BCP = British Cabinet papers
WA = General Władyslaw Anders' book, An Army in Exile

April 17, 1939

Relationship between Soviet Russia and Germany initiated as “feelers were thrown out” by the Russians wanting to explore the possibilities of an improvement in Soviet-German political relations. (BCP)

Soviet Ambassador in Berlin visited Weizsacker (State Secretary, German Foreign Office) and raised the question of Russo-German relations. The Ambassador said that Russian policy had always been straight-forward, and that ideological considerations need not affect Russo-German relations. Russia had not exploited and did not wish to exploit in an anti-German sense the present differences between Germany and the Western democracies. (BCP Appendix A)

April 18, 1939

Litvinov, the Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, gave British Ambassador to the Soviet Union Sir William Seeds the Soviet reply to a British proposal for a declaration by the Soviet government with regard to Soviet assistance in the event of aggression against any one of their European neighbours. The Soviet government rejected the proposal and suggested a five to 10 year non-aggression pact. (BCP Appendix A)

May 1939

Molotov succeeds Litvinov as Kommissar for Foreign Affairs.

May 11, 1939

Soviet Government “again” insisted to His Majesty’s Government on
(a) a non-aggression pact, with a guarantee of the Central and Eastern European States, including Latvia, Estonia and Finland, and
(b) a “concrete” Anglo-Franco-Soviet agreement as to the form and extent of the assistance to be provided under (a). (BCP)

May 17, 1939

Sir Robert Vansittart, Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the British government, showed Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador in London, the text of a draft agreement, which His Majesty’s Government would be willing to accept. (BCP)

May 17, 1939

- Astachov, Soviet Charge d’Affaires in Berlin, told Schnurre (who was in charge of trade talks between the German and Soviet Governments) that there was no reason for any conflict of interests between Russia and Germany.
- The Soviet Union felt itself threatened by Germany, but these feelings of mistrust could be removed. The Charge d’Affaires mentioned the Treaty of Rapallo and also a statement by Mussolini, after the formation of the Axis, that there was no obstacle to the development of normal Russo-Italian relations. The Charge d’Affaires also said that the Anglo-Russian negotiations seemed unlikely to produce the results for which England was hoping.

May 18, 1939

Maisky informed His Majesty’s Government that Soviets regarded British proposals as insufficient.

May 20, 1939

Molotov told Schulenburg (German Ambassador in Moscow) that the Soviet Government regarded the resumption of Soviet-German trade negotiations (which had drifted into an impasse) as “inopportune” until a “political basis” had been found for them. Schulenburg thought that Molotov used these words not to close down negotiations but because he really wanted the Germans to make a political offer. (BCP)

May 22,1939

Schulenburg wrote to Weizsacker that Molotov did not regard the resumption of economic negotiations as a sufficient political gesture and that he clearly wanted further offers of a political kind from Germany. It would be necessary to be extremely cautious until it could be certain that any approaches from the German side were not used merely to put pressure on England and France. On the other hand, if Germany wanted to get results, sooner or later some demarche would be necessary.

May 26, 1939

Ribbentrop drafted instructions for Schulenburg for an interview with Molotov. These instructions were characteristically German in the sense in which the late Sir Eyre Crowe used to sum up German policy as based on the maxim Be my friend or I will kill you, but, while they threatened Russia if she joined the Anglo-French combination, they also made it clear that Germany was willing to make a bargain with Russia if the Soviet government so desired. Hitler seems to have decided that this combination of “warning plus offer” should be presented in Berlin. Hence Weizsacker delivered it to the Russian charge d’affaires. (BCP)

