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Defense of Brest Fortress

This article is about a 1941 battle between Germany and of the 1939 German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact the territhe USSR. For Polish-German battle of 1939, see Battle tory around Brest as well as 52% of the then Poland was
of Brześć Litewski.
assigned to the Soviet Union.[8] Thus, in the summer of
1941, the Germans had to capture the fortress yet again this time from the Soviets.
The defence of Brest Fortress took place 22–29 June
1941. It was one of the first battles of Operation Bar- The Germans planned to seize Brest and the Brest
barossa. The Brest Fortress was defended by the Red Fortress which was located in the path of Army Group
Army against the Wehrmacht, held out longer than ex- Centre during the first hours of Operation Barbarossa.
pected and, after the Second World War had finished, be- The fortress and the city controlled the crossings over the
came a symbol of Soviet resistance. In 1965 the fortress Bug River, as well as the Warsaw–Moscow railway and
received the title of Hero Fortress for the 1941 defense. highway.

1

Background

2 Opposing forces
The garrison in the fortress comprised approximately
9,000 Soviet soldiers, including regular soldiers, border guards and NKVD operatives.[9] The Soviet soldiers
belonged to elements of the 6th and 42nd Rifle Divisions, under General Ivan Lazarenko and Colonel Mikhail
Popsuy-Shapko respectively,[10] the 17th Frontier Guards
Detachment of the NKVD Border Troops and various
smaller units (including the hospital garrison and a medical unit) inside the fortress.[8] There were also 300 families of the servicemen inside the fortress as well.
The initial defense plan allowed for 12 hours to secure the
area[11] in face of the 45th Infantry Division (Austrian)[8]
(about 17,000 strong) as well as parts of the artillery of
the 31st, 34th Infantry Divisions and 2nd Panzer Group
under Heinz Guderian (in total, about 20,000 men).[3]

3 The siege
The fortress had no warning when the Axis invaded on
22 June 1941, and became the site of the first major
fighting between Soviet forces and the Wehrmacht. From
the first minutes of the invasion, Brest and Brest Fortress
were shelled[12] by the German Wehrmacht. The initial
artillery fire took the unprepared fortress by surprise, inflicting heavy material and personnel casualties.[13] Fierce
battles were fought at the border, in the town of Brest
and in the fortress itself. The first German assault on
the fortress took place half an hour after the bombardment started; the surprised Soviet defenders were unable to form a solid front and instead defended isolated strongpoints–the most important of which was the
fortress itself. Some managed to escape the fortress; most

The map from the secret appendix to the Molotov-Ribbentrop
Pact showing the new German-Soviet border after September
1939; the town of Brest can be seen as located on next to the
border.

The area around the nineteenth-century Brest Fortress
was the site of the 1939 Battle of Brześć Litewski, when
German forces captured it from Poland during the Polish
September Campaign. However, according to the terms
1

short of supplies. Volynskoye Fortification. Till the evening of June 26. 1941.2 3 THE SIEGE the wounded. the commander of the 45th Infantry Division. 1941. The Germans deployed various powerful guns. rocket mortars 15 cm Nebelwerfer 41 and resorted to flame throwers. The magnitude of these losses can be weighed by the fact that total German losses on the Eastern Front up to 30 June 1941 amounted to 8. Yefim Fomin was [19] spite having the advantage of surprise. Kobrin Fortifiand sustained heavy casualties. German losses were 482 killed. Because of the high German losses the German High Command demanded General Fritz Schlieper to present a detailed report regarding combat at Brest 22–29 June 1941.000 wounded”. The civilians inside the fortress tended The 45th divisional after-action report on the fighting for the fortress and the city of Brest of June 30. De.[21] A copy was found in the archive of the 45th Infantry Division. that was captured . 3.[14] Heavy fighting continued two more days. 1941. outnumbered. but I won't surrender! Farewell Motherland” Although the Soviet soldiers in the opening hours of the battle were stunned by the surprise attack.executed on spot for being a commissar and a Jew.[15] On June 25 and June 26. General Fritz Schlieper. In the evening of June 24. the important railway line. i.000 prisoners. many of them held out much longer than the Germans expected. 1941. It was made on July 8.control over the Panzerrollbahn I.000 Red Army soldiers in captivity.[11] Schlieper wrote in his detailed report that: Chaplain Rudolf Gschöpf wrote: On 24 June. some 368 Germans were dead and 45. including 32 officers. 1. and over 1. except the East Fort. with Germans having taken parts of the fortress. the road to Moscow. local fighting continued mainly in the citadel. wrote to the High Command in his detailed report: Once the East Fort could not be taken by infantry the Luftwaffe bombed it twice on June 29 and forced its approximately 360 defenders to surrender. was captured. the subsequent at. The fighting at Brest therefore accounted for over 5 percent of all German fatalities. Terespol Fortification Zubachyov and Fomin were captured.[20] After eight days of fierce fighting the Germans had captured the whole fortress.[15] Regarding the fighting around East Fort.Gschöpf wrote: Copy of the inscription found inside the citadel: “I'm dying.[1] On 26 June small Soviet forces tried to break out from the siege but were unsuccessful the layout of the Brest Fortress in June 1941.[18] Zubachyov was sent to a POW camp in Hammelburg where he died along were trapped inside by the encircling German forces. reloaded the machine-gun discs and belts with cartridges and even took up rifles to help defend the fortress. scavenged weapons and watched enemy movements.886 killed. most of the northern Kobrin fortification. and the bridges over the Bug river were accomplished the very first day of the war. tempt by the Germans to take the fortress with infantry quickly stalled with high losses: about 281 Wehrmacht soldiers died the first day in the fighting for the fortress. Probably the same day cation. Children brought ammunition and food supplies from half-destroyed supply depots. including 100 officers. But the strategic objectives . 1941 related: “The Division took 7. 2.with several million of his countrymen. his second in command was political commissar Yefim Fomin. some Soviet troops were able to link up and coordinate their actions under the command of Major Ivan Zubachyov.[16] German soldiers in the Citadel in June 1941 R. and cut off from the outside world.e.

