September campaign

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September campaign

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September campaignPoland’s defensive war

World War II

“Schleswig-Holstein” shells Gdynia from the port of Gdansk (September 13).

Time

September 1 to October 6, 1939

Location

Poland, the Free City of Danzig, partly the Third Reich

Territory

Second Polish Republic

Cause

Territorial claims of Germany and the USSR against Poland, the aspiration of both countries to hegemony in Europe and to change the geopolitical arrangement, resulting from the Treaty of Versailles, to this end

Result

Victory of the Third Reich and the USSR and the division of Polish territory between the Third Reich and the USSR[1].

Parties to the conflict

Second Republic Great Britain[a][2] France

Third Reich

Free City of Danzig[b]

Slovakia[c] USSR

Commanders

Edward Rydz-Śmigły Wacław Stachiewicz Tadeusz Kutrzeba Stefan Dąb-Biernacki Edmund Ironside Maurice Gamelin

Walther von Brauchitsch Franz Halder Fedor von Bock Gerd von Rundstedt Ferdinand Čatloš Semyon Timoshenko Mikhail Kovalev

Forces

Poland:39 infantry divisions(+ 2 improvised),11 cavalry brigades(+1 improvised),2 motorized brigades,3 mountain brigades,3 light tank battalions,14 National Defense brigades(+ independent ON battalions),4300 guns,880 tanks,400 aircraft,1 destroyer,1 mine-layer,6 minesweepers,5 submarinesCzech-Slovak Legion:1000 soldiers,190 pilotsTotal:950,000. [3] or 1 million[4] troopsWestern Front:France(in the metropolis):1.[5] 36 infantry and motorized divisions(including 8 armored and motorized divisions)2. [6] 84 infantry and motorized divisions(including 8 armored and motorized divisions, 5 brigades and the equivalent of 32 tank battalions)[7]Total:4662,000 troops (in ground forces)[7],16,850 guns (including more than 3,200 heavy and approx. 700 of the heaviest[7]),2230 tanks,810 fighter and bomber aircraft[d],7 battleships,1 aircraft carrier,19 cruisers,71 destroyers and torpedo boats,79 submarinesGreat Britain:9 infantry divisions(including 4 BEF infantry divisions),1500 fighter and bomber aircraft[e],15 battleships,7 aircraft carriers,65 cruisers,187 destroyers and torpedo boats,58 submarines[8].

Germany:48 infantry divisions,6 armored divisions,4 motorized infantry divisions,4 light divisions,2 infantry brigades,1 mountain brigade,1 cavalry brigade,10,000 guns[f],2,700 tanks,1,300 fighter and bomber aircraft[g],2 battleships,10 destroyers,10 submarinesSoviet Union(since 17. 09.1939):more than 33 divisions,more than 11 brigades,4959 guns,4736 tanks,3300 aircraft[9]Slovakia:3 divisionsTotal:1.8 million German soldiers (1.6 million ground troops, 200,000 Luftwaffe, 50,000 Kriegsmarine),617,588 Soviets,50,000 SlovaksTotal:approx. 2.5 million soldiersWestern front:Germany:1.[10] 35 infantry divisions(including 23 reserves),1,000 fighter, bomber and naval aircraft[11],5 battleships,2 cruisers,6 destroyers,38 submarines[12]2.[13] 44 infantry divisions(including 32 reserves)

Losses

Poland[14]:66,000 killed,133,700 wounded,694,000 prisoners of war,Great Britain:650 killed,12 prisoners of war[15]France:ca. 2,000 killed[16]Czech-Slovak Legion:no data on losses

Germany[14]:Land Forces:16,843 killed,36,473 wounded,320 missing[17], Luftwaffe: 386 killed,407 wounded,163 missing[18], Kriegsmarine:77 killed,115 wounded,3 missing[19]Total: 17,106 killed,36,995 wounded,486 missing,217 tanks and armored cars,11,000 motor vehicles,280 aircraft,370 guns,14,620 rifles and pistols[20]USSR[14]:1173 killed,2002 wounded,302 missing[21]Slovakia:18 killed,46 wounded,11 missing,1 fighter[22].

no coordinates

Multimedia in Wikimedia Commons

Citations in Wikicytat

Zones of interest of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Third Reich on the territory of the Second Polish Republic as agreed upon in the Secret Additional Protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939.

Polish-British staff talks, July 1939. visible: Edward Smigly-Rydz and Edmund Ironside

The September campaign (other names used: Polish campaign 1939, Polish war 1939, Polish defensive war 1939[23]) – defense of Polish territory against military aggression (without a defined declaration of war in international law) by the armies of the Third Reich (Wehrmacht)[24] and the USSR (Red Army); the first stage of World War II. From September 3, 1939, a coalition war[23][25] of Poland, France and Great Britain against the German Reich.

It was the first campaign of World War II, lasting from September 1 (the armed aggression of Germany) to October 6, 1939, when, with the surrender[26] of SGO Polesie near Kock, the battles of regular units of the Polish Army against the aggressors ended. The Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army in the campaign was Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly, and the Chief of Staff was Brig. Gen. Waclaw Stachiewicz. On September 2, 1939, the President appointed Colonel Waclaw Kostek-Biernacki as Chief Civil Commissar with the rank of Minister, who had the powers of Prime Minister in the operational area[27].

As a result of the aggression of the Third Reich and the USSR against Poland, the national territory of the Republic was completely occupied and divided by the Treaty of September 28, 1939, in defiance of international law. In the face of these facts, the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile on September 30, 1939 officially protested the violation of the rights of the state and the Polish people and the disposition of the territory of the Republic, declaring that it would never recognize this act of violence and would not cease its struggle for the complete liberation of the country from the invaders. On November 30, 1939, President Władysław Raczkiewicz issued a decree on the invalidity of the acts of the occupation authorities, stating that all acts and orders of the authorities, occupying the territory of the Polish State, if they go beyond the limits of the temporary administration of the occupied territory, are, in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, null and void[28].

The USSR ceded part of Poland’s territory occupied by the Red Army (Vilnius with a district) to Lithuania on October 10, 1939,[29][30][31] while Germany ceded part of Poland’s territory (Spisz and Orava) to Slovakia on November 21, 1939,[32] also in violation of international law (the 1907 Hague Convention).

Table of Contents

1 Prologue

1.1 Political situation 1.2 Intelligence warning 1.3 Casus belli 1.4 German diversion

2 Preparations for war

3 German aggression

3.1 Beginning of the war

4 Slovak aggression 5 Border battle 6 Declaration of war against Germany by Britain and France – the “strange war” 7 Conference in Jelewka (German: Ilnau)

8 Defense against German aggression September 3-17

8.1 Fighting on the main line of defense September 3-10 8.2 Fighting inside the country September 10-17

9 OUN diversion 10 USSR aggression against Poland September 17 11 Military operations September 17-October 6 12 Coastal defense in the September campaign 13 Aviation battles in the September campaign 14 Civil defense 15 Epilogue

16 Polish war losses

16.1 Enemy losses

17 Myths about the September campaign

18 War crimes

18.1 Crimes of the Wehrmacht 18.2 Crimes of the Red Army and NKVD formations 18.3 Crimes of Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian communist militias in Eastern Lesser Poland and Volhynia

19 Poland’s missed opportunities in the September campaign 20 First lessons from the September campaign

21 Organization of the Polish Army in September 1939

21.1 Armies of the Polish Army 21.2 Fronts of the Polish Army (as of September 10, 1939)

22 Organization and equipment of the aggressors

22.1 Organization and equipment of the Wehrmacht on September 1, 1939

23 Commemorations 24 See also 25 Notes 26 Footnotes 27 Bibliography 28 External links

Prologue[edit | edit code].

Political situation[edit | edit code].

Neville Chamberlain on his return from the Munich Conference declares: “I have brought peace for our time,” Heston Airport in London, September 30, 1938

The new arrangement of borders in Central and Eastern Europe created by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I was a constant object of Germany’s territorial claims against its neighboring countries. Germany, dissatisfied with the provisions of the treaty (which left outside the borders of the Weimar Republic territories compactly inhabited by a majority German-speaking population – the Sudetenland, Klaipeda, the Free City of Danzig), and invoking the principle of self-determination of peoples (adopted at the Paris Conference (1919) as a principle of international law), sought to revise the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, demanding the application of equal rights in the application of treaty clauses to Germany. This included disarmament clauses, as well as the lifting of the treaty prohibition on the merger (Anschluss) of Austria with Germany and the demand for a revision of the borders with Czechoslovakia and Poland with the invocation of the principle of self-determination against the populations of these countries declaring German nationality[33]. Weimar Germany’s strategic goal regardless of its political leadership was the overthrow of the “Versailles order.”[33] After the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg and the consequent seizure of power in Germany by the NSDAP with the support of German conservatives, the revision of the Versailles order accelerated in the face of Hitler’s openly declared political program to revise the entire Versailles order. The consequence was that Germany unilaterally openly violated the provisions of the Versailles Treaty in the following years regarding the armament restrictions imposed on Germany by launching massive armaments-including aerial armaments, the introduction of troops into treaty-demilitarized areas in western Germany, i.e. the The remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936 and the Anschluss in March 1938. The remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, a violation of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Treaty, received no reaction from Great Britain and France – the signatory powers of both treaties.

The flashpoint in Polish-German relations was primarily the existence of Polish Pomerania, part of Polish territory with the Baltic coast. The Germans referred to Polish Pomerania as the “Polish Corridor” (German: Polnischer Korridor), the area separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany. The questioning of Poland’s rights to Gdansk Pomerania[h], resulted, among other things, in German railroads failing to systematically regulate transit fees[34] to PKP for the transportation of goods through Pomerania. This resulted, in February 1936, in Poland temporarily restricting German transit through Polish territory until transit obligations were equalized[i].

Germany also made systematic attempts from the early 1920s to undermine Poland’s treaty-guaranteed rights in the Free City of Danzig. This was manifested in the Free City Senate’s attempt to remove the mixed port police (1932), or in its attempt to prevent Poland from exercising Danzig’s sovereign rights to foreign countries (Danzig Crisis 1932). NSDAP activists Albert Forster and Artur Greiser organized anti-Polish speeches and aimed to annex Danzig to the Third Reich as early as 1933.

Politicians of the Weimar Republic (Gustav Stresemann) sought to revise the Polish-German border established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles through international arbitration with the participation of the League of Nations. At the same time, the military circles of the Weimar Republic (Hans von Seeckt, Kurt von Schleicher) maintained close ties with the RKKA[j].

After Hitler’s seizure of power and France’s rejection in 1933 of Jozef Pilsudski’s proposal for a preventive war,[35] Jozef Pilsudski decided to sign a bilateral Polish-German declaration of non-violent mutual relations in January 1934. At the time, Hitler still gave the impression of a moderate politician, even sympathetic to Poland, while his main antagonist seemed to be the USSR, which was further confirmed by the Anti-Comintern Pact signed in 1936. On the other hand, on November 5, 1937, a joint declaration of the two governments, Polish and German, on the treatment of their national minorities was published.

In view of the armed seizure of the Rhineland by two Wehrmacht battalions in March 1936 – an open violation of both the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Locarno – Poland declared to France its readiness to fulfill its Allied obligations without delay should French troops enter the treaty-demilitarized zone of the Rhineland violated by Germany. France, as guarantor of the Locarno Treaty, allowed Germany to unilaterally violate the treaty. The consequences included the declaration of neutrality status by Belgium (a signatory to the Locarno Pact) and France’s previous ally. This had important consequences for the strategic position of the democratic powers (France and Britain) vis-à-vis the Third Reich, and of fundamental and decisive military significance for the events of the 1940 campaign – Germany’s aggression against neutral Belgium and the Netherlands and attack on France. This is because the consequence of the Rhineland crisis was, in parallel, to enable the Third Reich to fortify the border zone with France and – because of Belgium’s renunciation of its military alliance with France through a declaration of neutrality – to significantly reduce France’s offensive capabilities against Germany (in view of the shortening of the section of the border from which the French army could take the offensive by a section of the Belgian-German border). In practice, this opened the way for Germany’s territorial expansion in Central Europe against France’s allies Czechoslovakia and Poland, in the first instance, and the Anschluss of Austria, last blocked successfully by Britain and France in 1931, under the threat of economic and military sanctions against Germany.

In November 1937, Edward Halifax, then president of the British House of Lords[k] during a visit to Berlin, proposed to Hitler, in violation of Versailles principles, negotiations on four issues: Austria, the Sudetenland, Danzig and the former German colonies. This was interpreted by Germany as Britain’s agreement to Germany’s program of territorial expansion in Central Europe. Consequently, the Reich’s demands on the government of Austria and its subsequent Anschluss, as well as parallel territorial demands on Czechoslovakia, were not resisted by British diplomacy (which played a key role in the British-French alliance)[l]. The policy of the British Conservative Cabinet of this period, is referred to as the appeasement (pol. satisfaction) of the Third Reich. The culmination of the appeasement policy was the Munich Conference and the resulting treaty between Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Following the conclusion of the Munich Conference on September 30, 1938, and the recognition by the Czechoslovak government of territorial cessions to Germany guaranteed by France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy, Poland demanded at 11:45 p.m. on September 30, 1938, that the Czechoslovak government adjust the Polish-Czechoslovak border in the area of Zaolzie on the basis of ethnic demarcation. After the Czechoslovak government agreed, Poland took over the districts occupied in 1919 and seized without a plebiscite by Czechoslovakia (as a consequence of the Spa Conference and the decision of the Council of Ambassadors): the Trinec-Karvin district, the Zaolzie part of the Těšín district and part of the Frýdek district of Cieszyn Silesia.

Poland’s recovery of the ethnically Polish lands of Cieszyn Silesia was at the time, and still remains, considered to be part of the Third Reich’s policy of territorial claims, even though it was a consequence of Czechoslovakia’s territorial cessions to Germany, adopted by the Czechoslovak government and accepted by the Western powers at the Munich Conference[36].

See more in the article Polish-Czechoslovak border conflicts, in the section Conflict in 1938.

After the annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938, the issue of German-Polish relations returned to the forefront of German foreign policy as a consequence of the Munich Agreement.

On October 24, 1938, Third Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, in a conversation with Polish Ambassador to Berlin Jozef Lipsky, held in Berchtesgaden, made the following proposals (which remained secret until the end of March 1939[37]):

the annexation of the Free City of Danzig to Germany, the routing of an extraterritorial highway and railroad through Polish Pomerania (the so-called “Polish corridor”), Poland’s accession to the Anti-Komintern Pact – that is, Poland’s overt declaration of itself as a political partner of the Third Reich and a strategic adversary of the USSR.

In return, the Third Reich proposed:

the routing of a similar extraterritorial highway or road and railroad through the territory of Danzig, as well as a free port, a guarantee of disposal of Polish goods in the Danzig area, mutual recognition of the Polish-German border (or recognition of the territories of both countries), extension of the non-aggression treaty for another 25 years, German consent to territorial changes in favor of Poland in the east and a common Polish-Hungarian border, cooperation on the question of emigration of Jews[34] from Poland and on colonial matters, mutual consultation on all foreign policy decisions.