The instructions from Ribbentrop to Schulenburg (from the captured German documents):
Since Anglo-Russian negotiations were likely to lead to some positive result, Germany must come out of her reserve. Schulenburg was therefore told to see Molotov as soon as possible and to explain:
(a) That German policy had been and would remain opposed to Communist tendencies inside Germany, but that, if the Soviet government did not interfere in German internal affairs, Russo-German relations might take a new shape.
(b) It appeared from Stalin’s speech in March that Russia also had these considerations in mind.
(c) In such case, there would be no conflict of interests between Russia and Germany, and German-Russian relations could be put on a “normal” basis.
(d) The alliance with Italy, which formed the basis of German policy, was directed against England and France, and not against Russia. German relations with Japan, though “historically” on an anti-Komintern basis, really rested on common opposition to England, and need not imply hostility to Russia.
(e) The problems of Danzig and the Corridor must be settled. If the solution required war with Poland, there need be no conflict of interests with Russia. From a military point of view Poland was not a problem, and a military decision could be reached with such speed that Anglo-French help to Poland would be “illusory.”
(f) There were reasons to doubt whether England and France intended, in the last resort, to intervene on the side of Poland, but anyhow their intervention would not affect the settlement of the Polish question.
(g) Russia had nothing to gain from participating in the English “Einkreisungspolitik.” In view of the fact that England could not bring help to Russia either in Europe—owing to the West Wall—or in the Far East—owing to Japanese naval superiority in Far Eastern waters. English policy was simply on the traditional line of getting other Powers to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for her.
(h) Germany therefore considered it necessary to warn Russia that, if she joined England and France in an anti-German bloc, she would bring on herself the enmity of Germany and Japan.
(i) On the other hand, there was no reason why the mutual lack of confidence between Russia and Germany should not be overcome. A possible method of improvement would be through economic negotiations leading to an official statement about the political “normalisation” of Russo-German relations. The stages in this procedure were matters for discussion. (BCP)

May 27, 1939

Molotov raised objections to the formula proposed by His Majesty’s Government.

June 2, 1939

Molotov gave Seeds a new draft for His Majesty’s Government. (BCP)

June 5, 1939

Schulenburg, in a letter to Weizsacker, repeated his view that Molotov really wanted Germany to propose political conversations. (BCP)

June 7, 1939

Unsigned memorandum (from German Embassy, Moscow) on the conditions necessary for establishing the “political basis” referred to by Molotov. The most important condition in the sphere of external relations would be the “revival” of the German-Soviet Treaty of 1926 (Treaty of Berlin). This treaty had been prolonged indefinitely in May 1933. Clause 2: “Should one of the contracting parties… be attacked by a third Power or several Powers, the other contracting party will observe neutrality throughout the whole duration of the conflict.” (BCP)

June 7, 1939

His Majesty’s Government decided to recall Seeds for consultation. Owing to Seeds’ illness, Mr. Strang was sent to Moscow. Negotiations continued on Soviet demands with regard to Baltic States and the definition of “non-aggression.” (BCP)

June 17, 1939

Schulenburg replied that Molotov’s remarks had been vague but that Wiezsacker’s statement was quite clear. Russia had to choose (i.e., between Germany and England). (BCP)

June 28, 1939

Schulenburg found Molotov still encouraging, and obviously impressed to hear that the German Government regarded the Soviet-German neutrality agreement of 1926 as still valid. (This treaty—originally a counter-move by Russia to the Locarno treaties—had been renewed in 1933, but the Soviet Government considered that Hitler regarded it as obsolete.) (BCP)
(Full explanation: On his return to Moscow Schulenburg saw Molotov. Schulenburg said that, as Wiezsacker had explained, Germany would welcome a “normalisation” of Russo-German relations. As long as the Berlin Treaty was in force, Germany had no unfriendly designs against Russia. On the other hand there had been no answer from the Russian side to the German question. What did Molotov mean by his words about finding a new basis of discussion? Molotov did not take up this point, but said that Russian policy aimed at good relations with all States, including, of course, Germany, on a basis of neutrality. He was glad to know that the Berlin Treaty was still in force, because the Soviet Government had been doubtful about it.) (BCP Appendix A)

June 29, 1939

German ambassador in Paris reports “information from a source generally reliable:”
(i) that the Komintern was being more and more pushed into the background, and the Politburo—which had “national-imperialist” ideas—was taking its place;
(ii) Russia was being dominated by four men, Zdanov, Molotov, Andriev and Voroshilov. Stalin was being kept uninformed by these men and was becoming more a “living monument;”
(iii) the Anglo-French negotiators did not realise this position;
(iv) Russian policy was directed towards a “free hand” and the “Great Russian” aims required neutrality in the event of war, with the idea of using the unweakened power of Russia to extract concessions from the exhausted victors after the war. (BCP)

