Slovak attack on Poland

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Slovak attack on Poland

World War II, September campaign

Slovak-German brotherhood of arms – Komancza 1939


September 1-16, 1939




Second Republic


Slovakia’s territorial claims against Poland


victory of Germany and Slovakia,incorporation of part of Spiš and Orava into the Slovak Republic

Parties to the conflict

Second Republic

Slovakia Third Reich


Kazimierz Fabrycy

Ferdinand Čatloš


part of the Malopolska Army

50 thousand soldiers


1350 in captivity,1 aircraft shot down

18 killed,46 wounded,11 missing,2 aircraft shot down

no coordinates

Multimedia at Wikimedia Commons

Slovak attack on Poland – one of the elements of the German plan to attack Poland in 1939, during World War II[1]. It involved four divisions, a total of about 50,000 Slovak soldiers of the “Bernolák” Field Army under the command of General Ferdinand Čatloš[2] 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. One result of the attack was the incorporation into Slovakia’s borders of some 770 km² of Polish territory, which had been lost to Slovakia as a result of the 1920-24 Czechoslovak-Polish conflict and Poland’s forced cession in 1938 (1.12.1938 – 226 km², 4280 inhabitants[footnote needed]).

Table of contents

1 Genesis 2 Preparations for war 3 Organization of the Slovak army 4 Warfare 5 Use of Slovak territory by the Wehrmacht during the attack on Poland 6 After the campaign 7 Resonance in the 21st century 8 See also 9 Footnotes 10 Bibliography 11 External links

Genesis[edit | edit code].

On March 14, 1939, following the breakup of Czechoslovakia as a result of the Munich Agreement, the First Slovak Republic was established, inspired by Roman Catholic priest Jozef Tiso and Vojtech Tuka. This republic, although the Slovaks officially declared independence, was in fact a puppet state created with the support of the Third Reich. The political pretext for Slovakia’s participation in the German invasion was that Poland forced a border adjustment with Czechoslovakia in October 1938, as a result of which Javornína and part of Spiš and Orava (226 km² with 3280 inhabitants)[3] became part of Poland. The Slovak Republic laid claim to these territories. During secret talks with Germany held on March 20-21, 1939, the Slovak government expressed its readiness to participate in an attack on Poland and agreed to use Slovak roads and railroads to funnel German troops through its territory[4].

Preparations for war[edit | edit code].

After annexing Czechoslovakia, the Germans operated unhindered on theoretically independent Slovak territory. In April 1939, that is, even before reaching an agreement with the Slovak government on a military attack on Poland, they began preparations for their planned war campaign. In the German plan for aggression against Poland (Fall Weiss), Slovakia played an important strategic role. It provided for troops grouped in Slovakia to execute a wide encircling maneuver east of the Vistula River, making it possible to surround Polish troops and attack them from three sides. This created logistical problems for the Polish army, as it stretched the front line and forced the dispersal of numerically smaller forces along the borders.

The Wehrmacht command carved out a protective zone in the western part of the country, where military and economic facilities were to be established to support the operation of the units. German officers also began instructional work for the emerging Slovak army. The Slovak government prepared several airfields for the Luftwaffe.

Organization of the Slovak army[edit | edit code].

By September 1, 1939, the Slovak Army had mobilized 51,306 men, of which the “Bernolak” Field Army included 12,642[5]. The zone of operations of the Slovak Army, assigned to the 14th Army commanded by Colonel General Wilhelm Lista, lay in the operational sector of the German Army Group South.