Diplomatic activities of European politicians and military arrangements on the eve of war. March-August 1939

Ribbentrop’s visit to Warsaw, January 1939

President of Czechoslovakia Emil Hácha in Berlin March 15, 1939 – Hitler’s ultimatum

Jozef Beck’s exposé to the Polish parliament, May 5, 1939

French-Polish staff talks; greeting at the train station, General Tadeusz Kasprzycki and General Maurice Gamelin (right) – from left, Ambassador Juliusz Lukasiewicz, Paris – May 1939

Polish-British staff talks – General Waclaw Stachiewicz and General Edmund Ironside (in civilian clothes), Warsaw July 17-21, 1939

On January 6, 1939, Ribbentrop, in a conversation with Jozef Beck during Beck’s visit to Berchtesgaden, had already clearly demanded a firm agreement on an extraterritorial highway and railroad through Polish Pomerania and the annexation of Danzig to the Third Reich. In view of the fact that there was a parallel meeting between Beck and Hitler, it became clear that this was not an independent diplomatic initiative by Ribbentrop (as the Polish side had assumed until then), but an official position of the dictator of the Third Reich. Consequently, after Minister Beck’s return from Germany, a meeting was held at the Royal Castle in Warsaw with the participation of President Ignacy Moscicki and Edward Rydz-Smigly, at which the German demands were deemed unacceptable,[34] judging that they were only a prelude to Hitler’s further anti-Polish steps. At the time, the participants in the meeting stated in unison that acceptance of the German demands would bring Poland: “inevitably on a downward spiral, ending in a loss of independence and the role of a vassal of Germany.”[33] These fears were confirmed after Ribbentrop’s next visit to Warsaw on January 25-27, 1939. It was then recognized in the decision-making centers of the Second Republic that Poland had become the new target of the German offensive[34]. In January 1939 Edward Rydz-Smigly issued the first instructions, ordering the acceleration of staff work on the Polish defense plan in case of armed conflict. At the same time, the concept of a German-Polish alliance was very unpopular in Germany.In turn, Hitler, in a private conversation with Commander-in-Chief Brauchitsch of the German army held on March 25, 1939, admitted that it was to be only a tactical alliance to protect the rear of Germany during the planned attack on France in the first place, further down the line, Hitler planned to crush Poland, annex to the Third Reich lands up to a straight line between the eastern border of East Prussia and the eastern border of Upper Silesia, and create a Ukrainian state with the border extended as far west as possible[38].

In parallel, Germany’s expansion in Europe intensified, and on March 15, 1939, the breakup of Czechoslovakia took place – the declaration of independence by Slovakia and its submission to the German protectorate, the military occupation by the Wehrmacht of Bohemia and the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which weakened Poland strategically, worsening its chances in a possible armed conflict[m]. The occupation of Bohemia and Moravia constituted a violation by Germany of the Munich Agreement of 1938 and resulted in a change in the attitude of Great Britain and France toward Germany’s policy – these countries recognized that the Third Reich’s intentions toward Europe went beyond Hitler’s previously declared unification of all ethnically German territories within the Reich and aimed at Germany’s gaining hegemony on the continent.

On March 21, 1939, Adolf Hitler, in his capacity as “leader and chancellor of the Reich,” issued an official written memorandum to the Polish government, reiterating the Reich’s demands, which had been presented verbally up to that point, for the annexation of Danzig and extraterritorial transit through Polish Pomerania. In response, the Polish side proposed a joint Polish-German guarantee of the status of the Free City of Danzig (cf. condominium) in place of the existing League of Nations control, which was rejected by the German side. On March 23, a secret emergency mobilization of four divisions directed over Poland’s border with Germany and the Free City of Danzig (the so-called Intervention Corps) was ordered in Poland. Polish-German negotiations lasted five months, beginning on October 24, 1938, and finally ended on March 26, 1939 with Poland’s official refusal to meet the demands of Hitler’s memorandum.

On March 31, 1939, Britain unilaterally granted Poland a guarantee of independence (but not territorial integrity), promising military aid in the event of a threat. Determined to resist further expansion of Germany’s influence on the continent, the British also gave analogous guarantees to Romania and, in April 1939, to Greece, which appeared to be threatened by Italy following its annexation of Albania. Responding to news of Jozef Beck’s decision to make an emergency visit to London (to convert the British declaration into a bilateral one), Adolf Hitler on April 11, 1939 ordered work on plans to attack Poland (Fall Weiss) to begin and be completed by the end of August of that year. On April 6, 1939, Minister Jozef Beck signed a treaty of bilateral Polish-British guarantees in London, which became the basis for negotiations for a formal treaty of alliance between Poland and Britain (eventually concluded on August 25 as the British response to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). Poland’s deal with Britain became Hitler’s pretext for denouncing the 1934 German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact in a public speech in the Reichstag on April 28. In response to Hitler, Jozef Beck delivered an exposé in the Polish Sejm on May 5, in which he made public for the first time the Reich’s demands on Poland, declaring Germany’s denunciation of the Non-Aggression Pact unjustified, declaring Poland’s readiness to negotiate the status of the Free City of Danzig and facilitating the Reich’s transit to East Prussia, provided Germany respected Poland’s treaty-guaranteed rights to access the Baltic Sea. Beck’s exposé included the words: Poland will not be pushed away from the Baltic.

On May 23, 1939, Adolf Hitler told a meeting of high-ranking military officers that Germany’s task would be to isolate Poland. On August 22, 1939, in front of the Wehrmacht’s supreme command, he clearly laid out the goal – the destruction of Poland: the talk is not of conquering a specific territory or a new border, but of destroying the enemy[39].

In view of the situation, the Polish-French alliance was revived, based on the alliance agreement of 1921. On May 19 in Paris, a Polish-French protocol on military cooperation was signed. The annex to the alliance agreement, provided for France to join the war in the event of a German attack on Poland – in the air on the first day of the war, on land on the third, and a general offensive on the fifteenth day of hostilities. At the same time, a series of German border provocations began, already on May 20, 1939 there was an armed attack on the Polish customs post in Kalthof[40]. During the summer of 1939 there were parallel overt negotiations between Britain and France and the USSR for an alliance, or at least the benevolent neutrality of the USSR, and there were ongoing secret German-Soviet negotiations, which began in May 1939, for the USSR’s consent to German aggression against Poland. The Soviet side treated the negotiations with the Western states as a means of pressing for the best possible terms of agreement with the Third Reich. Eventually, after Hitler agreed on August 19, 1939 to the Soviet territorial demands (amounting to half of Poland’s territory to the line of the Pisa, Narew, Vistula and San rivers, the territory of Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Romanian Bessarabia), Joseph Stalin, with the approval of the Bolshevik Party’s Politburo, also decided on August 19 to conclude a German-Soviet treaty. The agreement was formally a non-aggression pact between the USSR and the Third Reich, and in secret protocol, an actual alliance agreement on the division of spheres of influence in Central and Eastern Europe between the Third Reich and the USSR. In order to conclude the treaty, Joachim von Ribbentrop flew on a special plane via Königsberg to Moscow. Formal Soviet-British-French talks in Moscow continued until the end (completed only after the Soviet-German pact was signed). The German-Soviet pact was concluded on the night of August 23-24 in the Kremlin and is known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact after the names of the formal signatories.

Joseph Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Moscow August 23, 1939

Separate article: Chestnut Speech.

The conclusion of the German-Soviet Pact was the USSR’s consent to Germany’s aggression against Poland and its declaration of military participation in that aggression. The strategic goal of the USSR’s policy – to bring the “capitalist states” in Europe into World War II between themselves – but already without the element of neutrality of the USSR – was thus achieved[n]. Immediately upon learning of Stalin’s agreement to the pact, Hitler set the date for the attack on Poland for August 26, 1939, after convening a meeting of the Wehrmacht’s senior commanders at Obersalzberg on August 22, where his speech stated, among other things:

The destruction of Poland is our first task. The goal must be not to reach some marked line, but to destroy a living force. Even if war were to break out in the West, the destruction of Poland must be our first task. For propaganda purposes, I will give some reason for the outbreak of war, less whether it will be credible or not. No one asks the winner whether he told the truth or not. In matters of starting and waging war, it is not the law that decides, but victory. Be merciless, be brutal![41]

On August 28, 1939, as part of the introduced war economy, a food rationing card system was introduced in the Third Reich without announcement. After receiving news of the Polish-British alliance on August 25 and a parallel dispatch from Mussolini about Italy’s refusal to participate in the war on Germany’s side, Hitler canceled his decision to attack on the same day, only to reiterate it finally on August 30. At the same time, he set the date of the attack for September 1 (the final detailed decision was signed at 0:30 a.m. on August 31). Hitler’s goal was to limit the armed conflict to Poland only, while the pact with Stalin was to intimidate Britain and prevent it from intervening in the armed German-Polish conflict and turning it into an all-European war. Hitler’s calculations (based on information and analysis by Ribbentrop, formerly the Reich ambassador to London), proved unfounded in this regard in the long run.

Just before the 1939 attack, when asked by the German side about the possibility of invading Poland from Hungarian territory, Prime Minister Pál Teleki countered: “On the part of Hungary it is a matter of national honor not to take part in any military action against Poland.” In a dispatch sent to Adolf Hitler on July 24, 1939, Teleki argued that Hungary “cannot take any military action against Poland for moral reasons.” The letter infuriated the Third Reich chancellor. Fragments of diplomatic correspondence released after the war, however, prove that the Hungarians anticipated such a development as early as the beginning of 1939. In April 1939, Hungarian diplomatic chief István Csáky wrote in a letter to MP Villani: “we are not willing to take part either indirectly or directly in armed action against Poland. By ‘indirectly’ I mean here that we will reject any demand that would lead to allowing German troops to be transported on foot, by motor vehicles or by rail through Hungarian territory for an attack against Poland.” If the Germans threaten to use force, I declare categorically that we will answer with weapons.”[42] The Hungarian prime minister, in consultation with Regent Miklos Horthy, ordered the tunnels along the railroad to be mined and blown up if the Germans attempted to force their way through[42].

On the night of August 31-September 1, Polish security authorities interned throughout the country several thousand Ukrainians who enjoyed the greatest prestige in their communities[43].

Warning from intelligence[edit | edit code].

In Paris, there was an intelligence post Lecomte, headed by Michal Balinski of the East Referral, organizationally subordinated to the West Referral. On August 22, 1939, at 3 p.m., she sent information that Soviet-German talks had entered a new phase.

Intensive German-Soviet negotiations. The start of military action against Poland d. 26-28 Aug 39. On 4 IX 39 scheduled to reach the former German-Russian border. With the occupation of the former provinces the initiation of negotiations by Mussolini, deposition of the Polish intelligence post in Paris Lecomte dated August 24, 1939, dated August 21[44].

Casus belli[edit | edit code].

Plans for the Third Reich’s aggression against Poland and the development of military operations September 1-28, 1939 (maps)

German plans to attack Poland

Division deployment on September 1, 1939

Progress of the German armies until September 14, 1939

The situation after September 14, 1939

Aggression of the Third Reich and the USSR against Poland

Progress of the German armies until September 17

Line of meeting between German and Soviet armies in the September campaign

Animated map of the campaign

See in Wikiresources the text of Jozef Beck’s speech in the Polish Sejm of 5.05.1939.

See in Wikiresources text of Ribbentrop-Molotov pact

View in Wikiresources text of the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

See in Wikiresources the text of the telegram from the US Ambassador in Moscow dated 24.08.1939 to the US Secretary of State with information about the content of the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

See in Wikiresources the text of the Alliance Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the United Kingdom of August 25, 1939 with the secret protocol

See in Wikiresources the text of the German Ultimatum to Poland of August 31, 1939

The pretext for aggression was the protection of the German minority of the Second Republic and the Free City of Danzig. Throughout the 1930s, revisionist views, challenging the arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles especially on the question of borders, were promoted by Nazi-affiliated structures. One of the most active, was the Bund Deutscher Osten (Polish: German East Union), created with the participation of the NSDAP[footnote needed]. At the same time, anti-Polish propaganda campaigns were carried out, including the Berlin Exhibition in Germany in 1934, which was protested by Polish diplomacy[footnote needed].

The Third Reich first issued political demands to Poland for annexation of the Free City of Danzig and extraterritorial transit through the Polish corridor, publicly rejected by Minister Jozef Beck in his May 5, 1939 Sejm speech. On the night of August 29-30, Joachim von Ribbentrop conveyed the already ultimative German demands to British Ambassador Sir Nevill Henderson. Poland was to agree to Germany’s unconditional seizure of Danzig, and to a plebiscite in Polish Pomerania, but on terms favoring Germany. Ribbentrop refused to give Henderson the German demands in writing. Ambassador Jozef Lipski, after consulting with Warsaw, requested an audience with Ribbentrop. On August 31, 1939, at 0:30 a.m., Adolf Hitler signed an order finally setting the date for the attack on Poland at 4:45 a.m. on September 1. On August 31, 1939, at 6:30 p.m., Ribbentrop received Ambassador Lipski for the last time, who was only communicated that he had no authority for such far-reaching concessions[footnote needed].

The Deutschlandsender radio station, in the late evening hours of August 31, read out the text of the German ultimatum (the so-called “16 points”), never formally presented to Poland by the way, reporting its “rejection” by Poland. This took place in parallel with a provocation carried out in Gliwice by the Sicherheitsdienst under the code name “Himmler,” intended as a propaganda pretext for Germany to initiate hostilities against Poland without formally declaring war, to which both Germany and Poland were parties[footnote needed].

Since September 1, under the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the USSR had been a tacit ally of the Reich; since September 17, it had been an overt ally. The Red Army was preparing to invade Poland, the Soviet authorities ordered mobilization, and on September 17 launched an aggression against the eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic. From September 3, the Soviet radio station in Minsk provided the Luftwaffe with location coordinates for air raids on Poland[footnote needed].

The text of the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was handed over to American (Charles Bohlen) and French diplomats in Moscow on August 24, 1939 by Hans von Herwarth, secretary of the Reich embassy in Moscow. US Secretary of State Cordell Hull also informed the British[45]. However, the information about the decided partition of Poland was not conveyed to Warsaw, while Jozef Beck was kept in the belief by the Polish ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski, who was unaware of the situation, that the USSR would maintain a benevolent neutrality in a possible German-Polish conflict[46].

German diversion[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz and Bloody Sunday (Bydgoszcz).

The political objective of the Third Reich (during the summer and especially in late August) was to limit the armed conflict to Poland and to prevent the western allies of the Republic from declaring war on Germany, which should be done in response to Germany’s armed aggression against Poland. The German state intended to achieve this goal by instrumentally appealing to the pacifist mood of the societies of democratic countries (especially France, but also Great Britain). These actions were intended to result in tangible pressure on the governments of these countries and cause them to maintain their neutrality and renege on their Allied commitments to Poland. However, even Poland’s rejection of German demands would not justify the necessity of war in the eyes of international public opinion. Therefore, the Germans had been strenuously preparing for a long time a series of provocations (Operation Himmler), which were intended to portray Poland as the aggressor and the German operation as a campaign of retaliation against a series of aggressions on the part of Poland. The organization of the series of provocations, aimed at destabilizing the Polish state, was handled between March and August 1939 by the military intelligence of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (German: Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) – the Abwehr[47] – and the SD under the direction of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler[47].

Throughout the summer of 1939, there were attacks by diversionary bands on Polish border posts, railroad stations and factories located in the border strip (including Rybnik, Katowice, Koscierzyna and Mlawa). Groups of saboteurs dispatched from Germany started fights in restaurants and cafes, placed time bombs in German schools and establishments, and set fire to German property[40]-the German press presented these events as examples of “Polish terror.” Terrorist acts also took place deep inside Polish territory – in the last week of August 1939, a bomb, placed by German saboteurs, exploded in the baggage hall of the train station in Tarnow, killing 18 Poles on the spot[40]. As a result, an order was issued to liquidate the baggage room.