July 9, 1939

Molotov insisted the Anglo-Franco-Soviet military agreement should be signed simultaneously with the political agreement, i.e., he would agree to initial the political agreement, but military conversations would then take place, and the military agreement would be drawn up and signed with the political agreement. (BCP)

July 21, 1939

Soviet-German trade negotiations resumed. (BCP)

July 25, 1939

Russians informed that His Majesty’s Government had agreed to their demand for the opening of Anglo-Franco-Soviet military conversations in Moscow. (BCP)

July 27, 1939

Schnurre (of the German Foreign Office), who was in charge of the Trade negotiations on the German side, told the Soviet charge d’affaires in Berlin that the Germans wanted the restoration of good political relations with the Soviet Government either by a revival of the treaty of 1926 or by some new arrangement. From a telegram sent by Weizsacker to Schulenburg it appears that the charge d’affaires asked whether, in the event of a highly placed Soviet personage discussing the matter with a highly placed German personage, the German intentions with regard to Russia would be as stated by Schnurre. The charge d’affaires also said that Danzig (Gdańsk) would return by one way or another to the Reich, and that the question of the Corridor must be settled in favour of Germany. (ie at the time when the Soviet Government were inviting an Anglo-French military mission to Moscow, they were also letting the Germans know that they would allow the question of “Danzig and the Corridor” to be settled as Germany desired).

Schnurre had a long discussion in Berlin with the Russian charge d’affaires and Barbarin (leader of the Russian delegation for trade discussions). Schnurre (who was acting under instructions from, Ribbentrop) repeated the German view that these stages were necessary to restore the former close collaboration between Russia and Germany:
(i) Renewal of economic collaboration.
(ii) “Normalisation“ and improvement of political relations (press, &c).
(iii) Restoration of good political relations, either by a revival of the Berlin Treaty (i.e., of 1926) or by a new arrangement based on recognition of the vital political interests of each country.

Stage (iii) was possible because there were no real Russo-German conflicts of interest anywhere from the Baltic to the Black Sea and the Far East. There was also a common “ideological” basis in Russian and German opposition to the capitalist democracies. Astachov and Barbarin agreed with enthusiasm.
Astachov said that the tempo would have to be slow. Schnurre said that German policy was directed against England. This point was decisive, and a Russo-German rapprochement would be impossible after Russia had ranged herself against Germany by a pact with England. What could England offer Russia? At best, participation in a European war and the enmity of Germany—not a very desirable aim for Russia.
What, on the other hand, could Germany offer Russia? Neutrality and non-participation in a European war, and, if Moscow wished, a Russo-German understanding on the material interests of the two countries.
Astachov said that Danzig would return in some way or another to the Reich and the question of the Corridor must be settled in favour of the Reich. Schnurre said that the Germans regarded the character of Bolshevism as somewhat changed since it had become blended with Russian national history and Stalin postponed the international revolution to the Greek Kalends. Finally, Astachov said that the conversation had been most valuable and that he would report it to Moscow. (Appendix A , BCP)

August 3, 1939

Schulenburg reports that Molotov had shown “visible interest” in a definite German offer to come to an understanding over Poland and the Baltic States. The charge d’affaires at Berlin informs Schnurre that he had received a reply from Molotov to his report of the conversations of the 27th July. Molotov wanted something “concrete” from the German side. (BCP)

That meeting was apparently an hour long. Molotov answered point by point:
(1) The Soviet government wanted a trade agreement with Germany.
(2) The press in each country should avoid anything likely to disturb mutual relations.
(3) The gradual resumption of cultural relations was desirable.
(4) The Soviet also wanted an improvement in Russo-German political relations. (Appendix A, BCP)

August 12, 1939

Anglo-Franco-Soviet military talks open in Moscow. (BCP)

Same day

The charge d’affaires told Schnurre that he had instructions from Molotov to say that the Soviet Government would be interested in opening discussions on certain categories of questions, including the Polish problem and former Russo-German political treaties. (BCP)

