September 1, 2013

0167 & 0806 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - The island of Europe's last battlefield

Posted on 08.04.2012 and completed on 01.09.2013
Until to receive this postcard, I didn't know anything about the Texel island, the largest and most populated of the Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea (an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, as "the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world, with natural processes undisturbed throughout most of the area"), and also the westernmost of this archipelago, which extends to Denmark. Well, here took place at the end of WWII the Georgian Uprising (Opstand der Georgiërs), later called Europe's last battlefield, because virtually ended on May 20, 1945, so after Germany's general surrender (May 8). 

Only few know that, despite the racial politics of the Third Reich, the German army had in composition units formed from troops without Aryan blood, such as Indians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Turkmens, Tatars, Arabs etc. Among these units was the Georgian Legion, formed from émigrés living in Western Europe and Soviet prisoners of war who were enlisted, while facing certain death from starvation, disease, forced labor and brutality in POW camps. The 822nd battalion of this legion, consisted of 800 Georgians and 400 Germans, was posted to Subsection Texel on February 1945. Preparations started in late March for a move of several companies to the Dutch mainland to oppose Allied advances led to the rebellion of which I mentioned previously.

Shortly after midnight on the night of 5-6 April 1945, expecting an Allied landing soon, the Georgians rose up and took control of nearly the entire island. All the 400 Germans were killed while sleeping in the quarters they shared with Georgians, who used knives and bayonets. Members of the Dutch resistance participated and assisted the Georgians, who failed however to capture the naval batteries on the north and the south of the island.

A counterattack was ordered and the artillery batteries began firing at sites where rebels were suspected to be. Approximately 2,000 riflemen of the 163rd Marine-Schützenregiment were deployed from the Dutch mainland. The troops, in a chain link only meters apart, combed the length of the island dragnet style and after two weeks Texel was retaken. The captured mutineers were ordered to dig their own graves, remove their German uniforms, and be executed. On 20 May newly-arrived Canadian troops pacify Texel. The 228 Georgians who survived were turned over to Soviet authorities and disappeared into Stalin's Gulags. Those still alive in the mid-1950s were rehabilitated and allowed to return home.

During the uprising 120 residents of Texel, 565 Georgians and at least 812 Germans became casualties. The destruction was enormous; dozens of farms went up in flames, with damage later estimated at ten million guilders (US$3.77 million). The final stage of the battle was fought around the lighthouse, located on the northernmost tip of the island, where several Georgians defended themselves to the limit. The Lighthouse Texel, also called Eierland Lighthouse, named after the island of Eierland, on of the two former islands, which were emerged to present Texel. The lighthouse is surrounded by a vast dune area, called Eierlandse Duinen and is located on the most northern point of Texel.

The lighthouse has been built in 1864 on top of a 20-metre high sand dune, after some civilians of Texel attended on the dangers of the waters between Texel and the island of Vlieland (72 ships had wrecked between 1848 and 1860). The tower itself is 37 metres high. During the uprising of the Georgians - they barricaded themselves in the tower - the lighthouse was heavily damaged and had to be rebuilt. In 1950 it was lighted again. Initially the lighthouse had a kerosene lamp, which was subsequently replaced with a electrical lamp. In 1977 the tower was covered with a red plastic coating. Since 1982 the lighthouse is a National Heritage Site of the Netherlands, and since 2009 is accessible up to the sixth floor.

About the stamps
On the first postcard
The stamp is one of two pieces of Personal Stamps destination Europe and World, issued on January 2, 2012 and designed by Max Kisman. The two stamps shown replicas of typical 17th-century Dutch monuments. On the Personal Stamp Europe (which is on this postcard) is that the house The Three Herrings in Deventer (house 92), the Personal Stamps World is that the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam (house 48). Both houses are photographed on a white ground, with the background a typical Dutch clouds.

On the second postcard
The stamp is part of Green Progress set, about which I wrote here.

Texel - Wikipedia
Texel - Official website
Georgian uprising on Texel - Wikipedia
Georgian uprising Texel - Comtourist
Eierland Lighthouse - Wikipedia

sender 1: Atie / Muuze (postcrossing)
sent from Den Helder (North Holland / Netherlands), on 11.03.2012
sender 2: Wilma van Vegten (direct swap)
sent from Amsterdam (North Holland / Netherlands), on 18.07.2013

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