An ancient settlement

Częstochowa, a city in southern Poland, has a rich history dating back to ancient times. Its early roots as a small settlement nestled in dense forests go back to the early Middle Ages. As part of the Kingdom of Poland, it served as a vital point on trade routes connecting northern and southern Europe.

One of the defining moments in Częstochowa's history occurred in the late 14th century with the establishment of the Pauline Monastery of Jasna Góra. This iconic religious institution would become one of Poland's most revered pilgrimage destinations, housing the Black Madonna, a sacred and miraculous icon.

Location of Częstochowa in Poland.

User:TUBS - Wikimedia Commons

In the 16th century, Częstochowa witnessed significant developments during the era of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The town took on strategic importance as it was fortified, serving as a crucial defense point during the Swedish Deluge in the mid-17th century. Notably, during this tumultuous period, the city successfully withstood a Swedish siege, securing its place in Polish history.

As the years passed, Częstochowa continued to evolve, with its population and significance steadily growing. By the dawn of the 20th century, it had become an important industrial and cultural hub within Poland. The city's industrialization was marked by the establishment of various factories, particularly in textiles and metallurgy, contributing to its economic vitality.

In the early 20th century, Częstochowa, like the rest of Poland, experienced the turbulent effects of World War I and the subsequent Polish-Soviet War. However, it emerged from these conflicts with its resilience intact, reaffirming its status as a thriving center of Polish culture and heritage.

By 1939, as the eve of World War II approached, Częstochowa had firmly established itself as a city with a rich historical legacy, rooted in its religious significance, and a thriving industrial and cultural presence within Poland. The events of the war and the subsequent post-war period would bring new challenges and transformations to this storied city.


With the outbreak of war looming, in March 1939 the Polish 7th infantry division started to prepare formidable defensive positions consisting of a fortified defensive line complete with concrete bunkers, trenches and barbed wire.

At the outbreak of war with Germany, the Częstochowa region had a total of 19 reinforced concrete bunkers, various wooden and earth bunkers, mine fields, barbed wire and anti-tank ditches. There were also prepared artillery and anti-tank positions containing Bofors 37mm and machine gun emplacements with Ckm wz. 30 heavy machine guns.

There was also an extensive telephone network, and a multitude of bridges and viaducts criss-crossed the region, enabling rapid deployment of forces. With the 7th infantry division fully deployed and manning their positions by the 29th August, it appeared that the Poles were in a good position to repel any German attacks in this area.

A Polish Bofors 37mm anti-tank. Many of these were deployed in defensive positions at Częstochowa.

September 1st

With the launch of the Invasion of Poland and the outbreak of war, the Germans launched the 1st Panzer Division, 4th Panzer Division and the 4th, 14th, 31st and 46th Infantry Divisions towards Częstochowa – a considerable force which demonstrated the seriousness of the German intentions. Isolated polish defences, situated ahead of the main defensive fortifications, were first to detect the oncoming Germans and resisted strongly, clashing with the Germans throughout the day, before falling back to the main Polish positions as evening arrived.

Marshal E. Rydz-Śmigły inspects Ckm wz.30 Heavy Machine Guns presented by a Polish youth organisation, June 1939. The Ckm wz30 (a Polish-made clone of the American Browning M1917 heavy machine gun) was used extensively by the Polish forces at Częstochowa.

Polish National Digital Archive

Although now positioned behind their formidable fortifications, the Poles elected to launch a surprise attack at Gnaszyn, carried out by elements of the 25th infantry regiment, who successfully ambushed a German staff car. They captured important strategic maps which were swiftly dispatched to divisional HQ, and they captured an unfortunate Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant colonel), his injuries requiring hospital treatment. The furious Germans would later take revenge for the humiliation of the ambush when they marched on Gnaszyn.

Air skirmishes

The following day, the Germans elected to try and soften the Polish defences up with an artillery barrage, which while intense while it lasted, ultimately failed to make an impact. The Polish anti-aircraft gunners from the 7th anti-aircraft battery had more success though, downing six German planes and damaging several more. (During this period, the Poles only lost one plane – a PZL.23 Karaś light bomber during an attack on a German column on the Truskolasy-Węczyca Wielka road, with another – a plane from the Polish 64th bomber squadron managing to crash land damaged behind Polish lines. Another PZL.23 Karaś was hot down the following day by a German fighter.

Luftwaffe ground crew posing with an assortment of bombs during the Invasion of Poland.

Attack at noon

The Germans now focussed on the Lisiniec area, but their advance was halted by the dug in Polish defenders, costing the attackers five tank destroyed. Elsewhere on the line at Czarny Las, precision fire from the Polish defenders methodically picked off three armoured cars, most likely by using a Wz.35 anti-tank rifle. Such a weapon would struggle to make a dent against some of the bigger German tanks but had little trouble piercing the thinner-skinned armoured cars.

As before, the Poles manage to lift various maps and documents from the smouldering ruins of the German vehicles and sent them back to divisional HQ.

A Destroyed Panzer III.

Later that day, the Germans launched a massive attack, launching panzers and infantry at the Polish positions at Kiedrzyn, Lisiniec, Błeszne and Wrzosowa. At Kiedrzyn, the Polish 27th infantry regiment and the 1st Panzer Division slugged it out for two hours, with the fighting coming to a halt at 7:30pm and the Germans having lost 40 tanks and armoured cars thanks to the tenacity of the defending Poles. For all its vaunted reputation, the German Blitzkrieg tactics were found wanting here, proof that determined and well sited defenders could blunt German offensive moves.

German soldiers inspect the wreckage of a Polish army plane shot down by a German pilot during an air raid,

At Błeszno and Wrzosowa, the Germans fared little better, their success at forcing the Polish 74th infantry regiment back proving to be only temporary, as a fierce Polish counterattack soon through the Germans back, inflicting heavy casualties on them, with the Poles also capturing 30 prisoners and a number of machine guns.

Further attempts by the Germans to overcome the Polish defenders bore little fruit as they were continually repelled throughout the day. With casualties steadily mounting and no apparent let up in the efforts of the Polish defenders, the Germans resorted to encircling the entire city, attempting to trap the entire 7th division inside. Anticipating the danger though, the Poles withdrew the division to the village of Janów and escaped encirclement. Before they left, they also blew up the bridges on the Warta River to further hamper the German advances.  

German troops entering Częstochowa.


3rd - 4th September

Despite its earlier successes, the Polish 7th Infantry Division was finally defeated by the Germans on the 3-4th September as it carried out a withdrawal from the area. It’s commander, General Janusz Gąsiorowski, was captured and various important documents – including the codes of the Polish Army – fell into the clutches of the Germans.

German troops entered the town of Czestochowa on 3rd September and by the next day, had started to carry out a series of atrocities against the local population – commonly referred to as ‘Bloody Monday’- in which up to 500 Polish civilians were murdered. This fitted into a larger pattern of behaviour by German forces during the Occupation of Poland.  

German soldiers round-up a group of Jewish men on Strazacka Street in Czestochowa during 'Black Monday'.

Remenents of war: Częstochowa today

Further reading