A railroad bridge in Tczew blown up by Polish sappers, after an unsuccessful attempt by the Wehrmacht to seize the bridge by surprise on September 1, 1939

Diversionary operations were also planned to seize industrial facilities, roads and bridges. Between August 25 and 26, a group of German saboteurs from the Wroclaw Abwehr under the command of Lieutenant Hans-Albrecht Herzner[o] launched a diversionary attack (originally scheduled to begin at 4:15 a.m. on August 26) on the Jablunkov Pass, with the aim of seizing the tunnel and railroad station. The German unit went into action because the order to postpone the day of the start of the invasion of Poland to September 1, 1939, had not reached them, and was stopped by the Polish crew of the train station, after which they had to withdraw. On the same days, German saboteurs intended to seize the bridge over the Vistula River in Tczew, but suffered defeat in a clash with the Polish Border Guard (the bridge was blown up on September 1 by Polish sappers, in a renewed attempt by the saboteurs to take it over). Similar incidents occurred on September 1, 1939 – among others in Grudziądz, German saboteur units attempted to take over the bridge. The first days of September 1939 also saw the shooting of Poles and the murder of Polish civilians by detachments of German saboteurs[47] in the frontline zone, including in Orlowo, Grudziądz, Łasin and Sepolno[47].

Some of the Germans – citizens of the Republic (as well as agents dropped by parachute), were organized into a diversionary structure colloquially known as the fifth column, which organized diversionary actions against the fighting units of the Polish Army. The most spectacular diversionary actions of the German minority were the attempts to capture the Upper Silesian mines on the morning of September 1, 1939, thwarted by the Polish army and self-defense, and the German diversion in Bydgoszcz[p] in the rear of the troops of the 9th, 15th and 27th Infantry Divisions of the Polish Army retreating from Vistula Pomerania. An armed attempt to seize Chorzow and other Upper Silesian cities was made on September 1, 1939 by units of Freikorps Ebbinghaus[34]. The standard included cutting telephone lines, disinformation, and the appearance of saboteurs in Polish uniforms[48]. The staging area of both the Polish government and the Supreme Command was systematically communicated to the Luftwaffe.

Preparations for war[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Operational plan “West”.

Popular mobilization placard

Adolf Hitler’s order as head of the Reich’s armed forces of August 31, 1939 on the date of the beginning of the aggression against Poland (front page)

Polish PZL P.11 fighter camouflaged at a field airfield, 31.08.1939

Polish destroyer squadron executing the Peking plan during evacuation to Great Britain, 31.08.1939

Report by Major Jan Żychoń to General Władysław Bortnowski, 31.08.1939 h.23.15, reporting that the Wehrmacht was crossing the German border with the Free City of Danzig

The area of Poland was exceptionally not conducive to defensive warfare: except for the marshes of Polesie in the east and the Carpathian range in the south, Poland had no natural borders. Of the approximately 5,400 kilometers of land borders, the border with Germany accounted for more than 2,700 kilometers, with the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia 120 kilometers, with the USSR – more than 1,400 kilometers. The border with Germany was practically open, as no major fortifications[footnote needed] were created there due to a lack of resources and the Polish war doctrine, which assumes movement actions, counter-attacks and local offensive phrases as the main method of fighting. Poland had only fragments of permanent fortifications and a few fortified regions, the strongest of which covered the key industrial region of Upper Silesia (Warring Area “Silesia”, Węgierska Górka) and, in part, Cieszyn Silesia. On the Hel Spit was the fortified Fortified Area of Hel. The northern front had fortifications in the Narew region, and a protruding fortification bastion over the border with East Prussia – near Mława and Rzęgnow.

A significant influence on this state of affairs was that from the dawn of the independence of the Second Republic, preparations were being made for war in the east. In early 1939, there were not even military plans for war with Germany. It was only when the threat from the west became real that a defense project was prepared. It had two premises: it was assumed that in the event of a conflict between Poland and Germany, the USSR would remain neutral (the guarantee of the 1932 Polish-Soviet non-aggression pact valid until the end of 1945 and the so-called Litvinov Protocol on renunciation of war as a means of settling disputes of 1929), and France would fulfill its 1921 alliance obligations, i.e. strike at the aggressor. The goal of the Polish army, according to the West Plan, was to inflict on the invader as much damage as possible and maintain operational combat capability until France launched offensive operations against the Siegfried Line. Britain was to initiate a naval blockade of the Reich and a bombing offensive with RAF forces over Germany with special emphasis on the communication hubs, with the aim of drawing the Luftwaffe away from the Polish front and impeding the Wehrmacht’s redeployment to the Western Front as soon as the war began. After the start of the French offensive on land, the Polish Army was to take action depending on the situation on the German-Polish front. The eastern border was to remain protected only by the KOP – Border Protection Corps (subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs)[footnote needed].

Given the projected numerical and tactical superiority of the German groupings, Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly decided to conduct defensive operations in three stages[footnote needed]:

with the first-ranked armies to conduct delaying actions from the Polish-German border to the main defense position to move with the first-ranked armies to the defense of the main position with the task of breaking down the offensive actions of the German armies and developing the remaining mobilized tactical unions in the operational zones of the individual armies to execute a counter-attack with the “Prussia” deferral army in the direction of the main strike of the German armies, in order to enable the execution of a maneuver to the eastern bank of the Vistula River as another defense rubric for the armies “Pomerania”, “Poznan”, “Lodz”.

Rydz-Smigly counted on the fact that in the course of the defensive battle on the Vistula, the allied armies of Great Britain and France will begin offensive actions against Germany, which will result in the regrouping of a significant number of German troops to the western front, then there will be a strategic opportunity for the Polish army to move to offensive actions against the weakened German forces[49].

The British and French declarations made in May 1939 to the delegation led by General Tadeusz Kasprzycki, were, by intention, unqualified declarations[footnote needed]. As early as April 24, 1939, that is, before the French-Polish and English-Polish military talks, the French and British general staffs jointly agreed that “in the first phase of the war, the only offensive weapon the Allies can use effectively is economic.” They also agreed that their “main strategy would be a defensive strategy.” Shortly thereafter, in July, at a conference of the French and British chiefs of general staffs, the Allied chiefs of staff decided that Poland’s fate would depend on the final outcome of the war…and not on whether France and Britain would be able to relieve Poland at the very beginning of the war. The Western powers anticipated that, in the event of war, they would avoid an early total confrontation with Germany in order to gain time to build up their own armed forces. Instead, they intended to use the naval blockade that proved so effective in 1914-1918. The Poles were unaware of these fraught decisions[50]. Internal military arrangements of the British and French staffs ruled out the possibility of allied involvement on the declared scale, which was not communicated to the Polish side[51]. The Polish side, meanwhile, in the framework of Allied cooperation, handed over to representatives of the military intelligence of France and Great Britain on July 25, 1939, copies of the replica of the German Enigma cipher machine made by the Cipher Bureau of the Second Division of the Polish General Staff, along with a set of documentation developed by Polish cryptologists to enable independent decryption of the Third Reich’s cipher codes by the Republic’s allies[footnote needed].

Separate article: Enigma.

As part of the war preparations, by the end of June 1939, war bridges were built over the Vistula (two-way bridges at Świdry Małe, Maciejowice, Solec Sandomierski and Mogiła, and one-way bridges at Brzumin and Modlin). Later, sappers still built bridges near Baranow and Nowy Korczyn. The need to build these structures was due to the fact that from the mouth of the Narew River to the mouth of the San there were only 7 permanent road bridges (including 3 in Warsaw), and from the San to Krakow there were also 7 (including 4 in Krakow)[52].

Poland announced a general mobilization on August 30 (earlier, a so-called “alert mobilization” had been carried out, resulting in the mobilization of some 800,000 soldiers by individual call-ups), but under pressure from the Allies[53] canceled it and announced it again on August 31. Nevertheless, Polish newspapers on August 28 reported on the ongoing mobilization in France[54]. The delay in mobilization caused chaos that was difficult to control: on September 1, troops reached only 70% of combat readiness, as many units completed by general mobilization did not reach their place of grouping at all, primarily due to massive Luftwaffe air raids on railroads and changes in the front line due to the actions of German armored, motorized and light units. The situation of the Polish Army was also hampered by columns of fleeing civilians often blocking key roads and obstructing communication for military units[footnote needed].

The mobilization of the army was accompanied by the mobilization of the rest of society: In the last days of August, the population began digging anti-aircraft ditches – places of refuge for passersby in case of an air raid. On August 30, the Minister of Agriculture issued a decree banning price increases on necessities. On the night of August 31-September 1, a new railroad schedule was introduced, significantly reducing the number of long-distance trains, tickets for which were sold after obtaining permission from the district administration. The start of the school year was postponed indefinitely from September 4 (Monday)[55]. In the last days of August, some of the population from Silesia and the National Museum in Cracow were evacuated. A week before September 1, some companies and institutions paid salaries up to three months in advance[56].

The differences in quantity were accompanied by differences in the quality of equipment and war doctrine. Although the Polish Air Force was equipped with equipment that was only 3-4 years older (PZL P.11) than that of the Luftwaffe (Bf109), it was already obsolete as previous-generation equipment due to the technological revolution of the mid-1930s. This prevented the effective defense of Polish airspace against massive attacks by bombers and short-range dive bombers (Stukas), implementing Göring’s air warfare doctrine. Modern Polish medium-lift bombers Łoś (120 pieces, of which only 36 were fully equipped and armed in service in the Bomb Brigade at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief) were used, contrary to their intended purpose, as attack aircraft without fighter cover against German armored groupings (1st and 4th Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions) on September 2-5, 1939 in the area of Klobuck – Radomsko – Tomaszow Mazowiecki. However, the Luftwaffe did not succeed in its planned destruction of the Polish Air Force on the first day of the war – it was successfully re-deployed to secret field airfields unknown to German intelligence on August 30[footnote needed].

Separate article: Armored weapons of the Second Republic.

Polish armored weapons consisted of two Polish designs of the 7TP tank and the TKS tankette which were the basis of the Polish armored forces. The 7TP was an upgraded modification of the English tank Vickers E. It was the first mass-produced tank with a diesel engine in Europe, as well as the first combat vehicle equipped with a reversible periscope of Rudolf Gundlach’s design[57] in the world. At the outbreak of the war, it was one of the most successful designs in armored weapons[58] but only 140 were produced. The Polish command tried to make up for the paucity of armored weapons by modernizing the now obsolete TKS tankettes, equipping them with the heaviest machine gun of the wz. 38FK with a caliber of 20 mm capable of piercing the armor of German tanks,[59] as well as importing Western designs like the Vickers E tanks and the French Renault R-35[60]. In the pre-war period, the Polish Army was also in the process of rearming with modern anti-tank weapons to offset the disparity of armaments in this area. Mass production (37 mm cal. anti-tank cannons) and a secret project to produce the UR anti-tank rifle were launched. The anti-aircraft artillery was equipped with Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft cannons from the Starachowice and Rzeszów plants and 75 mm cal. plot cannons from the Starachowice plant. In view of the lack of budget funds, it had at its disposal the above-mentioned equipment in an amount that did not meet the requirements of a modern battlefield. The controversy at the Polish Army General Staff – whether to direct limited financial resources to armored or anti-tank weapons, or to allocate significant sums to the costly navy, and the disputes between the Ministry of Military Affairs and the Treasury Ministry (and Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski personally) over the size of the military budget in comparison with expenditures on investment in the armaments industry (COP) in 1936-1940 – also did not go unchallenged on the level of the Republic’s war preparedness. Not insignificant was the fact that orders placed abroad for military equipment were delayed and a number did not live to see execution, due to the limited capacity of armaments industry factories in the face of the feverish modernization and rearmament of most European armies in the atmosphere of war tensions in Europe in the 1930s[footnote needed].

In contrast, it was unable to change the geostrategic situation resulting from the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Germany’s earlier seizure of Austria and the de facto breakup of Czechoslovakia[footnote needed].

In Jan Karski’s analysis:

With or without commitments, the British and French did not anticipate or believe that they would be able to provide effective military assistance to Poland in the event of a German attack. Their guarantees were aimed at preventing war, not at supporting Poland militarily in case war really broke out. They deluded themselves into thinking that their official commitments to Poland would turn Hitler back from the path of conquest and induce rational negotiations. By giving Poland overt support and making secret commitments, they also wanted to keep Poland from succumbing completely to Hitler’s pressure, from becoming an involuntary satellite of Germany.

But – whether accepting the possibility of peace or the inevitability of war – they regarded Russia as the deciding factor. To both the French and the British, an alliance with Russia seemed crucial. They believed that such an alliance would certainly prevent war, and even if not – they were convinced that with the help of such an alliance the war would certainly be won. In order for such an alliance to become possible, Poland’s cooperation with Russia would be necessary; Poland, therefore, had to be flattered because Poland separated Russia from Germany.

Neither the British nor the French ever thought in terms of an Anglo-French-Polish alliance in case war became inevitable. Instead, they sought an Anglo-French-Soviet alliance. Without Russia, they argued, the war would be protracted, and its burden would be borne by Britain and France. As for the Poles, they will have to withstand the first blow, defend themselves as long as they can and weaken the German war machine as much as possible, which will give the Western allies time to prepare. But sooner or later Poland will have to succumb. Of course, the moment the Western democracies are victorious, Poland will be resurrected.

The Poles had a different view of the situation. Having failed to understand the deadly seriousness and significance of Hitler’s demands, they overestimated their own military strength and underestimated the strength of Germany. But they also failed to understand the strategy and motives of Britain and France. They took British and French commitments literally. They thought in terms of the Anglo-French-Polish alliance. They deluded themselves into thinking that such an alliance would be enough to outbid Hitler’s bluff and prevent war. And if Hitler started it, a simultaneous retort by Britain, France and Poland, a retort on land, sea and air would bring Germany to its knees. Despite their fears and suspicions of Moscow, they did not consider military and political cooperation with Russia necessary. Contrary to the intentions of London and Paris, Western guarantees and commitments only strengthened them in these assumptions[61].

German aggression[edit | edit code].

Wehrmacht crosses Poland’s borders – violation of the border and destruction of symbols of the Polish state by German soldiers

Violation of sovereignty – destruction of the emblem of the Polish state on the border barrier

Police of the Free City of Danzig crosses the Polish border – breaking the border barrier (German propaganda posed photo, taken on September 1)

Destruction by Wehrmacht soldiers of the emblem of the Republic of Poland on the building of the Polish Government Commissariat in Gdynia

See also Invasion of Poland in 1939 – chronologically.

See Wikiresources for the text of Polish President Ignacy Moscicki’s message of September 1, 1939.

The invasion of Poland was preceded by numerous incidents and provocations, including a provocation in Gliwice, where German soldiers, disguised in civilian clothes, carried out an attack on the German radio station there, posing as Polish involvement. The incident became the official pretext for Germany to launch hostilities against Poland.

Germany concentrated 1.8 million troops armed with 2,800 tanks, some 3,000 aircraft and 10,000 guns against Poland. Slovakia fielded the “Bernolak” Field Army and a sparse air force. Poland mobilized about one million soldiers (out of 2.5 million militarily trained reservists[41]), 880 tanks, 400 aircraft and 4,300 guns[footnote needed].

The Polish defense line ran along Poland’s borders except for a northern narrow section of part of the “Pomeranian corridor,” which, in view of the ticky-tacky threat, was unsuitable for defense[q]. Hence, the forces left for the defense of Gdynia and Hel were to last in defense awaiting relief[footnote needed].

The premise of the Polish defense plan (Plan “Z”) was a coalition war in cooperation with the French army, the most numerous after the Red Army and the Wehrmacht on land, and the strongest at sea, and when combined with French forces comparable in the air, the British army. The premise of Fall Weiss, modeled on Schlieffen’s 1914 plan, was to concentrate all German forces on one front (the Polish) with skeletal cover of the other front (the Western), and then after a quick break of the enemy to shift forces to the other front of hostilities[footnote needed].