August 14, 1939

Ribbentrop replies to Soviet invitation to say that he would visit Moscow in person. (BCP)

August 15, 1939

Schulenburg gives this reply to Molotov. Molotov said that he would report the reply at once to the Soviet Government. He asked whether Germany would consider a Soviet-German non-aggression pact and also use her influence towards the improvement of Soviet-Japanese relations. The first definite mention of a non-aggression pact. (BCP)

August 16, 1939

Ribbentrop replied that Germany would
(1) sign a non-aggression pact for 25 years,
(2) join the Soviet Government in guaranteeing the Baltic States,
(3) use her influence in the desired sense with Japan.

Ribbentrop told Schulenburg to do everything possible to hurry up his visit. He wanted to come at once. It appears likely, from other evidence, that the German attack on Poland was planned for the 26th August. While Molotov was entirely willing to go on with the negotiations, he did not want Ribbentrop to come until details had been worked out for a non-aggression pact and a secret protocol which would deal with Poland, &c. (BCP)
(Ribbentrop was therefore prepared to fly to Moscow at any time after the 18th August with full powers from Hitler to negotiate and sign a treaty. (Appendix A, BCP)

Night of August 18–19, 1939

Schulenburg again instructed to do his utmost to accelerate the visit. (BCP)

August 19, 1939, 2pm

Schulenburg again instructed to do his utmost to accelerate the visit. Molotov stuck to his point, but half an hour later Schulenburg was again summoned to the Kremlin. Molotov now said that the Soviet Government saw no reason against Ribbentrop coming a week after the announcement of the signature of the trade agreement, ie, if the agreement were announced on the 20th August, the visit might take place on the 26th or 27th August. (BCP)

August 23, 1939

Ribbentrop and Molotov sign the Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and Soviet Russia.
The German proposals for a non-aggression pact were extremely simple: a pact of two articles, viz.:
(1) Germany and the USSR will in no case go to war with each other or proceed to any other measures involving the use of force.
(2) This treaty comes into force at once and has a duration of 25 years.

Hours after the signing, Ribbentrop has an interview with Stalin. (BCP)

September 1, 1939

Germany invades Poland.

Germans pour over Poland's northern frontiers from East Prussia. Invading Germans from the south operated from Czechoslovakia. German air attacks reach as far inland as Warsaw.

Władysław Anders, commander of the Novogrodek Cavalry Brigade, was at the brigade headquarters in Lidzbark. His regiments “successfully fighting advanced enemy detachments.”

Civilians blocked roads as they tried to escape to Poland's eastern provinces.

September 3, 1939

Evening: Anders informed that defenders of Mlawa (north of Warsaw) had received orders to withdraw at dawn to a rear position.

September 4, 1939

Morning: Anders ordered to take command of the 20th and 8th Infantry Divisions in Malwa in addition to his own. He arrived at the retreating division to see German aircraft strafing civilians and retreating soldiers.

Anders withdrew the forces under his command across the Plock and Wyszogrod bridges to the left bank of the Vistula.

Anders wounded in the back during the retreat to Plock. (WA)

September 5, 1939

Novogrodek Cavalry Brigade arrives at Plock. (WA)

September 8, 1939

Dusk: Anders’ troops blow up two Plock bridges, in accordance with an order from Warsaw to do so, and move with the brigade through the Kampinowski Forest to the right bank of the Vistula, over the bridge to the south of Modlin.
Some troops were left behind to wait for the expected arrival of the Pomeranian army.
“Heavy loose sand made all movement difficult and a lack of water for the horses was a further problem.” On reaching Modlin, Anders receives order to report personally to Rembertow, east of Warsaw. (WA)

September 10, 1939

Dawn: Anders reaches Rembertów. Told situation was critical.
Commander-in-Chief and staff moved to Brześć nad Bugiem.
Anders placed under the command of Major General Juliusz Rommel, who had been appointed Commander-in-chief of Warsaw.
Anders ordered to command a group which was to defend the Vistula to the south of Warsaw. (WA)

Unspecified date

German troops by-passed Warsaw in the Minsk-Mazowiecki area and cut off the road between Garowolin and Lublin, which had been under heavy bombardment.

