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161 ALBIN GŁOWACKI THE RED ARMY INVASION AND THE FOURTH PARTITION OF POLAND AT DAWN ON 1 September 1939, Germany—without a formal declaration of war—launched an armed invasion of Poland. The attacks came from four directions at once and involved more than 1.8 million troops, almost 2,800 tanks, more than 2,000 aircraft, and 10,000 artillery pieces and mortars . Despite the heroism of the Polish defenders, Hitler’s armies, possessing overwhelming numerical and technical superiority, broke through the main defense lines and made rapid progress into the Polish heartland. The Poles hoped their Western allies—Great Britain and France—would help them turn back the tide by opening a second front against Germany. Instead, the first ten days of fighting brought a Polish retreat along the entire front and collapse of the concept of holding a second line of defense—something that augured even-tual disaster. Although from 9 to 18 September the Polish forces tried to regain the initiative in the battle on the Bzura River, that effort also ended in defeat. In two weeks of fighting, the Polish armies had lost half their combat forces. On 12 September, motorized German units reached Lvov. Soon, the aggressors were in control of most of western and central Poland. The Polish army command ordered a further retreat and withdrawal to the so-called Romanian bridgehead. The plan was to organize a protracted defense in the vicinity of the Dniester and Stryi Rivers, until the Allies launched their offensive on the western front. However, despite declaring war against Germany on 3 September, Great Britain and France had no intention of fulfilling their commitments. At a conference in Abbeville (France), the Anglo-French Supreme War Council—its members already familiar with the secret protocol to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact—decided that Poland had already lost the war against Germany. Accordingly, it was agreed on 12 September that no offensive operations to relieve Poland would be conducted on the western front. 162 ALBIN GŁOWACKI Meanwhile, the Red Army came to Germany’s aid. It was a sign that there was no Soviet diplomatic reaction to Germany’s invasion of Poland. However , the Soviet leadership did take measures of a military nature to fulfill the provisions of the secret protocol to the nonaggression treaty of 23 August 1939. So, on 1 September, the Politburo decided to increase the strength of the Red Army by almost 80 percent (to 173 divisions) and, on 3 September, to delay by one month the demobilization of privates and noncoms who were due to end their service. Simultaneously, on 1 September, the Supreme Soviet passed an act on obligatory military service, and a day later the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet ordered a general mobilization. On 3 September, the German ambassador to Moscow, Friedrich-Werner von der Schulenburg, met with Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet premier and people’s commissar for foreign affairs, and demanded that the Soviets enter Poland and occupy their designated zone of interests. But the Soviets were in no hurry and waited to see how Poland’s allies in the West would react. The Soviets also needed time to finish their mobilization and regrouping of forces and to prepare a propaganda campaign justifying the attack. A secret mobilization of reservists in seven military districts of the European part of the Soviet Union was ordered on 6 September. The operation proceeded so chaotically that, by the time of the attack on Poland, not all the units had attained combat readiness and not all had reached their regions of concentration and deployment along the western frontier. There were shortages of personnel, arms, equipment, fuel, spare parts, and food. On 8 September, the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs started establishing operational groups intended to work in Polish territories occupied by the army (to set up provisional authorities and NKVD cells, ensure order, suppress “counterrevolution,” and take over communications, banks, printing plants, prisons, etc.). In a conversation on 7 September with Georgi Dimitrov, general secretary of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern), Joseph Stalin remarked that the annihilation of Poland “would mean one fewer bourgeois fascist state to contend with!” Stalin added cynically, “What would be the harm if as a result of the rout of Poland we were to extend the socialist system onto new territories and populations?” That “guideline” led the Comintern to issue a directive to the communist parties, with the following instructions: “The international working class can certainly...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822980957
Related ISBN
9780822944409
MARC Record
OCLC
914230098
Pages
704
Launched on MUSE
2015-08-17
Language
English
Open Access
No
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