The rapid breaking of the enemy in view of the vastness of Polish territory and the possibility of guerrilla warfare was to guarantee the participation of the Red Army in the aggression as soon as possible. It was important to quickly seize Warsaw as the capital of Poland – treated as a political pretext for the USSR’s armed action[footnote needed].

Beginning of the war[edit | edit code].

See also category: Supreme Command of the Polish Army (1939).

The poster of the message of Polish President Ignacy Moscicki on September 1, 1939, declaring a state of war with Germany

Bombed Wieluń by the Luftwaffe, September 1, 1939.

Anti-tank cavalry cannon on a battle position

Polish artillery on the march

On September 1, 1939 (Friday) at 4:45 a.m., without declaring war or announcing mobilization, German troops, in accordance with the Fall Weiss plan, struck Poland along the entire length of the Polish-German border and from the territory of Moravia and Slovakia, bringing the total length of the front to about 1,600 kilometers, putting Poland at a strategic disadvantage. Polish President Ignacy Moscicki issued a proclamation in which, after declaring Germany’s unprovoked aggression against Poland, he called on the nation to defend the country’s freedom and independence.

The premise of “Fall Weiss” was to encircle and destroy the Polish Army west of the Vistula line no later than the fourteenth day after the Wehrmacht strike. In view of the resistance of the Polish Army, the assumptions of the OKH plan for war against Poland were not realized, and in view of the regrouping of Polish units beyond the flanking strikes of German armored and motorized units, the decisive factor for the outcome of the campaign was the Red Army’s strike from the east on the territory of the Polish state.

The attack was supported by organized Luftwaffe bombing raids on most Polish cities, railroad junctions and factory settlements. At the same time, on September 3, 1939, the USSR government agreed to allow the radio station in Minsk to broadcast a special signal enabling Luftwaffe radio navigation in the eastern regions of Poland[62]. Probably the first Polish city to be hit by German bombs was Wieluń.

On September 1, German aviation attacked Gdynia, Puck and Hel. Intense bombardment affected the region of southern Greater Poland and Upper Silesia, Tczew, Czestochowa, Krakow and inland Grodno. On September 2, about 200 people were killed in a German air raid on Lublin, and a further 150 were killed in an air raid on an evacuation train standing at the railroad station in Kole[62]. German air raids on Warsaw had been taking place since the first day of September.

However, the symbol of the German attack became the strike on the Polish military depot Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig, which began at 4:45 a.m. with shots from the battleship “Schleswig-Holstein,” which had entered the port of Danzig a few days earlier on a courtesy visit.

The 205 Polish soldiers of the Westerplatte outpost, under the command of Maj. Henryk Sucharski and his deputy Capt. Franciszek Dabrowski, occupying a region equipped with 5 concrete guardhouses and military barracks, as well as fortified field facilities, defended themselves for seven days against a force of 3,400 German soldiers. German soldiers from the SS-Heimwehr Danzig company, an assault company of naval infantry from the battleship “Schleswig-Holstein”, Selbstschutz units and a battalion of sappers, with simultaneous German artillery fire from the area of Wisloujscie, Brzeźno, New Port, from the battleship “Schleswig-Holstein” and air attacks by a squadron of Stuka aircraft.

Westerplatte capitulated at 10:15 a.m. on September 7, during which time it exemplified heroism and encouraged the entire country to continue fighting.

A symbolic event from the first days of the war was the defense of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk. The post office was captured after 14 hours of fierce fighting, and its defenders were executed[r]. At the same time, Albert Forster, proclaimed “head” of the Free City of Danzig by decree of the Senate of the Free City of Danzig on August 23, 1939,[63] announced on September 1, 1939, the incorporation of the Free City of Danzig into the Third Reich[64]. On the same day, the High Commissioner of the League of Nations, Carl Jakob Burckhardt, at the request of Albert Forster, left the territory of the Free City of Danzig together with the staff of the League of Nations Commissariat in the Free City. On September 1, 1939, the Germans arrested the first 250 Poles in Danzig, who were placed in the Stutthof concentration camp, established on September 2, 1939[62].

Slovak aggression[edit | edit code].

Slovakia, although officially a sovereign state, remained under the protectorate of the Third Reich. The country, along with German troops, attacked Poland around 5:00 a.m. with an assault from the south (although the first skirmishes took place on August 26, 1939[s]) The attack involved some 50,000 Slovak soldiers of the “Bernolák” Field Army under the command of General Ferdinand Čatloš, four divisions and an air force of three squadrons. The Slovak troops reached the vicinity of Nowy Targ, Krynica and Sanok, losing a total of 29 killed or missing and taking some 1,350 Polish prisoners of war. The attack, although it lasted 15 days (until September 16, 1939), ended in victory for Slovakia and Germany, and one of its results was the incorporation into Slovakia’s borders of some 770 square kilometers of Polish territory lost to Czechoslovakia in 1920-1923 and in 1938.

See also Slovak attack on Poland.

Border battle[edit | edit code].

The so-called border battle was fought on September 1-3, 1939, in northern Mazovia, Pomerania, the Warta River and Silesia and Podhale. The German army, using the doctrine of blitzkrieg (blitzkrieg warfare), concentrated armored and motorized units on the main directions of strikes. Taking advantage of the element of surprise and huge technical superiority, they smashed some Polish units and forced the rest to withdraw.

Already in the first days of September, the Germans managed to break through Polish defensive lines and seize Kujawy, part of Greater Poland and Silesia. In the north, the main Polish forces, concentrated in the Mlawa region and Pomerania, were shattered on September 1-3 – the Modlin Army, attacked by the German 3rd Army during the Battle of Mlawa, was forced to withdraw from the Mlawa region to the line of the Vistula and Narew rivers. On the second day of the war, the Pomerania Army’s defenses were shattered by the XIX Panzer Corps commanded by Gen. Heinz Guderian. One of the first clashes between Pomeranian Army units and German forces was the Battle of Krojanty, where on September 1, 1939 the 18th Pomeranian Lancers Regiment smashed a German infantry battalion of the 20th Motorized Division, delaying the progress of the German corps for several hours. Heavy battles with three German divisions (one armored and two mechanized) in the section from Chojnice to Bydgoszcz were fought by the 9th Infantry Division. An attempt to organize a counterattack by the 27th Infantry Division, which had advanced to the foothills of the Tuchola Forest, ended in failure. The 27th DP suffered heavy losses during the retreating battles.

In view of the unfavorable strategic situation and under the threat of encirclement of Polish forces by fast German units, General Władysław Bortnowski decided on September 3, 1939 to withdraw the units of the Pomerania Army. Some of the encircled Polish units remained in the rear of the German corps. Pomerania Army units withdrawing through Bydgoszcz were fired upon in the city by units of German saboteurs and the fifth column, during the events of the so-called Bloody Sunday in Bydgoszcz. After fierce fighting, heavy losses, encirclement in Bory Tucholskie and retreat fighting, the “Pomerania” Army on September 3-5, 1939 finally withdrew from the Pomerania region in the southern direction.

As a result of the lost battle, the German 4th Army merged with the 3rd Army, and East Prussia thus gained territorial connectivity with the Reich. Immediately after capturing the Pomeranian area, the Germans transferred their main forces (XIX KP from the 4th Army) to East Prussia in the Elk region, in order to launch an attack on the Polish Independent Operational Group Narew from there.

At the same time, in southwestern Poland, German forces of the 10th Army broke through with an attack in the Klobuck area, between the Lodz and Krakow Armies, making a deep breakthrough in the front line culminating in the September 1 clash at the Battle of Mokra – the Wolyn Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Colonel Julian Filipowicz, destroyed more than 100 German motor vehicles in the battle, including at least 30 tanks[65][66]. Effective resistance to the forces of the German 10th Army at this time was offered by the 7th Infantry Division, which was eventually encircled and broken up on September 3 near Janow. The Lodz Army, attacked in the area of Syców and Opatów by forces of the German 8th Army, which broke through the Polish defense line, withdrew its main forces of the 10th ID and 28th ID behind the line of the Warta River. The withdrawal was hastened by the loss of contact with the neighboring Army of Krakow, which was being attacked at the time by the German 14th Army.

The “Krakow” Army, which concentrated on itself the main burden of the German 14th Army’s attack, occupied defensive positions in the Upper Silesia and Krakow areas. The 14th Army with the forces of the VIII Corps encircled Upper Silesia, attacking Rybnik and Boża Góra, while the XVII Corps attacked Bielsko-Biała at the same time. At the same time, a strong strike by the 7th Division of the 14th Army concentrated on Zywiec, where intense fighting ensued with the forces of the Polish 2nd Regiment of the Border Protection Corps, holding positions in the fortifications around Węgierska Górka. The XVIII Corps of the German 14th Army executed a maneuver encircling the Krakow Army from the south, attacking Spytkowice and Nowy Targ, intending to attack Krakow directly. The increasing superiority of German forces and persistent attacks by German saboteurs in Katowice, Pszczyna and Bielsko-Biała, finally resulted in the Supreme Commander’s approval for a retreat from Silesia. The decision was made on September 2 by the commander of the Kraków Army, General Antoni Szylling, withdrawing its troops along the entire length of the front. The Commander-in-Chief’s approval of the Kraków Army’s retreat on the second day of the war from fortified positions in Upper Silesia is criticized by military historians[footnote needed]. The “Krakow” Army did not emerge from the threat of encirclement by German fast units, but instead exposed the ongoing concentration of the Prussian Reverse Army in the face of an attack by the German 10th Army.

The declaration of war on Germany by Britain and France – the “strange war”[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Strange War and Saarland Offensive.

Manifestation in front of the British Embassy in Warsaw after the news of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, September 3, 1939

Daily newspaper “Express Poranny” published on September 4, 1939

Fortifications of the Maginot Line

Maginot line fortifications

Maginot Line fortifications visited by German officers after the surrender of France 1940

French soldiers in the fortifications of the Maginot Line

French soldiers south of Saarbrücken

German territory occupied by the French army until September 12, 1939 during the so-called Saar offensive

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS “Courageous” sinking on September 17, 1939 after a torpedo attack by U-29

See Wikiresources for the text of the final minutes of the Franco-Polish staff talks of May 19, 1939

France and Great Britain declared war on the Third Reich on September 3, as a consequence of Germany’s aggression against Poland on September 1 and the German government’s rejection of the British and French ultimatums presented to it demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Wehrmacht from Polish territory and the Free City of Danzig. Consequently, in fulfillment of their Allied commitments to Poland, both Western powers found themselves at war with Germany[t]. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg remained neutral. France declared general mobilization on September 2 and began concentrating troops[footnote needed].

At the outbreak of war, 34 divisions were stationed on the French mainland (12 on the German border)[footnote needed], and the air force – numbering about 3,300 aircraft according to the state – had a minimum of 700 fighters (Morane, Devoitine and Bloch MB.151C1), at least 175 Bloch bombers and about 400 reconnaissance aircraft (Potez). In total, there were a minimum of 1,275 fighter planes on the Western Front in the first half of September 1939, which meant an independent French air superiority over the Luftwaffe’s 1,186 aircraft[u][footnote needed]. The French Armée de l’Air was joined by some 1,500 allied aircraft of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) (fighters – Spitfire, Hurricane and bombers – Fairey Battle, Bristol Blenheim and Whitley). Although these machines were in bases in the UK, and it took time to flip them to France and include them in covering the French Army’s offensive against Germany, this only applied to the ground throw – RAF aircraft, after flying to French airfields, could use the logistics of the Armee de l’Air[footnote needed] without delay. In total, the Allies had a minimum of 2,775 French and British aircraft on September 3, giving them more than twice the air superiority over Luftwaffe forces on the Western Front. In 1939, France had the world’s third (after the Red Army and Wehrmacht) land army[footnote needed] and the world’s fourth[67][page number needed] (after the Royal Navy, US Navy and Japanese Imperial Navy) navy (followed by Italy’s Regia Marina and Germany’s Kriegsmarine)[footnote needed].

The Wehrmacht’s western front was formed by General von Leeb’s Army Group “C.” German forces eventually had 42 infantry divisions in the second half of September (after mobilization was completed)[v]. Of this number, 23 first-line[68], 8 second-line[69] and 11 reserve[70]. German forces were stretched along Germany’s borders with the Netherlands, Belgium and France, with France as the main opponent. The Luftwaffe on the Western Front had 1186 aircraft (including 568 fighters, 343 bombers, 152 reconnaissance aircraft, among others), grouped in two Air Fleets, which accounted for half of the Luftwaffe’s forces in 1939. The Wehrmacht also had the Siegfried Line fortification system, built between 1936 and 1939.

The French side on September 3, 1939, in the main section of operations between the Luxembourg border and the Rhine, had the 2nd Army Group (four armies)[w] at a strength of eleven divisions (eight infantry divisions[x], two motorized divisions[y] and one cavalry division[z]). By September 12, French forces in the area had been increased to 36 divisions (including four motorized) and 18 independent tank battalions. On September 12, there were 12 infantry divisions on the German side in the same section (seven of them full strength, the rest in reserve). The Germans at this point did not have an armored or motorized division and not a single tank battalion – all were engaged in Poland. Consequently, this meant that on September 12 the French army had at least a threefold advantage over the Wehrmacht in the direction of a potential offensive, with the French forces heavily saturated with heavy and heaviest artillery[aa] – essential for breaking through fortified areas[71].

On September 7, the forces of the French 3rd and 4th Armies, after crossing the Franco-German border in the Saarland, began clearing the foothills and gaining access to the German main defense position, with a de facto lack of German resistance and the evacuation of civilians from the Saarland by the Germans[72]. The date of the main strike was set – in accordance with the Polish-French military convention – for the fifteenth day after the start of French mobilization, i.e., September 16, 17 at the latest (France announced general mobilization on September 2, 1939). By this point, France had mobilized 70 divisions on the continent, some of which were redeployed over the border[footnote needed].

However, on September 12, 1939, a meeting of the Franco-British Supreme War Council (see Abbeville Conference) was held in Abbeville, with the participation of Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier and the French army’s commander-in-chief, Gen. Maurice Gamelin, reporting. The conference decided not to undertake a general ground offensive on the Western Front, and to “mobilize resources to the maximum before major ground operations are undertaken, and to limit air operations”[ab] of the RAF and Armee de l’Air over Germany in order to “minimize German retaliation.”[ac][73] The conference also decided not to pursue a general ground offensive on the Western Front. A decision was also made, not realized in practice, to deploy military forces near Thessaloniki and Istanbul, from where the offensive toward Germany and the USSR was to be carried out, and because of the great distance from Italy, so as not to provoke Mussolini[74][page number needed].

This meant, in practice, halting all offensive operations of the French army on the foothills of the Siegfried Line, and thus breaking Allied commitments to Poland[75][76][77]. These commitments were finally defined in the final protocol of the Franco-Polish staff talks held on May 15-17, 1939,[78] formally effective only as of September 4, 1939, when a political protocol to the existing military convention between France and Poland was signed[ad]. The May 1939 protocol obliged the French side to launch an offensive with its main forces on the fifteenth day from the start of mobilization of the French army, and an air offensive over Germany from the start of German hostilities against an ally[79]. Generals Stachiewicz and Kutrzeba estimated that it must take six to eight weeks for the Poles to feel the effects of the French offensive. The ambassadors of the Republic to Great Britain, Edward Raczynski, and to France, Julius Lukasiewicz, tried unsuccessfully in September 1939 to influence the implementation of the Allied countries’ commitments[80]. This was a classic felony on the part of France and Britain – a betrayal of an ally on the battlefield, with the French being the ones to influence the British in an inhibiting manner[81]. On the assumption of an allied offensive on the fifteenth day after the start of the French mobilization was based on the defense plan “Z” and the strategy for the defense of Polish territory of Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly[82].

