THE FIGHT TO THE END... AND BEYOND
BBC History Magazine|June 2020
As Britons celebrated VE Day, German troops were engaged in pitiless clashes on the Dutch island of texel against rebel fighters-from Georgia, Eric Lee tells the story of the final battle of Europe's second World War
Eric Lee
THE FIGHT TO THE END... AND BEYOND

In late April 1945, a squad of German troops encircled a farm on the Dutch island of Texel, briefly stopped to catch their breath, and then set about their gruesome work. First they set fire to the farmhouse, and then they waited for their quarry to emerge. They shot those who made the break for safety, and when others took refuge in a nearby pig shed, they set that ablaze too.

However, two men did manage to elude the Germans, taking temporary shelter in the farm’s cellar, and later slipping away under cover of darkness. Exhausted, they hid in a nearby ditch. The following morning, a farmer found them asleep and alerted the marauding troops. They quickly arrived on the scene and put the fugitives to death. It was a grisly scene. And it was made all the more darkly bizarre by the fact that both the victims and those doing the shooting, were wearing German uniforms.

So why would Wehrmacht troops inflict such brutalities on so-called ‘comrades’? And why were they doing so during the death throes of the Third Reich – at a time when, across Europe, thousands of their compatriots were laying down their arms and surrendering?

The answer lies in the identity of the men they hunted down and killed. These victims may have worn German uniforms but they had no loyalty to the Wehrmacht. They were, in fact, former prisoners of war – Red Army men from Soviet Georgia who had switched sides. And the rebellion they had launched against German forces on Texel would trigger the final battle of Europe’s Second World War.

A stark dilemma

This story is from the June 2020 edition of BBC History Magazine.

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This story is from the June 2020 edition of BBC History Magazine.

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