Anders ordered to attack Minsk-Mazowiecki and secure the defence of the Vistula crossing to the south of Warsaw.
Anders left troops for the above defence and moved the Nowogrodek and Volhynia brigades to attack Minsk-Mazowiecki.

Germans taken by surprise and took heavy losses. Polish brigades took prisoners but due to a misunderstanding, the Polish support group to the north did not take part in battle and Volhynia brigade suffered heavy losses. “At the culminating point of the battle, I received by radio an order to break off the engagement and, in accordance with instruction from the Commander-in-Chief, to withdraw to his reserves in the Praczew area beyond the river Wieprz.” (Much later Anders learnt that General Rommel had had the order to withdraw for three days, a move that resulted in fatal consequences for Anders’ group.)

They were encircled by the enemy. To break through enemy lines, Anders concentrated his troops in the woods to the south-west of Garwolin.
In Garwolin “there was nothing left but dying embers… many human corpses and dead horses on the streets…”

“Feint attack against the German troops along the Garwolin-Lublin highway,” then the group marched over the fields. Anders’ men were “lucky” to cross the river Wieprz with some armoured cars and nearly all their supplies and ammunition.

Anders drove to Lublin to find main Polish forces had left for Chelm.

Lublin fell.

Anders’ troops “hasten” towards Chelm. (WA)

September 17, 1939

Soviet Russian troops invade Poland through her eastern borders

September 17, 1939

Night of: Anders orders a march in the “general direction” of Rejowiec.
Discussion during last meal at Kozłówka wondering when the French and the British would start their promised offensive.
During the discussion wireless was “fixed up.”

Received news that Soviet troops crossed the Polish border and were advancing to the west, violating the Polish-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1932.

That the news was an unexpected shock is underlined by the Polish Supreme Command's and the seat of Polish government's move to eastern Poland—the Supreme Command to Brześć and the Polish government and its foreign missions to Krzemieniec and Tarnopol.

Anders decided to keep moving south. Poland had a treaty of alliance with Rumania and Hungary and he expected a friendly reception.
He and his troops cross the Lublin-Chelm highway. Their rear guard was the 10th Infantry Division which engaged in “heavy fighting” against the Germans who tried to cut off Anders’ troops.

German air force continued to bomb them.
Anders troops overtook units of the army of General Dąb-Biernacki. Anders placed himself and his troops under Dąb-Biernacki’s command. (WA)

All surviving Polish aircrew flew to Romania. http://www.warandtactics.com/

September 18, 1939

Polish president, Ignacy Mościcki, and the Commander in Chief, Rydz-Smigly, enter Romania and are interned due to German pressure on the Romanian government. They leave behind messages telling their troops to fight on.

September 22, 1939

Afternoon: “The soldiers did magnificently. At 11pm the enemy was defeated, the opening made and the exhausted troops began to pass through the gap… We hitched our guns to four pairs of weary horses, which, lathered in sweat, pulled them slowly forward over the hard ground. In spite of heavy German pressure we managed to hold the gap open long enough for a considerable number of units to get through, but some of our troops suffered enormous casualties.”

Anders heard that Lwów had fallen to the Germans. (WA)

September 26, 1939

Dawn: Retreating column stopped. Germans in the village of Broszki were taken by surprise. The 28th German Infantry Division suggested the Poles surrender. A deal was made that if the Poles give back the German prisoners, the Germans would stop attacking the Poles.

Bolsheviks already held Dernacki.

Poles tried to pass between German and Soviet troops.

Captain Stanisław Kuczynski was sent to Soviet headquarters to ask for the Polish troops to be allowed to pass through “without fighting.” He was refused, robbed and the Russians opened artillery fire.