General Louis Faury, who was appointed head of the French military mission in Poland and arrived in Poland at the end of August 1939, later described his conversation with Generals Gamelin and Georges, which took place on August 22, 1939, that is, even before the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

I then raise a question that did not give me peace… If Poland becomes the object of aggression, only an offensive by French troops will be able to force the Germans to relax their suffocating grip. On what date will this offensive begin? Silence. Next, Gen. Georges makes it clear that the French army is not capable of taking the offensive and that there is no way to determine the date when it will be ready for large-scale action. Until then, only defensive, or limited offensive actions can come into play. When I cannot hide my disappointment, Gen. Gamelin simply adds these few words: “It is necessary for Poland to last.”[83]

By the end of hostilities in Poland, the Third Reich was unable to redeploy any full-fledged combat units (with the exception of one division) from the Polish front[84]. This was the only period when the Allies on the Western Front, thanks to the fierce defense of the Polish Army, had a numerical advantage over the Wehrmacht[85][86][87].

The inaction of the Western Allies during the September campaign surprised the Poles and later became the subject of controversy and mutual accusations. As the war ended, it became obvious that the initial Franco-British war strategy had been poorly planned. With the main German forces engaged in Poland, France and Britain had a huge advantage over those troops Hitler had left on the Western Front. (…) since most of the German divisions were fighting in Poland, the French army had a colossal numerical advantage. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and General Alfred Jodl authoritatively stated at the Nuremberg Trials that the Wehrmacht being so successful in separate campaigns against Poland and later against France might not have been able to cope with a two-front war in 1939. According to Jodl’s testimony: “By 1939, of course, we were able to smash Poland by ourselves. But we would never – neither in 1938 nor in 1939 – have really been able to meet a concentrated joint attack by these countries [Britain, France, Poland]. And if we did not suffer defeat as early as 1939, this must be attributed only to the fact that during the Polish campaign some 110 French and British divisions remained completely passive against 23 German divisions.” Keitel testified that the German command saw British and French military passivity during the Polish campaign as an indication that Britain and France had come to terms with the Nazi conquest of Poland and had no serious intention of helping Poland[88].

The lack of British and French military intervention enabled German and (as of September 17, 1939) Soviet forces to defeat Polish forces and partition the Polish state[footnote needed].

Ian Kershaw:

From a military point of view, the Western powers did absolutely nothing to save Poland[89].

On September 22, 1939, the second conference of the Supreme War Council with the participation of the prime ministers of France and Great Britain took place in Hove, Britain, in which it was also decided to unload the Allied troops in the area of Greece and Turkey, but action was ultimately not taken.

At the same time, the French Communist Party, following the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, launched an anti-war campaign, going so far as to call on French soldiers to desert. FPK deputies voted against war credits on September 2. French Communist Party General Secretary Maurice Thorez, who had been called up to the army, deserted, fled to the USSR and was sentenced to death for desertion by a French court-martial[ae]. The consequence of the FPK’s actions was the official banning in France of the Communist Party on September 26, 1939 as an anti-state grouping. However, the FPK’s propaganda did not go unchallenged on the morale of the French army and the attitudes of soldiers during the Battle of France[footnote needed].

See also French Campaign 1940.

Conference in Jlowa (German: Ilnau)[edit | edit code].

On September 12, 1939, a conference of the highest dignitaries of the Third Reich Adolf Hitler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Gen. Wilhelm Keitel, Adm. Wilhelm Canaris and Col. Erwin Lahousen was held. At the meeting, decisions were made about the annihilation of the Polish state and the annihilation of the Polish leadership strata. A separate problem that was addressed was the issue of the possible use of the so-called Ukrainian Legion at the front.

Defense against German aggression September 3-17[edit | edit code].

Fighting on the main line of defense September 3-10[edit | edit code].

A Polish soldier on September 11, 1939 in Warsaw shows the remains of a German Heinkel He 111 bomber that had just managed to be shot down

Polish infantry on the march

Road blocked with fleeing civilians

A Polish Army soldier and civilians in September 1939 in Warsaw

Proclamation of Stefan Starzynski as Civil Commissar to the Warsaw Defense Command on September 8, 1939

Members of the German minority welcoming Wehrmacht soldiers

On September 5, after breaking through the defenses of the Lodz and Krakow Armies, the German 10th Army came into fire contact with part of the Prussian Army’s reverse armies. The battles of Piotrków Trybunalski and Tomaszów Mazowiecki ended in defeat for the units of the Reverse Army. From September 6, it began withdrawing its troops to the right bank of the Vistula River. On their way toward the crossing they were shattered in the battle of Ilza. Some of the surviving units went into encirclement operations tying up the enemy in the Swietokrzyskie Mountains, Konec and Radom forests.

After the dismemberment of the Army of Prussia, the Supreme Command of the Polish Army lost the opportunity to execute the planned counter-attack on the main direction of the Wehrmacht attack – from Lower Silesia (Breslau) to the northeast – to Warsaw. At the same time, the breaking of the resistance of the Polish Army (the northern grouping of the Army “Prussia” and the southern grouping of the Army “Lodz”) in the battles of Piotrkow and Tomaszow Mazowiecki opened the way to Warsaw along the Piotrkow road on September 6 for the 1st and 4th Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions.

The German 8th Army, having broken through the defense line of the Lodz Army on the Warta River, rejected it in an eastward direction, into areas to the rear of the westward advancing Poznañ Army and the Pomerania Army. At the same time, the German 3rd Army managed to drive back the Modlin Army to the Vistula line, which threatened to cut off the Pomerania Army and the Poznañ Army from the rest of the Polish forces. In this situation, Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly, who moved his staff from Warsaw to Brest on September 6, 1939, gave parallel orders to the Polish Army units on September 6 for a general retreat behind the line of the Vistula and San. Polish President Ignacy Moscicki and his government left Warsaw.

In order to prevent the implementation of this plan, the German 3rd Army was ordered to attack in the direction of Siedlce, across the Narew and Bug rivers, which ended in clashes during the defense of Różan on September 8. On September 5, the German 14th Army, tasked with cutting off the San River crossings and later striking Lublin, also ended up in heavy fighting with units of the Kraków Army near Jordanów, where the armored-motor 10 Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Col. Dipl. Stanislaw Maczek inflicted heavy losses on the German XXII Panzer Corps – the XXII Panzer Corps, which had a 15-fold advantage in the number of tanks and German air support, lost more than 100 tanks and advanced only 25-30 km during the several days of fighting with the 10th Cavalry Brigade. The prolonged tying up of the forces of the XXII Panzer Corps enabled the withdrawal of the Krakow Army, which was threatened with encirclement. At the same time, both the German 3rd and 14th Armies were to prevent the withdrawal of Polish forces behind the line of the Vistula River and the reconstitution of Polish defenses inside the country. The situation around the Polish capital intensified; on September 8 the German XVI Panzer Corps, part of the 10th Army, attacked the city from the Gora Kalwaria area and seized a bridgehead in the southwestern part of Warsaw (Ochota[af] and Wola[ag]). The German siege of the Polish capital had begun.

At this time, the strategic situation in southern Poland was becoming complicated. The “Krakow” Army, retreating from the Silesia and Krakow areas toward Lublin, was overtaken and threatened with being cut off from the San River crossings by the German XXII Panzer Corps attacking from Slovakia. By September 9, the Polish Supreme Command, in the current situation, in order to avoid the maneuver planned by the German staff to encircle the Polish army with the arrival of fast German forces in the Lublin and Siedlce region, decided to retreat the Polish forces to the southeast of the country – with the intention of creating the so-called Romanian forebridge.

The Polish command, planning the defense of the capital and the area of the middle Vistula River, began preparations for defense in the middle section of the front, creating new armies: “Warsaw” (commanded by General Juliusz Rommel) and “Lublin” (commanded by General Tadeusz Piskor), however, with relatively weak forces. The situation was complicated by the breaking of the defense line in the north by German troops at the junction of the Modlin Army and the Narew Independent Operational Group, after crossing the Bug River near Brok. The units that were part of it, under the command of Władysław Raginis, fought a fierce battle with the German forces (the 10th Armored Division, commanded by General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, and the 19th Armored Corps, commanded by General Heinz Guderian) during the defense of Wizna from September 8 to 10 – this battle is sometimes referred to as the Polish Thermopylae, due to the significant disproportion of the fighting sides’ forces and the sacrifice of Polish soldiers. The defense of Wizna slowed down plans to encircle the main Polish forces east of the Vistula River with a bilateral flanking maneuver by more than 2 days.

In the new strategic situation, new fronts were created by orders of the Supreme Commander, the Southern Front (commander Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski) was created on September 10, the Northern Front (commander Gen. Stefan Dąb-Biernacki) on September 11, and the Central Front (commander Gen. Tadeusz Piskor), consisting of units of the “Lublin” Army.

The German Supreme Command of the Land Forces (OKH), in this situation, issued orders to cut off Polish forces from the routes of retreat to the east, in particular the crossings of the Bug River and the evacuation routes to Romania. Part of the 14th Army’s forces moved on Lvov to cut off possible attempts by Polish troops to break through and withdraw toward the Romanian border.

Internal fighting September 10-17[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Second Plan West.

Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade during the Battle of the Bzura River

Polish Bofors anti-aircraft gun after Luftwaffe attack during the Battle of Bzura

Polish tank 7 TP on the march during the September campaign

Polish Renault FT-17 tanks as a barrage at the gate of the Brest fortress citadel, September 16, 1939

On the night of September 9-10, the retreating Polish armies “Poznan” and “Pomerania” made a strike from over the Bzura River against the wing of the German 8th Army marching on Warsaw, starting the biggest battle of the campaign. The creator and executor of the offensive turn in the Bzura region was General Tadeusz Kutrzeba (in peacetime commander of the Higher War College). He wanted, contrary to Marshal Smigly’s concept (defined by the words: withdraw and not be smashed), to take advantage of the Wehrmacht’s lack of commitment to the armies of the Poznañ Army and strike at the wing of the German 8th Army.

Kutrzeba planned to attack as early as September 4-5 during the 8th Army’s assault on the line of the Warta and Widawka rivers in the Lodz Army belt. In the absence of permission from the Commander-in-Chief, the defensive position of the Lodz Army was broken, while General Kutrzeba maintained his proposal for an offensive turn against German troops heading without significant cover from the left flank toward Warsaw. Also contributing to the success of the operation in the initial phase of the attack according to General Kutrzeba’s plans was the psychological factor, that is, the willingness to fight the enemy of the soldiers of the Poznañ Army, which had so far only retreated without taking part in the fighting at the front.

On September 8, 1939, General Waclaw Stachiewicz gave General Kutrzeba permission to launch an offensive operation against the wing of the 8th German Army with the forces of the Army of Poznan and Pomerania (while not establishing a unified command in the operational area). The decision of the Commander-in-Chief about the lack of coordination between the forces of the armies Poznañ, Pomorze, retreating through Skierniewice, the northern group of the Army of Lodz and the garrison of the defense of Warsaw (which on September 8 was struck on the march by units of the 1st and 4th Armored Divisions of the Wehrmacht – and were repulsed in Wola and Ochota by the Polish Army), weighed on the chances of deciding the Battle of the Bzura River, which began on the morning of September 9, 1939, with the attack of the Army of Poznan on the units of the 8th German Army covering the attack of the 10th German Army on Warsaw along the Piotrków Road.

On September 9, in the evening, the Kolo Operations Group under the command of General Edmund Knoll-Kownacki, along with the 14th DP, 17th DP and 25th Infantry Division, launched a strike on Łęczyca and Piątek. The city of Lowicz was hit by units of the Operational Group East commanded by General Nikolai Boltut, along with the 4th ID, 16th ID and General Roman Abraham’s Greater Poland Cavalry Brigade. Initially the attack was successful, the German forces advancing on Warsaw were surprised by the attack and halted their efforts to attack the Polish capital. Soon, however, additional reinforcements of German forces, including numerous armored units and the air force, arrived in the combat area. German superiority caused the Polish counterattack to exhaust its momentum between September 12 and 13. The Polish army captured Łowicz, and fought further battles for Ozorków and Stryków.

The blow of the Polish grouping forced OKH to revise its offensive plans in central Poland, recalling all available armored and light units and Luftwaffe forces to the Bzura River. This consequently enabled the withdrawal of Polish troops to the southeastern part of the Republic, in accordance with the General Staff’s concept of organizing a new defense area based on the border with the USSR and Romania, the so-called Romanian foreland.

The lack of coordination of the offensive with the forces of the Warsaw Army and the Modlin Army, the lack of a unified operational command (and coordination between Gen. Kutrzeba and Bortnowski), the considerable exhaustion of the soldiers (who had been fighting for four days without rest) and the increasing losses in the face of the counterattack by the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht armored units, caused the Commander-in-Chief and Gen. Tadeusz Kutrzeba to decide to halt the Polish offensive and withdraw the troops in the direction of Warsaw. On September 17, the armies of “Poznañ” and “Pomorze” abandoned their offensive in the vicinity of Sochaczew and Lowicz and began, with the strength of cavalry units, to break through to Warsaw through the Kampinos Forest (Lomianki and Palmyra). Most of the units of the Poznañ and Pomorze Armies found themselves encircled west of the Bzura River and were forced to surrender.

Some isolated points of resistance of Polish units, remaining outside the main directions of operations, managed to defend longer: Westerplatte – until September 7, Gdynia – until September 14, Kepa Oksywska – until September 19, Hel – until October 2.

In southern Poland, fast German motorized units reached Lviv on September 12. On September 14, German troops closed the ring of encirclement around Warsaw. The attack from the march with the forces of the armored division collapsed in the fire of the Polish defense – the Wehrmacht proceeded with a regular siege of the capital, starting artillery fire with the force of about 1,000 guns gathered around the city. On September 14, the German 3rd Army, after breaking through the Polish defenses at the junction of the Modlin Army and the Independent Operational Group “Narew” (on the line of the Narew and Bug rivers), reached the city of Brest, together with the 19th Panzer Corps of the 4th Army.

On September 16, the XIX Panzer Corps, striking further south, closed the ring of encirclement around the Polish forces in the Chelm area, joining the units of the German XXII Panzer Corps of the 14th Army advancing from the south. The German command thus carried out the plan to encircle Polish forces located between the Vistula and Bug rivers with a double encirclement front; at the same time, German units located near Lvov were to prevent the withdrawal of Polish forces that would manage to break through beyond the encirclement front with the task of organizing the planned defense (the so-called Romanian forebridge) based on allied Romania and arms supplies through its territory.

The evacuation plans were carried out consistently, and on September 13-16, 1939, the gold reserves of the Bank of Poland were transported to Romania for transport through the port of Constanza[ah] to France. On September 14, the president and the government reached the town of Kuty. On the same day, the Polish authorities once again appealed to Great Britain and France to fulfill their Allied obligations and provide armed assistance. On September 15, the Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz, arrived in Kolomyja.

OUN diversion[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: OUN diversion in 1939 and The seizure of Stryj by Ukrainians in 1939.

