Before Blitzkrieg

  • Hauptfeldwebel Ziegler’s PzKpfw III ausf. E
  • [4.PD PR35 “302”]
  • Fall Weiss, attack on Warschau, september 8th 1939

In 1939, the Germans were really far from ready. They certainly had the will to go to war but not yet the experience. Their tanks were too small (Pz1 and 2s mainly), their infantry was insufficiently mobile. The concept of Blitzkrieg was only theoretical and as the good Erwin Rommel once said: “No plan survives its first contact with the enemy”. They had, therefore, a lot to learn and the Poles were quite tough adversaries. Probably the attack on France would have failed if the Germans hadn’t used Poland as a testing ground.

The Poles assumed -correctly- that German armoured units would approach the city center from a south-westerly or westerly direction. Thus, defensive positions along the major roads leading to the inner city (ulica Grojecka and ulica Wolska) were prepared. An inspection of the defensive positions in this sector (by Polish Generals Czuma and Porwit) revealed that their troops were well-prepared and dug in. The anti-tank guns were well camouflaged, the streets covered by troops and the space between the pickets secured. Then, around five pm, the Germans showed up.

The reason the Poles lost was, well, there are many reasons. Long borders, being surrounded by Germans and Russians, having old equipment. Once the Germans invaded, they bypassed and surrounded the Polish armies who tried to defend their border. This was a new and unexpected way of waging war – the Germans were themselves surprised by their speedy advance. They were therefore not yet ready to take Warsaw when they tried.

On the morning of September 8, the suburbs of Grójec, Radziejowice, Nadarzyn, Raszyn and Piaseczno were captured by forces of German XVI Panzer Corps. At 5pm the forces of German 4th Panzer Division attempted an assault on Warsaw’s western borough of Ochota.

Hauptfeldwebel Ziegler, chief of the company command group, tells us the Poles defended their city heartily. In fact, they pushed he Germans back. However, someone was over-zealous. At 2010h the division, still licking its wounds, received a telegram from the Army Commander congratulating them for “conquering Warsaw”.

Sources

  • “En lissant quelques etudes sur la campagne de Pologne”, Col. E. Montfort, Revue Militaire Suisse, January 1941 (modified)
  • “So Lebten und Starben Sie: Das Buch vom Panzer-Regiment 35”, H. Schaufler
  • “Bylem szefem Sztabu Obrony Warszawy w 1939 roku”, T. Tomaszewski
  • “Obrona Warszawy. Wrzesien 1939”, M. Porwit

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