The 9th Battery of the Horse Artillery destroyed many of the attacking Soviets but there were “masses of Soviet troops of all types of arms blocking our way.” There was no bridgehead “in this most suitable area” to enable Polish troops to cross to Romania and Hungary. They were blocked by the Soviets. Anders estimated that it prevented the escape of between 200,000 and 300,000 soldiers “who could have been of great use in the next stages of the war in the west.” (WA)

September 27, 1939

Poles ran out of ammunition. Horses were starved and without water. Anders saw no chance of breaking through. The decision was made to split into small groups and try to reach Hungary at night through woods. Every village and farms “full of Russians.” They bypassed Sambor. (WA)

September 27 & 28, 1939

Description of battle by Soviet Commissar Z Kozhevnikov in an article published a year later in the Red Star: “From the 27th to the 28th September, units of a cavalry division in co-operation with an armoured division surrounded and liquidated General Anders’ group to the north of the town of Rajgrodek. This group, whose strength was 3,000 men and 12 guns, tried to escape to Hungary. The outcome of the battle was 1,000 men taken prisoner and big war booty, including 11 guns. Only a small group of Poles succeeded in escaping to the neighbourhood of Przemysl, where they were captured by our troops. On this occasion the following prisoners were taken: General Anders and Plisowski, 3 Colonels and 50 other officers.”

September 28, 1939

Correspondent from Moscow: September 27: “The Red Army occupies Poland to a line through Rajgrod, Ossowiec, Sokoly, Meleiczicie, Bialapodlaska, Chelm, Zamosc, Jaworow and Sambor.” (Townsville Daily Bulletin, page 5, from Trove digitised newspapers. Spellings as in article.)

September 29, 1939

Morning: Anders’ troops surrounded by Soviet detachments detailed to capture Polish troops. They left their horses and hid in the woods.
Dusk: Went south.
After dark: They passed near the village of Zastowka where they were attacked by a gang of soldiers and partisans. Anders was wounded again during hand-to-hand combat and “point-blank shooting.” Before he lost consciousness he ordered his men to go on to Hungary. (WA)

September 30, 1939

Morning: Anders arrived at Jesionka Stasiowa with Captain Kuczynski and Trooper Tomczyk.

One of the inhabitants informed on them and they were captured by the NKVD. They were driven away, escorted by armoured cars, across Turka to Stary Sambor and the headquarters of the Soviet army. The Soviet Commander-in-Chief was General Tuleniev (“… one of the few kind-hearted men I ever met among high Soviet officials”) promised to send Anders to a hospital in Lwów. Anders meets General Plisowski, Lieutenant Colonel Pajak, Commanding Officer of the 27th Lancers, Major Karol Rudnicki (Pajak’s second in command and brother of the future CO of the 1st Armoured Division.), Major Adam Soltan and Captain Slisien.

Later in the day: Anders is sent to a hospital in Strij with his orderly Tomaczyk. (WA)

October 1, 1939

Anders was taken by bus under heavy escort to Lwów and put in a military hospital in Łyczaków (east Lwów). Polish staff still there “whispered of executions and mass arrests.” (WA)

October 2, 1939

Others taken from the town and not seen again.
Anders was moved to health insurance hospital in Kurkowa Street.
He noted the daily passage through Lwów of dozens of trains crammed with young men captured trying to cross the border, hungry and cold. Soviet troops fired at anyone they saw approaching the trains to give the men food and clothing. (WA)

October 1939

A Polish government-in-exile was formed in Paris with General Władysław Sikorski as Prime Minister. He offered the chairmanship of the Polish National Council to 80-year-old Ignacy Paderewski. A former Prime Minister of Poland, pianist and composer, Paderewski was at the time exiled in Switzerland and moved to the United States after the French capitulation in 1940.

Early October 1939

Establishment in France of the new legal Polish government-in-exile under General Sikorski.

October 22, 1939

Soviet occupiers held a plebiscite in Poland.

Early December 1939

Anders left hospital for Presmysl. The NKVD “held up” the hospital group at Przemysl and sent back to Lwów.

Days later Anders was found guilty of “many serious offences against the Soviet Union.”

Anders taken to Lwów's Brigidki prison. There he met General Balaban, Colonel Land, Major Jodki-Narkiewicz and Lwów town councillor Rybczynski, all retired officers who had been arrested by the NKVD. (WA)

December 31, 1939

Anders was put into a small cell.

© Barbara Scrivens, 2014
Updated October 2016