A line of fortifications

Prior to the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939, Poland had been preparing defences in the eventually of a war.

During the period of 1929-33, they had constructed a defensive line 22 kilometres in length as part of its overall strategy of defending its Central Industrial Region, an area of great importance to the Second Polish Republic.

The Central Industrial Region in Poland. One of the biggest economic projects of the Second Polish Republic, this The 5-year-plan was to create a heavy industrial center in the middle of the country, strengthen the Polish economy and reduce unemployment. Started on 1 September 1936, it was interrupted exactly 3 years later by the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.


The fortifications here included concrete shelters which was manned by the Silesian 23rd Infantry Division. A few years later in 1936-1937, bridges and paved roads were constructed across the Vistula and Chochulka rivers to improve military and supply transportation routes.

Pszczyna in 1937.


The battle

The Battle of Pszczyna actually refers to a series of battles between 1 and 4 September 1939 near the town of Pszczyna, during the Invasion of Poland and as part of the Battle of the Border. The fighting itself took place along a line of substantial defences which had a depth of 20 kilometres and stretched 70 kilometres from the Przemsza and Sola rivers to the German-Polish border. These defences incorporated the Rybnicki and Kobiorski forests as well as the Vistula and Piotrówka rivers.

The German commander was General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, who had the 4th Panzer Division with 335 tanks and a Waffen SS motorized regiment - the "Germania" at his disposal - a powerful force.

General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, Commander of the German forces.


General Bernard Mond, Commander of the Polish forces.


Colonel Ignacy Misiągas, Second-in-Command, Polish Forces


The Poles forces stationed here were the 6th Infantry Division, part of the Bielsko Operational Group, which in itself was a part of the larger Kraków Army, and were led by General Bernard Mond with Colonel Ignacy Misiągas his second in command.

The actual battle can be divided into four separate phases:

  • 1 September: A successful initial Polish defence of the outer positions near the Brzeźce and Wisła Wielka villages which held off the German assaults.
  • 2 September: The Poles continue to defend the main defence line near Pszczyna.
  • 2 September: Fighting continues in the afternoon near Ćwiklice which results in the Germans gaining the upper hand.
  • 3 September - 4 September: The Poles are forced to conduct a withdrawal which although successful (thanks to a diversionary attack on Ćwiklice made by two battalions from the 16th infantry), incurred significant casualties.

Positions of Polish and German forces before the battle.

Lonio17 WIkipedia


Although the Poles were initially successful in their defence, they ultimately were forced to retreat due to the German numerical and material superiority and incorrect assumptions made about the German plans. The Polish commanders incorrectly predicted the direction of the main German assault and had laid plans to spring a ‘trap’ to ensnare and destroy the attacking German forces. When this did not occur, it left the Poles wrong footed and unable to adapt quickly enough.


The defeat at Pszczyna cost the Poles a significant amount of artillery – over 30 guns were lost, along with 11 anti-tank guns. The Polish High Command were forced to pull the entire front line back which meant the sacrifice of the region of Upper Silesia - which now came under German control. 

Map of Upper Silesia


The fighting around Ćwiklice was particularly brutal.

In total, Polish casualties were around 440 men killed or wounded with several armoured cars and tankettes also lost.

Remains of an old fortification at Pszczyna.


Further reading