I just returned from the Dutch Island of Texel where I’m researching a sequel to my novel, SKYWRITING. I have been impatiently waiting on an particular agent response to SKYWRITING, so it seemed like a good time to do some sleuthing. First, if you have never been to Texel, GO! It’s a wonderful place and the people are handsome, friendly and interesting.
Did you know that the last battle in Europe was fought on Texel–two weeks after the war had officially ended?
Years ago I had an art history professor, Wachtang Djobadze, who dismissively told me he had “fought for both sides in the war, because war mixes things up.” Djobadze was from Georgia and I gathered he had first fought for the Russians and then was either captured or became a turncoat and fought for the Nazis (not unusual; many nationalists who fought with guns to their heads under Stalin and thought they would do better by joining the Germans). I never pursued the conversation with him because the ordinarily ebullient Georgian seemed sensitive about discussing it.
In 1945 a Georgian soldier’s group was formed by the Nazis, the 822nd Queen Tamara Regiment, and was sent to Texel to defend against a possible allied invasion of Holland. Eight hundred Georgians served under 400 German officers and NCOs. The war’s outcome was apparent to all by then–the Allied armies were already knocking on Germany’s door, and the Russians were approaching from the east. On the night of April 6, 1945, the Georgians used bayonets and knives to kill most of the Germans who commanded them. Thus began the uprising. The furious German commander brought in reinforcements and over the next six weeks hunted down the Georgians. The war in Europe had officially ended on May 7, 1945, but the Germans on Texel were relentless and brutal. As they swept this small island, flushing Georgians like quail and shooting them down, they also killed Dutch citizens suspected of helping the Georgians.
My guide and expert on the history of Texel, Gelein Jansen, took me to the many bunkers and sites of this last desparate battle and explained each of the defensive positions taken by the Georgians, who had made failed in one of their objectives in their uprising: they could not capture the artillery batteries manned by the Germans at the north and south ends of this 15 mile long island.
I went with Gelein to the Georgian Cemetery near Den Berg where about 400 men lie at rest under immaculately tended. I also saw the graves of a number of Allied airmen whose planes crashed on the island after missions to bomb Germany. They were Royal Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and included were some unknowns.
I thought I had pretty well covered things with Gelein. But there were continued surprises–including one big one. Stay tuned and I will continue the tale of the Texel Uprising. Thanks for reading my blog.
See also: What Others are Saying