In August 1939, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Abwehr drew up a plan for an anti-Polish uprising in the provinces of the Republic of Poland inhabited by the Ukrainian population. However, due to the provisions of the later Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the Germans decided not to use Ukrainian troops in the planned war. It was not until September 12, 1939, due to Soviet inaction, that the Germans launched a contingency plan in case the USSR defaulted. Hitler gave conditional approval for a Ukrainian uprising, and on September 15 it was confirmed by Abwehr chief Canaris. Chairman of the OUN Andriy Melnyk began to determine the composition of the government of the future Western Ukrainian state. On September 17, 1939, due to Soviet aggression, Canaris ordered a definitive halt to these preparations[90]. As this information did not reach all members of the OUN, they proceeded with actions according to a predetermined plan. Ukrainian civilians often joined the uprisings.

In the districts of southeastern Poland after September 12, there were diversions, assaults and the destruction of fortifications and military installations by groups of Ukrainian nationalists. One of the largest diversionary actions of this type, suppressed to the extent possible by the military forces of the Polish Army, took place on the night of September 12-13, 1939. At that time, after the Polish Army left Stryj, OUN special groups[91] and the local social fringe released from prison[92] attempted an armed takeover of the city. Similar events occurred in other counties with mixed nationalities (Polish-Ukrainian). Diversions took place in Podhorce, Boryslaw, Truskavets, Mraźnica, Zukotyn, Urycz, the vicinity of Mykolayiv and Zydachev, among others. On more than one occasion, the OUN’s goal was to seize power in particular localities before the Soviet or German armies entered. There were also disarmings of Polish soldiers and skirmishes with moving Polish Army and police units[91]. The Polish Armed Forces in World War II refers to these events as the Ukrainian movement in Podkarpacie[92].

USSR aggression against Poland on September 17[edit | edit code].

Map of the division of Poland (demarcation according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) published in the daily Izvestia, 18.09.1939

Soviet infantry columns entering Poland, 17.09.1939

Jozef Beck’s instruction of September 17, 1939 to Ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski in Moscow, issued after the Soviet aggression against Poland

Column of arrested policemen and civilian “enemies of the people” escorted by the Red Army – September 1939 – Soviet newsreel

Separate article: The USSR’s aggression against Poland.

On September 17, the Red Army struck the eastern border of the country in the strength of six armies of 600-650,000 soldiers and more than 5,000 tanks, divided into two Fronts: the Belorussian and Ukrainian. The Soviet authorities thus fulfilled the findings of the secret Additional Protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The USSR’s unprovoked aggression was a violation of four existing international agreements: The 1921 Treaty of Riga on the demarcation of the Polish-Soviet border, the 1929 Litvinov Protocol on the renunciation of war as a means of settling disputes, the 1932 Non-Aggression Pact with Poland (extended in 1934 until the end of 1945), and the Convention on the Delimitation of the Assault (1933)[34] (which meant that the USSR’s aggression had no international legal justification on political, economic, social or systemic grounds[93]).

The official reason for the aggression was contained in a diplomatic note handed over at 3 a.m. on the night of September 17 by Deputy People’s Commissar (Minister) of Foreign Affairs Potemkin to Ambassador Grzybowski: It included an untruthful statement about the disintegration of the Polish state, the flight of the Polish government, the need to protect the property and lives of Ukrainians and Belarusians living in the eastern Polish territories, and the liberation of the Polish people from war. As a result, the USSR considered all agreements previously concluded with Poland (including the 1921 Treaty of Riga, the 1932 Non-Aggression Treaty and international agreements) to be null and void – concluded with a non-existent state. The content of the Soviet note was consulted by Vyacheslav Molotov with Third Reich Ambassador Friedrich von Schulenburg before being presented to the ambassador of the Republic. The Polish ambassador refused to accept the note and was temporarily interned along with all Polish diplomatic and consular personnel (a violation of diplomatic immunity, guaranteed by international law)[ai].

With 25 battalions at its disposal (after redeploying some of its compact units to the Polish-German border), the Border Protection Corps was unable to stop the advance of several hundred thousand enemy troops. Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly issued on September 17 in Kuty the so-called general directive of content:

I order: due to the situation created by the march of the Bolshevik army into Polish territory, withdraw the troops and equipment to Romania or Hungary. Do not fight with the Bolsheviks, unless in case of an attack from their side or an attempt to disarm the troops. The task of Warsaw and the cities that were to defend themselves against the Germans – unchanged. Cities approached by the Bolsheviks should negotiate with them on the exit of garrisons to Hungary or Romania[94].

Warnings coming from the Polish military atas in late August and early September 1939. about the existence of a secret military agreement between the Third Reich and the USSR and the USSR’s preparations for aggression against Poland (secret mobilization and concentration of the Red Army over the Polish border) and a report on September 13, 1939 about the cutting of entanglements on the Soviet side of the Polish border, which meant final preparations for invasion, were ignored by Commander-in-Chief Edward Rydz-Smigly[95].

The British and French governments submitted notes of protest to Moscow, not acknowledging Molotov’s arguments justifying the aggression or the state of affairs created by the USSR’s aggression in Poland. On September 18, the opinion-leading British newspaper, The Times, described the USSR’s invasion as “stabbing Poland in the back”[34] – yet articles appeared in the British press explaining the Red Army’s actions on Polish territory as essentially anti-German steps[34].

The failure of the President and the Polish government to formally declare the fact of the existence of a state of war between the USSR and Poland, the failure to determine the position of the allied countries on this issue (apart from non-committal protest notes), and the lack of an unequivocal order from the Commander-in-Chief to resist the invaders, led to confusion among commanders and soldiers (p. Defense of Lvov 1939), and consequently the taking into captivity of some 250,000 soldiers and officers, most of whom did not resist, and the Katyn massacre of several thousand Polish Army officers.

Polish President Ignacy Moscicki, the government with Prime Minister Felicjan Slawoj Składkowski consequently crossed the border into Romania on the evening of September 17, and Commander-in-Chief Edward Smigly-Rydz after midnight on September 17/18. They managed to evacuate 30,000 soldiers to Romania, and 40,000 to Hungary (including, among others, a motorized brigade, a battalion of railroad sappers, and a police battalion “Golędzin”).

Despite the ambiguous order of the Commander-in-Chief, the Polish Army units, attacked by outnumbered Red Army troops, engaged in battles (primarily in the Sarny Fortified Area and in the retreat fighting belt of the KOP grouping in Polesia, also near Vilnius and Grodno). The defense of Grodno, where the remnants of Polish units, supported by scouts, put up a two-day resistance to Soviet tanks, has gone down in history, as well as the defense of Lvov from September 12 to 22 – against the Germans, and from September 18 simultaneously against the Soviets. On the night of September 21/22, Polish cavalrymen repulsed an attack by a Soviet armored unit near Kodziowce, destroying more than a dozen tanks. On September 29-30, Polish troops smashed the Red Army’s 52nd Rifle Division in the Battle of Shatsk.

See in Wikiresources the text of the USSR government note of 17.09.1939 not accepted by Ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski

See in Wikiresources the text of the address of the President of the Republic of Poland of September 17, 1939

The battles of the Polish soldier against the Red Army were commemorated on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, with an inscription on one of the plaques after 1990 – “DEFENSE OF THE EASTERN BORDER OF THE REPUBLIC 17 IX – 1 X 1939”.

Hostilities September 17 – October 6[edit | edit code].

Aerial bombardment of Warsaw by the Luftwaffe

Anti-aircraft defense position during the siege of Warsaw

Operating table in the Luftwaffe-bombed Transfiguration Hospital in Warsaw

Film Siege by Julien Bryan

Talks between Wehrmacht and Red Army officers about the delineation of the current line of demarcation of troops in the attacked Polish territory. Brest, September 21, 1939; in the foreground, Gen. Heinz Guderian (inverted from rear half-profile)

Mauritz von Wiktorin, Heinz Guderian and Semyon Krivoshein receive the joint parade of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in Brest – the handover of the city captured by the Germans to the Soviets, 22.09.1939

Meeting of Wehrmacht and Red Army soldiers, September 20, 1939

Polish parliamentarians on the Polish-German front line. Lviv, Grodecka Street September 18, 1939

German soldiers breaking into a house in a town in western Poland in September 1939.

Himmler (center) and Hitler (inverted) with a captured signal trumpet flame of a Polish horse rifle regiment, September 1939

Maj. Gen. Tadeusz Kutrzeba and Maj. Gen. Johannes Blaskowitz (right) go to talks on the surrender of Warsaw. September 27, 1939

Wehrmacht troops enter Warsaw. October 1, 1939

Hurried Polish cavalry during the Battle of Kock October 2-6, 1939.

General Franciszek Kleeberg’s last order to the soldiers of SGO “Polesie”. October 5, 1939

The attack of the USSR on Poland on September 17 caused the main task of fighting the German army to be taken over by the Central Front commanded by General Tadeusz Piskor. From September 17-26, the two largest battles of the September campaign, besides the Battle of the Bzura, took place near Tomaszow Lubelski. The battles were fought over the breakthrough of the armies – the Krakow Army (Southern Front) (the First Battle of Tomaszow Lubelski) and the Northern Front (the Second Battle of Tomaszow Lubelski) to Lvov through the German armored cordon in Rawa Ruska. Around Tomaszow Lubelski, in the period of September 17-20, heavy battles were fought by the 23 DP, 55 DP and the Warsaw Armored-Motor Brigade of Colonel Stefan Rowecki, but they failed to break through the German positions. The 6th DP and the Krakow Cavalry Brigade also suffered heavy losses. On September 20, Gen. Piskor capitulated, and the last Polish units under his command and their commanders were taken prisoner by the Germans.

After the surrender of the Central Front, which occurred after the forces of the Krakow Army and the Lublin Army were broken up, German operations concentrated on the units of the Polish Northern Front, commanded by Gen. Stefan Dab-Biernacki. As a result, there was renewed fighting in the Tomaszow Lubelski area from September 23 to 27, as well as battles at Cześniki and Zamosc. The Polish army grouping on September 23 was surrounded from the west by Wehrmacht forces and from the east by the Red Army. The main battles lasted until September 26, and involved Polish units of the 1st DPLeg, 13th DP, 19th DP, 29th DP, 33rd DP and 30th DP, as well as the Cavalry Operations Group under General Władysław Anders.

The units of the Southern Front, commanded by Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski, tried to break through to besieged Lvov, gaining victories in hit-and-run battles between Przemyśl and Lvov, with heavy losses of their own. On September 20, which was part of the Southern Front, the offensive of the remnants of the 11th ID, 24th ID and 38th ID through the Janów forests was, however, halted by the Wehrmacht in the suburbs of Lviv (Brzuchowice-Holosko), with heavy casualties and the departure to Hungary due to Soviet aggression against Poland on September 17 of the 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade[aj]. In view of the fact of Soviet aggression and the capitulation of Lvov before the Red Army (September 22), the units were divided into small groups with the task of going to Hungary. General Kazimierz Sosnkowski commanded the grouping until the end, in the last phase (near Holosko) he fought with arms in hand. He then crossed the Polish-Hungarian border through the Eastern Carpathians in late September and early October. On September 23, 1939 took place the charge of the 25th Regiment of Greater Poland Lancers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bohdan Stachlewski, who in Krasnobrod, near the Chapel on the Water, fought a victorious battle with German cavalry, capturing the town (this was probably the arena of the last battle between mounted units in the history of World War II).

Warsaw was defended until September 28, Modlin until September 29, and on October 2 the defenders of Hel laid down their arms. On October 6, after the last battle of the campaign – the battle of Kock, the units of the Independent Operational Group “Polesie” of General Franciszek Kleeberg[ak] laid down their arms.

Coastal defense in the September campaign[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Defense of the Coast in the September 1939 campaign.

The destroyer squadron of the Polish Navy (composed of ORP “Grom”, ORP “Blyskawica”, ORP “Tempest”) was directed to Great Britain even before the outbreak of war (the Peking Plan), and in the course of the campaign two submarines (ORP “Eagle” – after escaping from internment in Tallinn – and ORP “Wolf”) broke through there. The remaining large surface ships (ORP “Wicher” – destroyer, ORP “Gryf” – mine setter) were sunk by the Luftwaffe in the first days of September 1939, smaller units – minesweepers ORP “Mewa”, ORP “Rybitwa” participated in the fighting until mid-September, the remaining submarines (ORP “Vulture”, ORP “Lynx”, ORP “Wildcat”) were interned in Sweden after exhausting the possibility of fighting.

Fights of aviators in the September campaign[edit | edit code].

In 1939, the Polish military aviation consisted of: 6 regiments (1 – in Warsaw, 2 – in Cracow, 3 – in Poznań, 4 – in Toruń, 5 – in Vilnius and Lida, and 6 – in Lviv), as well as the Aviation Officer Training Center in Dęblin, the Aviation NCO Training Center in Bydgoszcz, the Higher Pilotage Course in Grudziądz, the Aviation Officer Technical School in Warsaw, the Reserve Officer School in Radom, and the Aviation Command in Warsaw (commander Gen. Brig. Gen. Władysław Kalkus, a pilot)[96]. Numbers as of June 1, 1939: 12,170 people, of whom 8371 (1,236 flying personnel) in combat units. The air force was an auxiliary type of army, designed to perform tasks both as part of the ground forces at the front and to cover important facilities in the rear, mainly in the Warsaw area. In the course of mobilization, which was carried out from August 24, 1939,[97] regiments were disbanded, and squadrons, squadrons and platoons became independent disposition units of the Commander-in-Chief,[97] in accordance with the concept of using aviation in the war. After mobilization, the air force numbered 15600 soldiers of which about 3300 were flying personnel and 745 aircraft of various types[98], of which 435 were combat aircraft[97]. Army aviation accounted for 65% of the total army aviation force. It consisted of 28 fighter squadrons, line (reconnaissance) squadrons, observation (accompanying) squadrons and 8 liaison platoons – a total of 274 aircraft: P-ll, P-7, RWD-14 “Heron”, Lublin R-Xlll, PZL-23 “Karas” and RWD-8[96]. Army aviation had 274 aircraft and 8 balloons[97]. The disposition aviation was the Bomb Brigade (dca Col. observer W. Heller), consisting of 10 squadrons of Karas, PZL-37 “Łoś” and R-XIII, and 4 platoons of RWD-8; a total of 105 aircraft. The disposition aviation was the Pursuit Brigade, consisting of 5 fighter squadrons, the Bomb Brigade (commander Col. pilot Wladyslaw Heller) – 9 squadrons, and liaison aviation – 1 squadron and 4 platoons[97]. For the defense of Warsaw, the Pursuit Brigade (commander Col. pilot Stefan Pawlikowski) was assigned, consisting of 5 squadrons; a total of 54 P-11 and P-7 aircraft. The commander-in-chief of aviation and antiaircraft defense was Maj. Gen. Józef Zając. Approximately 400 aircraft were used for combat tasks[96]. This equipment, with the exception of 36 Łoś bomber planes, was obsolete and significantly inferior in quality and quantity to the planes of the German Luftwaffe, striking Poland with two of its 4 fleets (more than 2,000 planes including more than 1,200 combat aircraft[98]), had a 5-fold advantage. The task of the German aviation was to destroy the Polish air force and its bases, to disorganize the mobilization and concentration of Polish troops, to destroy lines and nodes of communication, to support the aviation of ground troops, and to bomb raids[98]. From September 1, 1939, the air force gradually entered the fight. The Pursuit Brigade, taking off from airfields in Zielonka and Poniatow, twice fought German planes flying towards Warsaw. In the following days, it fought against successive expeditions of German planes, and also conducted reconnaissance of the basic grouping of enemy forces approaching Warsaw from the southwest. Between September 1-6, at the expense of 38 of its own planes, it shot down 43 and damaged 20 German planes[96]. As a result of heavy losses and the threat to airfields near Warsaw, the brigade moved on September 7 near Lublin, and on September 9 near Hrubieszow and Lutsk. Supplemented at the expense of the aviation of the armies “Krakow”, “Modlin” and “Lodz”, it limited its combat activity mainly to reconnaissance in the Siedlce area, later in the area of Przemyśl, Lvov. Marine aviation squadron conducted reconnaissance of German ships in the Gulf of Gdansk. The Bomb Brigade, stationed at airfields at Ulęż, Podlodowo near Radom, near Biała Podlaska and Radzyn, bombed with single squadrons German 10th Army tactical compounds penetrating from the direction of Silesia. Near Radom, Polish bombing squadrons, in the strength of 27 “Moose” planes, bombed and then fired with deck guns at German columns on the march. This was one of the few group attacks by Polish aviation in the September campaign[96]. From September 6, the squadrons attacked in the area of Różan and Makow, Siedlce and Sokolow the units of the German 3rd Army advancing from the north. On September 13-16, the Brigade fought in the area of Zamosc, Lwow against the 14th Army’s spearheads. The lack of prepared airfields and material and technical supplies reduced the effectiveness of its operations.