The commander of the Slovak Field Army – Maj. Gen. 1st Rank Ferdinand Čatloš,

1st Infantry Division (code-named “Jánošik”) – Commander Gen. 2nd rank Anton Pulanich: 4th and 5th Infantry Regiments and 2nd Independent Infantry Battalion, 1st Artillery Regiment, 2nd Squadron of the 4th Artillery Regiment, 1st Reconnaissance Cavalry Division (as of August 28, 1939). On September 1, it occupied Zakopane and Polish Spisz, and then Nowy Targ. 2nd Infantry Division (Kryp. “Škultéty”) – commander Lt. Col. Ján Imro (from September 5 – General 2nd Rank Alexandr Čunderlik): 3rd Infantry Regiment and 1st, 3rd and 4th independent infantry battalions, 2nd Artillery Regiment, 2nd reconnaissance cavalry squadron (as of August 28, 1939). On September 8, it occupied Muszyna, Krynica Zdrój, Tylicz, Biala Woda on Polish territory. On September 16 it fought between the towns of Sanok and Dukla. 3rd Infantry Division (Kryp. “Rázus”) – commander Colonel Dipl. Augustin Malár: 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments and 5th and 6th Independent Infantry Battalions, 3rd Artillery Regiment, 1st squadron of the 4th Artillery Regiment, 3rd Reconnaissance Cavalry Division (as of August 28, 1939). The 3rd Division was part of the XVIII Corps alongside the German 3rd Mountain Division fought the Poles south of Sanok and Krosno until September 11, 1939 in the section Bukowsko – Kulaszne – Baligród – Jablonki – Cisna. Quick Group (Kryp. “Kalinčiak”) – commander Lt. Col. Ján Imro (from September 5, 1939): 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Rider Division, 3rd Motorized Division. 4th and 51st Artillery Regiments, Bernolák armored train (code name Hrlička), Air and OPL Command, “Bernolák” telegraph battalion, Topol motorized battalion (commander Major Štefan Čáni – from September 3, 1939). Independent Infantry Battalions (1st, 3rd, 4th sbp) and 21st (2nd, 5th, 6th sbp).

Hostilities[edit | edit code].

Disputed territories between Poland and Czechoslovakia[6]. territories within Polish borders after 1920 territories of Czechoslovakia after 19201. area of Skalité2. part of the village of Lipnica Wielka3. Northeastern Orava (Jablonka region)4. Glodovka (Hladovka) and Sucha Gora (Suchá Hora)5. a piece of the slope of Rysy6. Jaworzyna Spiska7. Polish Spisz8. Lesnica

Separate article: September campaign.

On September 1, 1939, Prime Minister Father Josef Tiso ordered his troops to attack Poland without first declaring war on it, which he motivated by the alleged threat to Slovakia by the Polish army. The Slovak army attacked Poland at 5 a.m. with a force of three divisions in the Podhale, Novosadec and Bieszczady directions.

On September 1, 1939, the 1st Division occupied Jaworzyna and Niedzica and advanced 30 kilometers in a few days, reaching Ochotnica on September 3 in the evening, and Zabrze-Rivers area on September 4, where fire contact was established with units of the “Carpathian” Army. On September 9, 1939, the division returned to Slovakia (a small force remained in Polish Spiš until it was incorporated into Slovakia and as occupation troops in Zakopane). The 2nd Division, as part of the XVIII Army Corps of Infantry Gen. Eugen Beyer took up positions on the Jaslo-Krosno-Sanok line, having combat contact with Polish units (11 KDP). The bloodiest fighting took place near Czeremcha and Ochotnica between September 2 and 5. On September 2, 4 Slovak armored vehicles reached Tylicz, where they encountered strong resistance and had to give way. On the same day, a platoon of the “Gorlice” National Defense Battalion near Konieczna crossed the national border and blew up a stone culvert. Also on September 2, the Poles carried out a counterattack to Čertižné, repeated on the night of September 5-6, and entered the villages of Nižný Komárnik and Vyšný Komárnik. On September 5, the Slovak command issued an order to form a rapid group (the so-called Rychlá skupina) under the code name “Kalinčak,” its command was assumed by Lt. Col. Ján Imro. This unit crossed the Polish border, but did not take part in the fighting. On September 12, these units occupied Sanok and the surrounding area[footnote needed].

During the campaign, the Slovak infantry took positions, from the west on the lines Kamienica – Zbludza – Zalesie, Jaworki – Biala Woda and Krynica-Zdroj – Tylicz, without significant resistance from the Polish side.

On September 10, the Slovaks crossed the border in the area of Radoszycka Pass and Lupkowska Pass (the railroad tunnel running underneath it had already been blown up by the Poles before noon on September 1) and occupied Radoszyce, Komańcza, Lupkow, Rzepedź and Smolnik. In the evening they reached the Przybyszow – Rzepedź – Turzansk – Huczwice – Kamionki – Rabe line. The next day the Slovaks occupied the region up to the line Bukowsko – Kulaszne – Baligród – Jablonki – Cisna. On September 16, infantry units were used to fortify earlier positions on the line between Liszna, Jablonki, Baligrod, Sanok, Krosno and Dukla, after which they were withdrawn to the Slovak borders.

