Poznan

1945 Battle of Poznań

05 Oct 2017

Sadly, Poznań's city centre shared the same fate as many Polish cities in the tragic events of WWII. Nearly 90% destroyed, the city had to be painstakingly reconstructed in the postwar years. While bombings were responsible for much of the structural damage, the real nail to the coffin came in the shape of the 1945 Battle of Poznań, a month-long confrontation between the advancing Soviet army and the retreating Nazis. The city had just been declared by Hitler to be a Festung - a stronghold where garrisons mounted last-ditch stands in the hopes of holding out behind advancing Soviet lines and disrupting supply transports and lines of communication. 40,000 German troops, including fortress garrison soldiers, regular field soldiers, Volkssturm, SS, and Police soldiers, barricaded themselves in 19th-century fortifications built during Prussian rule, including the Fort Winiary citadel. On January 24th, 100,000 Soviet forces led by General Chuikov moved in and encircled the city, beginning to attack and reduce the fortifications. Systematically pushed into a smaller and smaller perimeter, by February 12th the Germans only held the citadel. Six days later the final assault began. Faced with a deep ditch and high rampart, the Soviet troops had no better option than to use ladders to cross (in a bizarrely Medieval twist), but once they did, fire opened from the citadel’s redoubts. It took the Soviets three days to neutralise the redoubts and build an impromptu bridge, which allowed tanks and heavy machinery to cross into the main grounds on February 22nd. At that point, luck had most definitely ran out for Nazi General Gonell and his army; Gonell committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, and the remaining 12,000 German soldiers were turned over to the victors by General Mattern. Today the Poznań Citadel Park is a historic site featuring military cemeteries, memorials, and two museums: the Museum of Armaments and the Poznań Army Museum.

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