Army aviation from the first days of the war fought Luftwaffe aircraft, covered the marches of retreating own troops and conducted reconnaissance of Wehrmacht forces. The aviation of SGO Narew (commander Lt. Col. pilot Stanislaw Nazarkiewicz) operated from airfields near Lomza, the aviation of the Modlin Army (commander Col. pilot Tadeusz Prauss) in the Ciechanow area, the aviation of the Pomerania Army (commander Col. pilot Boleslaw Stachoń) in the area north of Toruń and Bydgoszcz, Poznan Army aviation (commander Col. pilot Stanislaw Kuźmiński) in the area of Greater Poland, Lodz Army aviation (commander Col. Waclaw Iwaszkiewicz) in the area of Wieluń, Czestochowa, Zduńska Wola, Krakow Army aviation (commander Col. observer Stefan Sznuk) in the area of Chorzow and Balice near Krakow, Karpaty Army aviation (commander Lt. Col. Dipl. Olgierd Tuskevich) in the area of Rzeszow, the aviation of the Army of Prussia (commander Col. pilot Jerzy Garbinski)[96]. The Poznań Army aviation showed the greatest resilience and compactness.

See also Polish military aviation 1939.

During the defensive war, Polish aviation shot down more than 130 German planes (about 150 were shot down by ground plot defense). In total, the Luftwaffe lost about 285 planes irretrievably,[97] and had almost as many damaged. Almost half of the air victories went to fighter aviation[97]. Polish aviation fulfilled a special role in reconnaissance and communications, as well as an intervention role (bombing, fighting the enemy on the ground) and plot defense of entrusted areas[97]. Losses in equipment amounted to about 70%. Flying personnel losses in the campaign amounted to: 61 killed, 63 wounded and 110 missing. About 2,500 aviation personnel were taken prisoner[97]. More than 12,000 air force personnel were outside Poland,[97] most of whom evacuated to Romania. 97 military aircraft were evacuated to Romania: 22 PZL-37 “Łoś”, 43 P-11 and P-7, 18 P-23 “Karas” and 14 RWD-14 “Czapla” and Lublin R-XIII, as well as most of the technical equipment and personnel of the Polish Airlines “LOT” and 16 passenger aircraft (on September 1, 1939 “LOT” had 26 aircraft of various types and 694 employees)[96].

In the Polish Air Force in the west in 1940-1945, aviators were recruited mainly from flying and technical personnel, who after the September defeat made their way out of the country to France and Great Britain.

The fights of Polish aviators in the September campaign were commemorated after 1990 on one of the plaques dedicated to aviators on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw with the inscription “OBRONA POLSKI WRZESIEŃ 1939”.

Civil defense[edit | edit code].

In the defense of the country’s territory against the forces of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, Polish volunteer civil defense units and spontaneously formed units composed of the local population of a similar nature took an active part. Civilian defense units were created at the inspiration of military authorities mainly in Silesia, or at the inspiration of the civil administration, including the Civilian Defense Commissar in Warsaw, and also as grass-roots initiatives – self-created organizations by former Silesian and Greater Poland insurgents, political parties, scouts, workers and social activists. These types of troops performed policing, protective and military functions (jointly with Polish Army units or independently of them). The largest battles were fought during the civilian defense of Silesia in September 1939, Kłeck near Gniezno (September 8-9, 1939), Bydgoszcz (during the events known in Polish historiography as the German diversion in Bydgoszcz) on September 5, Gdynia (volunteer units in defense of the Coast including the Kosynierzy of Gdynia), and Warsaw – where the Workers’ Brigade for the Defense of Warsaw was formed. Civil defense units took part in the defense of Lublin (September 16- 18),[99] Lviv (volunteer companies of the so-called “Lvov Gasoline Workers”), Dzisna (September 17), Vilna (September 18-19) and Grodno (September 20-21).

Resistance of Polish civil defense assumed significant proportions in Silesia, where civil defense formations participated in battles against organized groups of German saboteurs (Fifth Column, Freikorps Ebbinghaus, Selbstschutz), operating in the border zone (from August to September 1939). They were initially organized on the initiative of former Silesian insurgents, and later by the Union of Silesian Insurgents, cooperating in this regard with 22 battalions from the National Defense Brigades. Since September 1939, these formations defended Polish towns and villages against the Germans together with the Polish Army, volunteer youth squads – mainly scouts and members of the Union of Insurgent Youth. These units participated, among others, in the defense of the parachute tower in Katowice, Chorzow, Lubliniec, in the Pszczyna forests – their members who were captured by the Germans were usually shot or imprisoned.

Epilogue[edit | edit code].

Adolf Hitler receives the Wehrmacht parade in occupied Warsaw. Ujazdowskie avenues, October 5, 1939

While the fighting was still going on, the Germans considered the concept of creating a residual state (German: Reststaat) from some of the conquered territories, with which they could sign a peace treaty and which they could keep dependent on the Reich[100]. A memorandum from the last Third Reich ambassador to Poland, Hans von Moltke, dated September 25, 1939, even mentioned Kazimierz Sosnkowski’s name as a person who, according to the document’s author, could agree to become prime minister of a collaborationist government[101]. However, this concept was abandoned in the face of Stalin’s categorical opposition[102]. The USSR thus denied the idea of preserving Poland in any shape, the Polish state was to be liquidated once and for all, and Polish territory annexed and incorporated by both aggressors (the Third Reich and the USSR)[100][103]. There is also no data indicating that the concept of creating a residual state was willing to be accepted by any Polish political or military circles.

As a result, on September 28, 1939 – immediately after the capitulation of Warsaw – in a pact on borders and friendship concluded in Moscow, the Third Reich and the USSR made a delimitation of the German-Soviet border on militarily occupied Polish territory, contrary to international law ( Hague Convention IV of 1907)[104]. The inhabitants of both occupied parts of the Polish state were subjected to repression by the occupiers. As late as September 1939, the structures of the underground state, subordinated to the Polish Government in Exile, began operating. The state continuity of the Republic of Poland in the international arena, despite the declarations of the aggressors and occupiers, was preserved. In the occupied country, a clandestine administration and an underground Polish Army were reconstituted.

Separate articles: General Government, Polish Territory annexed by the Third Reich, Repression of the USSR against Poles and Polish citizens 1939-1946 and Polish Underground State.

While still in the midst of the September campaign, Estonia and Latvia liquidated the Polish diplomatic missions working in them, on September 20 and 22, respectively[105][106]. Estonia’s accusations by Soviet propaganda of a breach of neutrality due to its alleged cooperation with the Polish navy (the case of the escape from Tallinn of the ORP “Eagle”) played a role in this.

In view of the end of fighting by regular troops in Poland, on October 6, 1939, in a speech in the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler publicly proposed peace to France and Great Britain, provided that these countries recognized the conquest of Poland and the partition of its territory between the Third Reich and the USSR. The proposal contained in Hitler’s speech was rejected in Neville Chamberlain’s speech in the House of Commons on October 12, 1939[al].

This was the final defeat of Hitler’s and Ribbentrop’s concept of a short-lived isolated war between Germany (alliedly supported by the USSR) and Poland[am]. Britain was determined to wage a prolonged war against Germany using the reserves of the British Empire, leading diplomatic efforts at need to create a broad anti-Hitler coalition (analogous to the long-standing anti-Napoleonic coalition historic to the British), with the prospective participation of the United States[an] and possibly the USSR[ao]. Despite the breakdown of the Eastern Front after the defeat of the Polish Army, World War II was to continue, according to the will of the British cabinet – until the elimination of the Third Reich as hegemon on the European continent.

Polish war losses[edit | edit code].

Related to this topic are the categories: Fallen in the September campaign (Polish side), Civilian casualties of the September campaign.

Polish soldiers taken prisoner

According to post-war estimates by the Office of War Compensation, about 66,000 Polish soldiers and officers (2,000 officers, including 5 generals and several higher commanders) were killed in the battles against the Wehrmacht, 134,000 were wounded, and about 420,000 were taken prisoner by the Germans[107].

In the fighting with the Red Army, several thousand Polish soldiers were killed or wounded, and some 250,000 soldiers were taken prisoner by the Soviets (officers captured by the Red Army were mostly murdered by the NKVD)[107]. Approximately 1,300 soldiers also ended up in Slovak captivity.

Similar estimates are given by Czesław Grzelak and Wojciech Stańczyk. According to them, about 63,000 soldiers and 3,300 officers were killed in the fighting, 133,700 were wounded. About 400,000 were taken prisoner by the Germans and 230,000 by the Soviets[23].

As part of the evacuation, about 80,000 soldiers made their way to the neutral countries neighboring Poland – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (12,000) and Romania (32,000) and Hungary (35,000)[23].

Most of the Navy’s large ships escaped destruction. In addition to the three destroyers evacuated to Britain before the outbreak of war, two submarines that got through the naval blockade got there during the campaign[41]. The remaining three submarines escaped destruction and were interned in Sweden (although this eliminated them from the further course of the war). Only the two remaining large surface ships (ORP “Wicher” and ORP “Gryf”) and six small minesweepers were lost, in addition to a number of vessels of lesser combat or auxiliary value. A total of 119 aircraft were managed to be evacuated to Romania[41]. The remaining military equipment was lost.

Enemy losses[edit | edit code].

Related to this topic is the category: Fallen in the September campaign (German side).

Former Polish publications estimated overall German losses at more than 100,000 soldiers[ap]. More recent German research has allowed a more precise calculation of the global personnel losses of the ground forces at about 17,000 dead, which Polish authors also claim is documented and coincides with the summary of losses from the documents of most German tactical compounds[108]. According to Burkhart Müller-Hildebrandt, the losses of the ground troops alone (Heer) amounted to 16,343 killed, 320 missing and 27,280 wounded; other figures, differing slightly, are also encountered[108].

Myths about the September campaign[edit | edit code].

German Waffen-SS cavalry in 1939

A number of myths have grown up around the events of the September campaign over a number of years, stemming in part from the falsifications of Nazi wartime propaganda and post-war communist propaganda of the communist period, as well as the lack of reliability of some Polish and foreign historians:

The Polish Army was so backward that it attacked German tanks using cavalry – untrue statements about Polish cavalry attacking German tanks were perpetuated throughout World War II by German propaganda, disseminating the 1941 propaganda film Kampfgeschwader Lützow, which was specially made for this purpose. In Poland, after the end of World War II, the myth was picked up by the communists – in 1959, for use in the propaganda of the Polish People’s Republic, the film Lotna, directed by Andrzej Wajda, was made, depicting a never[109] seen attack by Polish cavalry on German armored troops. Poland used 11 cavalry brigades militarily during the September campaign, according to the Polish war doctrine of the time, emphasizing the role of these formations as elite units (this was mainly related to the tradition of Polish arms), but both the German and Soviet armies also used cavalry extensively for such tasks. Polish cavalry (equipped at the time with modern “UR” anti-tank rifles and light artillery, such as the Bofors 37mm anti-tank cannon) never directly attacked German tanks, or dug-in enemy infantry and artillery positions with a cavalry charge, because in most cases it operated as so-called “mobile infantry. mobile infantry (similar to dragoons) and reconnaissance units, the direct cavalry charge was only used against moving, untrenched and unshielded enemy infantry. (The tactic of bypassing enemy troops instead of a frontal attack was used, for example, in the Battle of Krojanty[aq][110][111]).

Polish Military Aviation was destroyed on the ground in the first days of the war – in fact, although it was no match for German forces in numbers, Polish aviation was not destroyed on ground airfields because it was evacuated to small camouflaged airfields inland just before the outbreak of war. Only training and support aircraft were destroyed at the very beginning of hostilities. The Polish Air Force remained active in air combat for the first two weeks of the 1939 September campaign. After the end of the September campaign, many talented Polish pilots made their way to Great Britain and France, where they fought against enemy aircraft.

Poland showed no significant resistance and quickly surrendered – in fact, the Polish Army by the size and intensity of its resistance caused the Germans to suffer significant losses in Poland, particularly in military vehicles of various types and aircraft. The German Army lost about 1,000[112] tanks and armored cars (about 30% of the total), according to Rajmund Szubanski in The Beginning of the Armored Trail the losses amounted to 675 tanks and 319 armored cars of which 217 tanks were destroyed (the rest required repairs), 370[112][unreliable source? ]guns and mortars, more than 10,000[112][unreliable source?] motor vehicles (including about 6,000 cars and 5,500 motorcycles[41])[unreliable source?]. The Luftwaffe lost about 280 irretrievably, damaged about 263 – 273 (depending on sources) of which 70 were repairable[113][114][115][116]. 45,000 German soldiers were killed or wounded – Hitler personally admitted that the German infantry in Poland: “has not lived up to the hopes placed in it.”[41] The wear and tear on German military equipment had reached a point where its continued use required a general overhaul,[103] and the intensity of the fighting left German ground and air forces with ammunition reserves for about two weeks of combat[103]. In terms of length, the September campaign lasted only a week shorter than the Battle of France in 1940, despite the fact that the troops of the Franco-English coalition were much more similar in equipment and men to the German forces than the Polish Army. The relatively high German losses in the September campaign in Poland, were one of the main reasons[112][unreliable source?] for the delay of the offensive on the Western Front, as it took several months of work by the military factories to replenish the equipment losses – this gave the Western countries, especially Great Britain[112][unreliable source?], the necessary time to expand their arms industry[112][unreliable source?].

The German Army achieved victory in Poland thanks to the strategy of the so-called “Blitzkrieg” (German: Blitzkrieg) – the Germans only partially owed their victory in the September campaign to the concept of blitzkrieg, unexpectedly, the strong resistance of the Polish Army units forced the German command to revise its plans for military operations in Poland twice, the so-called “White Plan” (German: Fall Weiss) – according to the original plan, the Polish Army was to be encircled and destroyed west of the Vistula line. After September 14, operations were conducted using classic methods, the success of which was significantly reinforced by Soviet aggression on September 17, 1939. Germany had an advantage from the beginning of the conflict in many respects, the most important of which were the significant disproportion in material and military resources, the delay due to the opposition of England and France of the mobilization of the Polish Army and its consequent failure to complete it,[117] the fact of the decidedly unfavorable strategic position of the Polish forces even before the start of the fighting (outflanking on the southern side from Slovakia and on the northern side from East Prussia), and the possibility of the German air force reaching practically every point in the depths of attacked Poland.

War crimes[edit | edit code].

