[Sticky] Historical reference
The Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front - Background
In accordance with their military doctrine after World War I, the Germans assumed France to be the first enemy in the next war. Germany had to then think about preventing a costly two-fronted war. So fortification work on the eastern border started in 1932, as a result of the crisis in political relationships with Poland. As early as in 1933 fortifications were built in Eastern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. It was decided to close the Lubuska Gateway with the Line of Obstacles Nischlitz (now Nieslysz) - Obra River. It was agreed that the system of obstacles would consist of regulated rivers connecting lakes, and defensive fortifications at the most important road crossings. In 1934 construction of fortifications began.
In May 1935 the plan was to form the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, constructed in part using an existing series of mine workings. In spite of the enormous costs expected, Hitler, fascinated by the project, accepted the plan.
Preparatory work started in the spring 1936. The Central Sector â€œWysokaâ€ (Zentralabschnitt or Abschnitt Hochwalde), starting south of Staropole, and ending on the lake Kursko, only about 15 km long, was to be especially studded with fortifications - forts and armoured batteries, more than half of which were to be connected by an underground system of corridors and roads.
The successful attack on Poland in September 1939 gave rise to a gradual abandoning of all the work in the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front. Up until this point, over the entire front of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, which exceeded 80 km, 12 positions called Hindenburgstand and 83 panzerwerks of various sizes, of which 41 were situated in the Central Sector "Wysoka". This constituted about 25-30% of the planned fortifications of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front.
The war with the USSR and the good military situation on the eastern front, as well as recruitment of workers by the army emptied the work camps. More and more low-grade groups were left to carry out maintenance work in the Sector "Wysoka". They were supplemented with forced labourers of various nationalities. When, after annexing France, the Germans started construction of the Atlantic Wall, they began to remove the building materials and parts of equipment stored in the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, and even to dismantle some of the machinery, and weaponry, and transport them to the French coast. By Autumn 1940 the RAF had begun the programme of bombing Germany, joined by USAF in 1942. The main targets of these bombing raids were factories - especially armaments and vehicle plants.
Searching for underground facilities which could accommodate the armaments industry, somebody remembered the system of tunnels of the Sector "Wysoka" in the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front. In mid 1943, the Daimler production line for aircraft engines was moved there. In order to make production in the tunnels possible, the tunnels were enlarged in places. Close to the entrance, large factory halls were built, where the engines were assembled.
Besides the aircraft engine factory, a part of the "Wysoka" tunnel system was used as storage space. For instance Airforce uniforms for Luftwaffe women were among the items stored there. In four chambers archives and works of art were deposited. In 1944, among others, exhibits from the museum in Poznan were placed there, as well as archives from KrÃ³lewiec. Archives of the General Staff are also listed as being stored there. The works of art were later found by the Russians, but â€“ apparently â€“ not the archives...
When, at the end of 1943, the Russians took the initiative on the eastern front, the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front gained importance again. However, Hitler, not admitting the need of defence of the Berlin direction, refused to discuss the subject. Only when the Russians arrived at the Vistula River, did defensive preparations start in earnest.
The field positions were situated from 0.5 to 2 km before the obstacles and behind them, between the panzerwerks, from several hundred metres to several kilometres. Behind the field positions, there were field stations of artillery which had to replace the non-existent anti-tank batteries, especially in the Sector "Wysoka". Behind the belt of the armoured vehicle obstacles, barbed wire entanglements and other anti-infantry obstacles were placed. A network of such entanglements covered also the fortress plots and bunkers. Outside these anti-infantry obstacles, mine fields extended.
On January 12th 1945, the eastern front moved from the Vistula River. As a result of the powerful attack of the Soviet army, after 15 days the troops of the Red Army arrived in front of the screening position of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, near Trzciel.
The first to break through, on the night of 28/29 January was 44 Guards Armoured Brigade, forming a part of 11 Guards Armoured Corps, a select unit of 1 Tank Army of General M. Katukow. On January 29th, 11 Guards Armoured Corps, after crossing the Obra River, continued to march west and in the evening arrived in front of the main fortification line of the Central Sector "Wysoka"; 44 Guards Armoured Brigade and 1454 Armoured Artillery Regiment - near Kalawa; 45 Guards Armoured Brigade - near Nietoperek, and 40 Guards Armoured Brigade and 27 Guards Motor Brigade - near Klszyca.
