September 28, 2018




Polish-Czechoslovakian Border Conflict:   On September 28, 1938, Edvard Beneš, President of Czechoslovakia prepared a note to the Polish government with the proposal of reopening discussions concerning the territorial demarcation in Těšínsko. However, he delayed in sending it as he hoped to receive good news from the British and French governments. Dissatisfied with their responses, Benes approached the Soviet government, which then threatened Poland with the dissolution of the Soviet-Polish non-aggression pact. In the meantime, Soviet troops had just begun a partial mobilisation in eastern Belarus and the Ukraine.   The border conflicts began in 1918 following the end of World War I, and the newly created nation-states of the Second Polish Republic and First Czechoslovak Republic. It wasn't until 1958 that the conflicts were resolved with a treaty between the two states.

The Oster Conspiracy of 1938 was a plan to overthrow Hitler and the Nazi regime if Germany went to war with Czechoslovakia over the Sudetenland. The conspiracy was the brainchild of Generalmajor Hans Oster, deputy head of the Abwehr who was backed by other high-ranking officials of the Wehrmacht. They opposed Hitlers regime for trying to bring Germany into a war which Germany was not prepared to fight.  Their plan was essentially a coup d'etat in which they would overthrow (arrest or assassinate) Hitler, and storm the Reich Chancellery thereby restoring Wilhelm II as Emperor. However the plot became irrelevant when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler in which the Sudetenland was virtually handed to Hitler on a silver platter. Hitler was then praised in Germany as the "greatest statesman of all times at the moment of his greatest triumph".


The Siege of Warsaw lasted until September 28, 1939 when Polish troops under the command of General Walerian Czuma, capitulated to the Germans. The next day about 140,000 Polish soldiers were taken as prisoners of war.  About 18,000 civilians were killed, and 10% of the city's buildings were completely destroyed, while another 40% were heavily damaged.    Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union (Vilnius to Lithuania, Western Ukraine to Ukranian SSR, Western Byelorussia to Byelorussian SSR). On October 1, the Nazi Germans occupied Warsaw throughout the war until January 17, 1945, when the city was so-called "liberated" by the Soviet Red Army.  Before the capitulation, Polish garrisons scrambled to hide weapons and destroy their heavy armaments. The hidden cache of weapons would be used during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.  (Editors note:  Polish Greatness Blog featured a special series called Invasion of Poland Day by Day. You can follow it at your own pace by referring to the my blog post entitled  "September 1939 Invasion of Poland Day by Day: An Index")

The Massacre in Zakroczym was committed by German troops of the Panzer division Kempf on September 28, 1939.  The Germans stormed on Polish positions located at Zakroczym, just as the Polish soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division were about to surrender.   Hundreds of Polish soldiers as well as civilians were massacred, and many others were wounded and brutally beaten.  German units barged into homes, robbing the people and setting the houses on fire. They tossed grenades into the basements where civilians were hiding.  According to Kazimierz Szczerbatko's estimate, based on eyewitnesses reports, about 500 Polish soldiers and 100 civilians were killed. The Massacre was most likely an act of revenge for the loss of an entire infantry division during the Battle of Mlawa. The Germans had lost 72 of their tanks even though they used Polish civilians as human shields in front of their tanks.

The Battle of Szack was fought on September 28, 1939 which resulted in a tactical Polish victory over the Soviets. When the Soviet armies invaded Poland on September 17, the Polish Border Defence Corps was severely stripped of all its military reserves and materiel.  Polish forces had been deployed to the west to reinforce Polish units fighting the Nazi Germans (who had invaded Poland on September 1st)  On the morning of September 28 the Polish units were marching toward the town of Szack in two columns; the northern column advanced to the forests near the village of Mielniki while the southern column headed towards the forests east of Szack. According to Polish reconnaissance, Soviet tank units (T-26 tanks) occupied the town of Szack. The Polish commander ordered both columns to form a defensive line along the border of the forest and provoked the Red Army to attack. By 8:00 in the morning the Soviet tank units launched a direct assault on Polish positions but the Poles did not return fire. They were ordered to wait until the Soviet tanks came closer. When the tanks reached a distance of 500 metres from Polish lines, the Polish Bofors wz. 36 anti-tank guns opened fire,  along with 75 mm artillery from the Polish infantry.  All Soviet tanks were destroyed.

The German-Soviet Frontier Treaty was signed on September 28, 1939. It was a secret clause that was agreed upon by Hitler and Stalin after the joint invasion and occupation of the sovereign Polish Republic. It was signed by the foreign ministers of the Germany, Joachim von Ribbentrop and of Russia, Vyacheslav Molotov, and witnessed by Stalin. The treaty was only the first of a series of secret protocols attached to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939.  This secret agreement was not known to the public at the time as it remained highly classified.  Among its articles, it specified the "spheres of influence" of Poland, and stated that "Polish agitation" directed to either party of the treaty would not be tolerated.


Allied Support Efforts:   Since August 4,1944 allied aircraft had dropped a total of 370 tons over Warsaw to supply weapons to the Polish insurgents. The operations were a failure as at least 50 % of the supplies fell into German hands.  About 360 airmen, and 41 Allied aircraft (British, Polish, South African and American) were lost.  Due to Stalin's refusal to grant landing rights in Russia, allied planes had to operate over long distances from bases in Italy and Britain. Consequently, payload had to be reduced, and the number of sorties drastically limited.   The meager supplies retrieved by the Polish insurgents were insufficient to sustain the Polish resistance and by October 2, 1944, Warsaw was overrun by Nazi troops.   

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