Warsaw during the siege

Burning Royal Castle in Warsaw after shelling by German artillery, 17.09.1939

Civilian victims of Luftwaffe air raid

Bydgoszcz – execution of Poles, 9.09.1939

Murder near Ciepielow, where the Wehrmacht shot 300 Polish prisoners of war

Shooting of hostages in Konin, September 22, 1939

Execution by Einsatzkommando in Leszno, October 1939

Expulsion of Poles from Greater Poland immediately after the end of hostilities, fall 1939

Registration of the first Polish prisoners of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, 1939

View multimedia related to the topic: Catalog of works of art seized in Poland during World War II

See Wikiresources for the text of Hague Convention IV of October 18, 1907 concerning the laws and customs of war on land

During the September campaign, the Wehrmacht, the Red Army and NKVD formations committed many war crimes.

Wehrmacht crimes[edit | edit code].

See more in the article German crimes in Poland (1939-1945), under German crimes in Poland during the September campaign.

A girl (Kazimiera Kostewicz) next to her sister Anna, who was killed by Luftwaffe pilots shelling civilians on September 14, 1939 near the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw (photo: Julien Bryan)[118][119].

For 55 days, from September 1 to October 26, when the Wehrmacht command exercised military authority in the occupied Polish territories (it was handed over to the civilian German administration on October 27), the Wehrmacht engaged in 311 summary executions[120] of Polish civilians and Polish Army soldiers. Between September 1 and October 26, various German forces carried out a total of 764 executions[120] in which 24,000[120] Polish citizens were killed.

A similar crime, where about 300 people (including 150 Polish soldiers) were killed, was carried out by German forces in Śladów[121]. In Zambrów, 200[121] captured Polish soldiers were shot dead. On September 17, 1939, in Terespol, Wehrmacht units shot 100[62] prisoners of war. On September 20, 42 POWs were murdered in Majdan Wielki, and another 100[62] were shot on September 23, 1939 in Trzebinia. On September 22, 50 captured soldiers of the ON Battalion “Bydgoszcz” were murdered in Boryszew. On September 28, 1939, in Zakroczym, SS men from the “Kempf” Division shot about 600 people[62], including 500 captured Polish Army soldiers[62]. Some 73[122]-100[121] Polish prisoners of war were burned alive in the village of Urycz. In similar circumstances, about 95 POWs and civilians were murdered in Szczucin.

In addition, Wehrmacht forces provided cover for thousands of other mass murders carried out by units of the German Selbstschutz and Volksdeutsche militias, as well as police units and SD Operational Groups, assigned even before the aggression against Poland to each Wehrmacht army[120].

Separate article: Einsatzgruppen in Poland.

Mass atrocities were carried out by the Wehrmacht and other German formations in Greater Poland, civilians were executed without trial for offering armed resistance, possession of weapons or ammunition, and disobedience to the orders of the German military administration[123]. On September 1-2, soldiers of the German 10th Infantry Division pacified the village of Torzeniec, murdering 34 residents and three prisoners of war. Some of the victims died in the burning and shelling of buildings; 18 men were executed by “summary court” verdict. A sapper company from the same division also burned down the neighboring village of Wyszanow, where 22 people – mostly old men, women and children – died from bullets, flames and grenades thrown into basements. In nearby Podzamcze, 20 residents were murdered and another 18 were shot and stabbed with bayonets in the village of Mączniki. Similar incidents took place in many minor towns in Greater Poland[123].

A particularly large number of murders were carried out in Greater Poland’s Sieradz district, including the burning of 240 buildings in Zloczew on September 4 and the murder of some 200 people, including old men, women and children[123]. A Polish soldier was also executed without trial. In the then-Turkish district, especially in the municipality of Niewiesz, on September 3-5, the Wehrmacht shot 300 people[123] from surrounding villages in revenge for the resistance of Polish troops and the losses suffered in battle. In retaliation for the defense of Kłeck and Gniezno, Wehrmacht soldiers shot 300 people on September 9 and 10[123]. In Mogilno, 117 people were murdered in the same way[123].

The main responsible for the Wehrmacht crimes in Greater Poland were Generals Johannes von Blaskowitz, as commander of the 8th Army, and Günther von Kluge commanding the 4th Army[123].

In total, various German forces (Wehrmacht, Selbstschutz, Freikorps, Luftwaffe and German police[124]) burned more than 434[124] Polish villages during the September campaign, which in most cases was combined with executions of their inhabitants[124]. These acts were unlawful actions, carried out in violation of international law and obligations, without military necessity and often after the end of hostilities[124]. Other crimes included the taking and shooting of hostages in occupied towns by the Wehrmacht and Einsatzkommandos, setting fire to homes and driving out the population. Numerous crimes against Polish citizens were also carried out by units of the Freikorps[125], German police and probably the so-called Citizens’ Guards (German: Ortswehr, Werkswehr)[125] in the Silesian province, where some 1,023[125] people were murdered between September 4 and 30, 1939.

German planes bombed civilian targets[126], attacked columns of fleeing civilians, roads crowded with thousands of people fleeing the aggressor became an easy target for aviation in particular. Panic was caused by the Luftwaffe’s deliberate strategy of attacking civilian targets from the first day of the war, shelling all targets alive on the roads by German planes[127][128]. An oft-cited example of unjustified terror is the bombing of Wieluń and Frampol.

During the September campaign, the Germans committed a number of anti-Semitic crimes and atrocities. In captured towns, the Wehrmacht, SS-Verfügungstruppe and Einsatzgruppen repeatedly carried out so-called “instant pogroms,” during which synagogues were burned, stores were looted or smashed, and captured Jews were beaten, humiliated or forced into grueling labor. These pogroms sometimes turned into real massacres, during which dozens of Jews were killed. Anti-Semitic massacres took place, among others, in Będzin (several hundred victims), Blonie (about 50 victims), Dynów (at least 150-170 victims), Końskie (22 victims), Krasnosielc (about 50 victims) and Trzebinia (about 50 victims). The largest massacre occurred in Przemyśl, where between September 16 and 19 Einsatzgruppen officers murdered at least 500-600 Jews[129][130].

Crimes of the Red Army and NKVD formations[edit | edit code].

Since the start of the aggression against Poland, the Red Army and NKVD formations have committed numerous war crimes, murdering prisoners of war and massacring civilians. It is estimated that about 2,500 Polish soldiers and policemen and several hundred civilians fell victim to them[131]. At the same time, military commanders called on the civilian population to commit murder and violence, the commander of the Red Army’s Ukrainian Front wrote in one of his proclamations: “With guns, scythes, pitchforks and axes, beat your eternal enemies – the Polish masters.”[131] The greatest atrocities were committed in Rohatyn,[132][133][134][135] where Polish soldiers and civilians were slaughtered, Grodno, Novogrudok, Sarny, and Ternopil,[34][134] as well as in Volkovysk, Oshmia, Svisloch,[136] Molodechno and Kosovo Poleski[40][137]. According to some accounts, Polish prisoners of war were tied up in Grodno and dragged by tanks over cobblestones[138]. Dramatic events also occurred in Khodorovo, Zloczow and Stryj[40]. Near Vilnius, Red Army soldiers executed captured Polish Army soldiers[34][134]. Taking revenge for the resistance put up in Grodno, surrendering Polish Army soldiers were shot en masse[139]. Representatives of the Red Army also violated the provisions of the agreements on the surrender of arms; on September 22, 1939, the commander of the defense of Lvov, General Wladyslaw Langner, signed a capitulation with the Soviet command, providing, among other things, for the safe march of the army, police and officers toward the border with Romania, after the surrender of arms – this agreement was broken by deporting everyone deep into the USSR[140]. The defenders of Brest and the KOP grouping (after being broken up on October 1, 1939 in the battle of Wolka Wytytskaya) were treated similarly, while all captured soldiers of the 135th KOP regiment were shot by the Red Army on the spot[34].

The Red Army murdered with machine-gun fire unarmed cadets from the Police Non-Commissioned Officer School in Mosty Wielkie after the cadets were assembled on the roll call square and took a report from the school’s commandant.

The commander of the defense of the Grodno region, General Jozef Olszyn-Wilczynski, and his adjutant were also premeditatedly murdered; this was carried out by Red Army units near Sopotkinia[34]. In the latter case, a statement is given in contemporary Russian literature (authored mainly by J. Mukhin) that General Oleshina-Wilchinskiy was killed while fleeing with his luggage in a passenger car after abandoning his subordinate units that were still fighting. Meanwhile, witnesses to the execution of the general and his adjutant by a shot to the back of the head were his wife and a dozen or so people accompanying her[141].

The Red Army units were followed by NKVD troops and special units, immediately carrying out mass arrests (or executions) of local elites according to pre-prepared proscription lists, with the help of local communist agents and organized militias (the so-called People’s Militia).

Organized communist militias and units of the Spetsnaz and Osnaz also carried out on-the-spot murders of members of local elites (including Jadwiga Sheptytska, Roman Skirmunt).

Separate articles: The USSR’s aggression against Poland, the Skirmunt Uprising, the USSR’s repression of Poles and Polish citizens 1939-1946 and the Katyn Massacre.

Related to this topic is the category: crimes of communist militias.

Crimes of Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian communist militias in Eastern Lesser Poland and Volhynia[edit | edit code].

In the areas of Eastern Lesser Poland and Volhynia, there were crimes committed by OUN militias and communist militias organized by the Soviet special services.

Until September 11/12 – the seizure of Sambor and the arrival of the Wehrmacht’s motorized cavalry to Lviv, the territories of the provinces of Eastern Lesser Poland were peaceful[142]. From September 12, 1939, mainly Polish military settlers, disarmed soldiers, and local peasants were murdered. This was carried out by organized OUN groups, made up in part of armed deserters from the Polish Army,[92] communist militias, part of the local population and the social margin[143]. In the villages of Koniuchy and Potutory a total of about 100 Poles were killed, and in Kolonia Jakubowice 57 homesteads were burned and about 20 Poles were murdered. In the village of Slawentyn in Podhajce district, a further 85 people were killed. Ukrainian actions against Poles were particularly intensified in Brzeżany and Podhajce districts. It is estimated that in September and October 1939, about 2,000 Poles were killed by nationalist and communist Ukrainian militias in Eastern Lesser Poland and about 1,000 in Volhynia[144]. According to the OUN, its members killed 796 Poles and burned at least four Polish towns in September 1939, with their own losses of 160 killed and 53 wounded[145].

Separate article: OUN Diversion in 1939.

Poland’s missed opportunities in the September campaign[edit | edit code].

Strękowa Gora, monument to the Battle of Wizna, September 7-10, 1939

Monument to fallen soldiers in Granica, war cemetery of 800 soldiers of the Pomeranian and Poznan Armies[ar].

The first competent critical work on the September campaign was a three-volume work by Colonel Marian Porwit’s Diplomat Marian Porwit’s Comments on Polish defensive actions in September 1939, referring to the synthesis and evaluations contained in the publication: Polish Armed Forces in the West, vol. 1, “The September Campaign” (Parts 1-5)[146] compiled by the General Sikorski Historical Institute in London (London 1951-1986). Both works contain extensive literature on the subject and sources.

During the September campaign, Polish commanders and staffers at various levels of planning and command made many mistakes in the art of war and its execution, according to analysts, taking into account the state of knowledge and capabilities that existed at the date of decision-making. These were both decision-making and distributive, personnel or tactical errors. Among the most pointed are:

In political terms: The poorly negotiated secret protocol to the alliance pact with the UK, so that the UK could not be drawn into the war against the USSR, and later the government’s failure to officially (by means of a statement) declare a state of war between Poland and the USSR[147].

In terms of land operations: Failure to establish fronts (army groups) under “Plan Z.”

In terms of logistics: Unsatisfactory use of the large arms depots at Stawy near Deblin, known as the so-called arsenal of the Republic, to equip reservists arriving at the front. It housed some 550 guns, 2,500 ckm – along with a corresponding number of all types of ammunition, and large quantities of uniforms and provisions[103].

In terms of Navy operations and coastal defense:

Within the budget resources available, insufficient development of the submarine fleet at the expense of building expensive, and useless in the absence of naval bases (and a narrow coast), surface vessels (destroyer squadron, minesweepers)[footnote needed]. The allocation of the entire budgeted funds for the Navy to a submarine fleet with a base at Hel, well fortified against attack from land and air (as the 1939 experience showed), would have provided the opportunity to conduct an effective (as the World War I experience showed) submarine warfare against both potential aggressors in the Baltic (with at least 10-12 potential against the actual existing five Polish submarines) against the Kriegsmarine’s relatively small surface fleet (and for comparison – 48 U- Kriegsmarine boats scattered in the Baltic[148].

First conclusions of the September campaign[edit | edit code].

The conclusions of the lost September campaign, were still communicated to the French side in October 1939 – General Wladyslaw Sikorski sent then General Maurice Gamelin a synthesis of the German offensive doctrine,[103] recommending that his own defensive doctrine be adapted to it. Sikorski’s plan included basing defenses on blocking lines of communication, defending localities, creating special barrage brigades to fight enemy armored weapons, and preparing improvised and mobile armored domes to protect infantry fire assets from German air assault attacks. The Polish staff in France conducted serious studies in January-February 1940 on the experience of the lost September campaign in Poland, based on more than 3,000 collected accounts from participants in the war effort. The results of these studies were submitted in 18 notebooks to the American, French and English headquarters[103]. An additional synthesis was presented in October 1939 by one of the officers of the French military mission in Poland, in a study of 27 typewritten pages sent to France – the French generals did not pay due attention to this study (among others, General Georges stated outright that “it will be different with us”[103]).

Organization of the Polish Army in September 1939[edit | edit code].

Marsh. Edward Smigly-Rydz, Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces

Waclaw Stachiewicz, Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army

Separate article: Ordre de Bataille of the Polish Army on September 1, 1939.

Armies of the Polish Army[edit | edit code].

Army “Carpathian” – commander: Maj. Gen. Kazimierz Fabrycy

Army “Krakow” – commander: Brig. Gen. Antoni Szylling

Army “Lodz” – commander: Major General Juliusz Rommel

Army “Modlin” – commander: brigadier general Emil Krukowicz-Przedrzymirski[as].

Army “Pomerania” – commander: Maj. Gen. Władysław Bortnowski

Army “Poznań” – commander: Maj. Gen. Tadeusz Kutrzeba

Army “Prussia” – de-escalation – commander: Maj. Gen. Stefan Dab-Biernacki

Army “Lublin” – formed during military operations – commander: Maj. Gen. Tadeusz Piskor

Army “Małopolska” – episodically created during the hostilities, through a formal merger of the Army “Kraków” and the Army “Karpaty”, actually unorganized – commander: Maj. Gen. Kazimierz Fabrycy

Army “Warsaw” – formed during the hostilities – Maj. Gen. Juliusz Rómmel

Fronts of the Polish Army (since September 10, 1939)[edit | edit code].

Northern Front – commander: Maj. Gen. Stefan Dab-Biernacki

Southern Front – commander: Maj. Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski

Central Front – commander: Maj. Gen. Tadeusz Piskor

Army Group of General Kutrzeba[at].

Organization and equipment of the aggressors[edit | edit code].

Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch Supreme Commander of the Land Forces

Gen. Franz Halder, chief of the General Staff of the Land Forces Command (OKH)

Organization and equipment of the Wehrmacht on September 1, 1939[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Ordre de Bataille of the Wehrmacht on September 1, 1939, Slovak Army on September 1, 1939 and Red Army on September 17, 1939.

Commemorations[edit | edit code].

As a tribute to the participants in the September campaign, the Polish Post introduced two stamps into circulation in 2009. The first (with a face value of 2.40 zlotys) features an archival German photograph of bombed-out Wieluń. The second stamp (with a face value of 1.55 zloty) is dedicated to Węgierska Górka, which became known as the “Westerplatte of the South” because of its fierce and heroic defense. On the stamp, Węgierska Górka is shown from the perspective of the defenders, f

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