The screening belt of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, which had been broken, was defended by retreating and demoralised troops of 9 Army of General T. Busse and by Volkssturm battalions, while the main position of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, whose significance for the Germans at that phase of the war was already primary, was to be defended by V SS Mountain Corps, with SS ObergrupenfÃ¼hrer, General W. KrÃ¼ger in command. Because of this, V Corps was hastily brought from the Balkans. These and all other German forces were constantly moving, spread between the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front and the Odra River. The main crew of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front consisted of 86 Fortress Machine Gun Battalion and 103 Permanent Fortress Infantry Battalion. The arriving infantry troops of 433, 463 and re-created 192 Depot Infantry Divisions of the Wermacht were not familiar with the Mildzyrzacz Fortified Front and manned it chaotically, unprepared for an immediate fight.
As they advanced, the troops of 44 Guards Armoured Brigade were fired on by the German mortars. The Brigade Commander Colonel. J. Gusakowski placed his troops in the fields behind Kalawa westwards, and awaited the engineersâ€™ reconnaissance to be completed. At that time the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front remained silent.
There is no German account of this consequence-laden night, and it can only be surmised what was the situation on the other side of the front. The night 29/30 January 1945 was dark, cloudy and windy. The third tank battalion of Major A. Karabanow, which formed the point of advance guard of 44 Guards Armoured Brigade moved forward to find that the trenches protecting panzerwerk 717, where the German infantry should have been, were empty and that there was nobody at the armoured vehicle obstacle on the road to Wysoka. Perhaps the soldiers retreated leaving the obstacle unblocked.
The engineers removed the unblocked obstacle and the tanks of 44 Guards Armoured Brigade moved in a column towards Wysoka, which they reached before 23.00. The first exchange of fire took place only there. Panzerwerk 775, (10 years earlier visited by the FÃ¼hrer) opened fire. The fight with this fort was short but violent. When it became impossible to defend it any longer, its crew probably blew themselves up. Thus on January 30th in the north the last shots were fired near Wysoka.
The remaining troops of 11 Guards Armoured Corps were less lucky. Both 45 Guards Armoured Brigade near Nietoperek, and then near Kalawa, and 40 Guards Armoured Brigade with 27 Guards Motor Brigade near Klszyca, met with a very strong German fire, losing a lot of equipment and people. Unable to cross the fortifications of the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front, they started to look for the defence weak points. When the scouts discovered that the line of armoured vehicle obstacles ended in the south, west of Golcikowo, both brigades regrouped and tried to break the fortifications there.
Up until January 31st 1945 the Soviet army formed a uniform, continuous front before the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front position. 8 Guards Mechanised Corps of General Driemow, attacking in the morning, north of Lubrza, after firing at the fortified group "KÃ¶rner" with 203mm heavy cannons and making use of the fact that the Germans had not managed to flood the area between the lakes Paklicko Wielkie and Goszcza, crossed the canal and arrived at the rear of the German defence in the region of Staropole and Boryszyn.
In the evening of January 31st the Germans began their retreat from their battle positions in the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front. The chaos and the lack of communication between the German troops prevented an efficient transfer of orders, and the soldiers, hearing the battle noise behind them (44 Guards Armoured Brigade), retreated in fear that they might be encircled. Only few panzerwerk crews, obeying orders, kept fighting somewhat longer, but in the night of February 1st the Germans deserted the fortifications. The troops of 8 Guards Army in the north, 1 Guards Tank Army and 69 Army in the centre, as well as of 33 Army and 7 Guards cavalry Crops in the south took part in the short but difficult fight to break the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front.
The fortification system failed to fulfil its role. Aimed at a long-lasting defence, and in the case of the Central Sector "Wysoka" a defence of total encirclement, resisted for only three days.
This, however, should not be treated depreciatingly. The Mildzyrzecz Fortified Front was only 30% complete. It was manned by weak and untrained military personnel, who were surprised by a sudden shift of the front. It was situated on the main route to Berlin, which should have meant it was built to resist a much stronger enemy.
The three-day delay slowed down the impetus of the Soviet attack on Berlin. This resulted in diverting the efforts of the Soviet Army, which - at great cost - had to start again its final offensive on the capital of the â€œ1000-year Reich" - Berlin.
Location map: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&ie=UTF8&cd=1&geocode=FXjgHgMdtcrrAA&split=0&layer=x&g=Boryszyn,+%C5%9Awiebodzin+County,+Lubusz,+Poland&ll=52.36255,15.454931&spn=0.044604,0.132093&z=14