The air force, consisting of two fighter squadrons with 20 Avia B-534 aircraft and one reconnaissance squadron with ten Letov 328 aircraft, also took part in the fighting from September 2. They flew deep into Polish territory at a distance of about 80 kilometers, but did not achieve any spectacular successes during hostilities.

During the September campaign, Slovak army losses in Poland amounted to 18 killed, 46 wounded and 11 missing. Some 1,350 Polish prisoners of war were taken prisoner. In January 1940, about 1,200 of them were handed over by the Slovaks to the Germans and the Soviets, while the rest were imprisoned in a camp in Lešť.

Use of Slovak territory by the Wehrmacht during the attack on Poland[edit | edit code].

Of greater military significance than the Slovak Army’s action was the Slovak government’s making its territory available for the preparation and execution of the German army’s attack in September 1939. During secret talks with the Germans held on March 20-21, 1939, the Slovak government expressed its readiness to participate in the attack on Poland and agreed to use Slovak roads and railroads to funnel German troops through its territory[4]. The cooperation of the two countries was strategically important to the Germans: it enabled an attack from the south, forcing the Poles to stretch their defensive line. The German “Fall Weiss” plan envisaged for the troops grouped in Slovakia to carry out a wide encircling maneuver east of the Vistula River. For this purpose, the Germans grouped there the air force and a large part of the Army Group South, which was part of the Army Group South deployed in the Czech Republic and Slovakia – the 14th Army commanded by Colonel General Wilhelm Lista. On September 1, the allied armies jointly attacked Poland. The Slovaks were directed to the front in the second wave or as supplementary units. The task of the Army of the South was to attack Silesia and the southern areas of the Polish state, and then continue the march to Warsaw.

After the campaign[edit | edit code].

The Slovak state after the 1939 September campaign: Slovak Republic (1939-1945) Hungary Third Reich Today’s border of Slovakia.

After the end of the September campaign, Hitler sent a congratulatory letter to the Slovak president and awarded the Iron Crosses to three high officials of the Slovak state, including General Ferdinand Čatloš. Slovak troops held a ceremonial parade in Zakopane. Slovak units returned to the country at the end of September 1939, with a victory parade over Poland in Poprad on October 5. The units involved in the campaign were demobilized, and the “Bernolak” Field Army was disbanded on October 7.

Germany rewarded Slovakia with disputed territories in the form of the northern part of Spiš and Orava (belonging to Czechoslovakia until 1938) and additionally nearly 30 villages from the pre-war Nowy Targ district (areas of Spisz and Orava, belonging to Poland since 1920, forming the so-called Polish Spisz and Polish Orava). Pre-war Poland lost a total of 770 square kilometers to Slovakia, or about 0.2% of its then territory inhabited by 34,509 Polish citizens (about 0.1% of the then population).

Although the actions of the Slovak military were of no military significance in the September campaign, the propaganda of Slovakia’s fascist government portrayed them as a spectacular success. Prime Minister Tiso regarded the September campaign, along with the fight against Bolshevism, as one of the most important achievements of his government in 1939-1945. Polish priests who did not sign a declaration of loyalty with the Slovak state were either expelled to the General Government or transferred to parishes in the interior of Slovakia. The forbidden Slovak language[footnote needed] (in schools, offices and churches) returned to use by then.

The military police and the paramilitary formation of the Slovak People’s Party, the Hlinka Guard, caught Polish soldiers and Home Army couriers making their way through Slovakia to Hungary. Arrested Poles were handed over to the Germans or sent to prisoner-of-war camps in Slovakia. There were isolated cases of self-sacrifice against the population declaring Polish nationality in the Second Republic.

At the end of the war, the border returned to its pre-1938 state.

Resurgence in the 21st century[edit | edit code].

In 2009, Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Dušan Čaplovič said that there would be on-the-spot expressions of regret over the sad fact that in the tragic September of 1939, Slovak soldiers entered Polish territory alongside the Nazi German army, and hence went down in the memory of many Polish citizens as one of the aggressors. However, he expressed the opinion that today’s Slovak Republic is not the legal or historical successor of the wartime Slovak State, and that Slovakia’s participation in the September campaign was imposed by a superior power just like the Polish People’s Republic’s participation in the 1968 intervention in Czechoslovakia[7].

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