civilians, an estimated 500 Georgians and somewhere around 600 to 800 Germans. The exact German number of dead is hard to reconstruct because of the large number of reinforcements and the fact that many casualties were transported off the Island for medical aid and their death cannot always be traced back to Texel.
The People of Texel
For this story we have focused on telling important key events in relation to the battle between the Germans and Georgians on Texel. We had to make choices and unfortunately this meant leaving out the story of the people of Texel who got caught in the middle. Trapped in a battle on an Island, losing their homes, losing friends and family, forced to fight, bury the dead, executed for helping a wounded soldier or even used as a human shield, these people had to go through all of this and hope to survive. It is hard to grasp what the Texelaars had to endure during the events.