. p. 139. Tragik. 138145. Л. Киселёва. a Russian soldier” (Я — русский солдат) directed by Andrey Ma[12] Many of the Soviet survivors of the fightings wrote after lyukov.“ In: Siobhan Doucette.e. the war. 138. this was not possible. Soviet writer Boris Vasilyev wrote a novel named “His [10] М.): Returning to Europe. p. Past and Future. with the subsequent capture of a Soviet “Oberleutnant” the next day. Issue 3. 449-466. Warsaw 2011. Warsaw 2011. 138145. Fortress of War.108 [3] Geoffrey Roberts. Google Print. he simply replied “I am a Russian soldier” and died due to exhaustion from months of fighting. In: The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. 82. 5 References [1] Constantine Pleshakov. [13] Constantine Pleshakov. 81-96. Past and Future.. but still is to be found also in Western literature .): Returning to Europe. p. Alena Paškovič: „Heldentum. 2005.243 [2] Pleshakov notes (p. Past and Future. Предисловие interrogated.87 [14] Christian Ganzer: „Remembering and Forgetting: Hero Veneration in the Brest Fortress. Andrej Dynko.“ In: Osteuropa 12/2010. Pluzhnikov was captured by the German troops and was Минск. [7] Christian Ganzer: German and Soviet Losses as an Indicator of the Length and Intensity of the Battle for the Brest Fortress (1941). Stalin’s Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of World War II on the Eastern Front. 2007. Houghton Mifflin Books. p. The only documentary proof of resistance after June 29. Belarus.В.[11] (English) The defence of the Brest Fortress (Belarusian) Брестская крепость lyev’s novel was dramatized in the 1995 film “I. Belarus. The Nazi-Soviet War. ISBN 978-0-340-61392-4. but then only the “East Fort” on the northern island of the fortress was bombed.g. Stalin’s Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of World War II on the Eastern Front. Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War. [4] Christian Ganzer: Remembering and Forgetting: Hero Veneration in the Brest Fortress. here p. Only two air raids took place on June 29. 1939-1953 . here p. Issue 3. The claim. Russia in March 1942. Volume 27. See Christian Ganzer: „Remembering and Forgetting: Hero Veneration in the Brest Fortress. is a report that states a shoot-out on July 23. Belarus.И. p.44 [9] Christian Ganzer. all the commanders of the troops were self-appointed. 458-459. rank ceased to matter.[19][22] Some authors claim that isolated defenders were being rooted out by Germans as late as in August when Hitler and Mussolini visited the fortress with heavy security to protect them from remaining defenders. Олехнович. Houghton Mifflin Books. Warsaw 2011. Сборник name is not in the list” (В списках не значился) about воспоминаний об обороне Брестской крепости в июне a soldier named Nikolai Pluzhnikov who defended the .[21] Some individual soldiers and even small groups of Red Army soldiers kept hiding in the fortress after the fall of the Eastern Fort. Past and Future. Belarus. Google Print. In: The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. p. 1941-1945”. One of them said: It is said that Major Pyotr Gavrilov. 141. here p. Belarus. Ales Pashkevich (ed. 1941. [8] Robert Kirchubel. Г. 1941.” Due to the simultaneous artillery fire. when Редакция социально-экономической литературы. LCCN 68-50853. 138145.[23] 4 In popular culture The events surrounding the defense of Brest Fortress were dramatized in the 1957 film Immortal Garrison and again in a 2010 film. p.): Returning to Europe. Kühnheit. Государственное издательство БССР.М. Brest Fotress in 1941. On the morning of 22 June. Andrej Dynko.“ In: Siobhan Doucette. During the last days. Osprey Publishing. 449-466. 242): “With the exception of Gavrilov [commander of the 44th Infantry Regiment]. [5] Christian Ganzer: German and Soviet Losses as an Indicator of the Length and Intensity of the Battle for the Brest Fortress (1941). 1963. Ales Pashkevich (ed. 2006. here p. Operation Barbarossa 1941 (3): Army Group Center. “Thunder in the East. Google Print. Oxford University Press. 138145.3 by the Red Army by Livny. 1941. Yale University Press. Т. here p. p. p. Warsaw 2011. [6] Christian Ganzer: Remembering and Forgetting: Hero Veneration in the Brest Fortress. that the fortress was bombed by German planes. p. In: Siobhan Doucette. At the end of the novel. p. 139. Volume 27. pp.“ Das Museum der Verteidigung der Brester Festung. 2005. here p.июле 1941 г. Vasi. "Героическая оборона. 63. Past and Future.“ In: Siobhan Doucette. Ales Pashkevich (ed. . Глязер. 463.): Returning to Europe. Andrej Dynko. ISBN 1-84603107-9. 138-145. Ходцева. Ales Pashkevich (ed. Evan Mawdsley. here p. [15] Christian Ganzer: „Remembering and Forgetting: Hero Veneration in the Brest Fortress. “up to 50% of them had left the fortress before complete encirclement by the Germans never could be proven. Andrej Dynko. 2007.И. Google Print. and whoever was able to issue a sane order and persuade others to carry it out was acknowledged as a leader. Andrej Dynko.”. 141. ISBN 0-618-36701-2. p. Ales Pashkevich (ed. some of remaining defenders made inscriptions on the walls. ISBN 0-618-36701-2. Warsaw 2011. ISBN 0-300-11204-1.): Returning to Europe. here p. In: Siobhan Doucette. one of the best known defenders of Brest (later decorated for it as Hero of the Soviet Union) was captured only on 23 July.

245 [20] Jason Pipes. Rudolf «Mein Weg mit der 45. p. Belarus. Paškovič. Google Print. The Siege of Brest 1941: A Legend of Red Army Resistance on the Eastern Front. here p. p. Christian. 45. Tragik. p.obd-memorial.“ Das Museum der Verteidigung der Brester Festung. German Wartime Newsreel (Die Deutsche Wochenschau Nr. Kühnheit.): Returning to Europe. 6 Further reading • Aliev. here p. pp. Volume 27. Stuart. Combat footage. 81-96. I. In: Siobhan Doucette. • Ganzer. 449466.“ Das Museum der Verteidigung der Brester Festung. Warsaw 2011. pp. October 2013. • Ganzer. Military Chronicle 2007 Paperback (Russian text but English summary and captions) EXTERNAL LINKS 7 External links • Soviet Citadel of Brest-Litovsk is Captured Jun 1941. 81-96. Tragik. Kühnheit. 81–96. w świetle niemeckich i austriackich dokumentów archiwalnych. [19] Constantine Pleshakov. Houghton Mifflin Books. 37-47. Alena Paškovič: „Heldentum. Kühnheit.research on the German armed forces 1918-1945 [21] Ростислав Алиев “Брестская крепость.“ Das Museum der Verteidigung der Brester Festung. In: The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. THE TRAGEDY OF BREST 1941. взгляд с немецкой стороны (in Russian) Фронтовая иллюстрация (Frontline Illustration) #5 2008 Moscow [22] Henry Sakaida. Białystok/Kraków 2011.com . ISBN 0-618-36701-2.“ In: Osteuropa 12/2010.“ In: Osteuropa 12/2010.48 [23] Christian Ganzer. In: Osteuropa 12/2010. Osprey Publishing. • Ganzer.4 7 [16] Christian Ganzer. In: Wspólne czy osobne? Miesca pamięci narodów Europy Wschodniej. 2005.Infanterie-Division. Pen & Sword. Parshin. Stalin’s Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of World War II on the Eastern Front. Issue 3. Rostislav & Britton. Ales Pashkevich (ed. 2004.565) • (Russian) Подвиг героев бессмертен • (Russian) Брестская крепость (English version available) • (Russian) • World War II aerial photo . S. 83. Alena: „Heldentum. & V. Christian: German and Soviet Losses as an Indicator of the Length and Intensity of the Battle for the Brest Fortress (1941). Feldgrau. 1955 [18] According to the POW registration card in the online archive www. pp. InfanterieDivision » Oberöstereichischer Landesverlag. Tragik. Heroes of the Soviet Union 1941-45. 83 [17] Gschöpf. Andrej Dynko. Christian: Czy „legendarna twierdza“ jest legendą? Oborona twierdzy brzeskiej w 1941 r. 138-14. • Christian Ganzer: Remembering and Forgetting: Hero Veneration in the Brest Fortress.ru. p. • Moschansky. Alena Paškovič: „Heldentum. ISBN 1-84176-769-7. Google Print. Past and Future.

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