German Head Commanding Staff of the East in Spała
(Hauptquartier der Oberbefehlshaber Ost)
The residence in Spała was known German generals fighting during World War I as well as to German diplomats, who were invited by President I. Mościcki. Therefore it was not accidental that, as early as September 1939, the German commanding staff took it for granted that Spała was to fulfil special functions in the system of command and German occupation administration in the Polish territories.
The occupation military management in the GG will come to an end at midnight on the 25th of October, 1939. Military command in the territory of the GG will be exercised by the Commander in Chief of the “East” (Oberbefehlshaber Ost) with the rank and authority of the commander of an Army Group.The Commander-in-Chief of the “East” has the right to initiate and realize every necessary undertaking in the interest of the security of the Reich. Moreover, he will have at his disposal all means of communication and transportation. The command of the Oberost was taken over by General Blaskowitz.
Spała was ideally suited for the German concept of locating German occupation forces in the General Governorship. The buildings of the residence in Spała were scattered in several hectares of park surrounded by vast forests, so that the members of the German commanding staff could feel comfortable and safe in Spała.
The favourable layout of the communication system linked Spała (via Tomaszów), by road and railway connections, with other decision-making German centres, both in the General Governorship (German-occupied Poland) and in the Reich. Near Glinnik there was a airfield which was, shortly before the war, prepared for liaison airplanes arriving at the residence of the President of the Poland.
In the palace, hotels, barracks and other buildings belonging to the residence, there could be comfortably quartered the staff of the Oberost together with the accompanying troops. In the beginning of October 1939, there arrived 150 German officers and soldiers. The headquarters of the Head Commanding Staff of the East (Hauptquartier der Oberbefehlshaber Ost) was situated on the ground floor of the hotel Savoy, and the military command of occupied Spała in the villa “Jelonek”.
The chief quartermaster of the Oberost, General Erwin Jaenicke, was also the manager of the civil administration of Spała.
Within the confines of Spała, a guard company numbering 100 men and civil functionaries of the criminal police, as well as the members of the SS post consisting of 30 persons kept vigil in order to ensure security and to prevent chaos in Spała. The guard posts around Spała were manned by guard companies.
The command of Oberost was taken over by General Kurt von Gienanth on May 5, 1940. Hitler ordered to be carried out an analysis and first steps to pave the way for developing operational actions against the Soviet Union. Spała was meant to be the seat of the staff of the Army Group “B”, later to be called “Centre” (Mitte). There were also plans to develop roads, railways and sites of concentration of military forces in the territory under German occupation.
On the 21st of July, 1940, quite unexpectedly, the command in the East was dissolved and the Oberost handed over the operational command of all the German forces concentrated in the German-occupied Polish territory and East Prussia to General Küchler. The command of military occupation forces in German-occupied Poland were taken over by the staff of the newly established military structure – the Military Command in the central GG (Militärbefehlshaber im Generalgouvernement). Spała was the seat of this command. The former commander of the Oberost, general von Gienanth now became commander of the Military Command in German-occupied Poland, which was directly subordinated to the Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces, General von Brauchitsch.
On 1.09.1942, Hans Frank announced the inclusion of German-occupied Poland (GG) in the “National War Territory” (Heimatkriegsgebiet). The Military Command in the GG (Militärbefehlshaber in Generalgouvernement) was transformed into the Command of Military District of the GG (Wehrkreisbefehlshaber im Generalgouvernement), which, once again, led to diminishing its military significance and its organizational levelling with commands of other military districts of the Reich. Spała remained the seat of the command of the new military district. The command was entrusted to general Siegfried Haenicke who took over the office on 1st of October 1942.
The Command of the Military District of the GG functioned in Spała until August in 1943 when the entire staff was transferred to Cracow. From 22.09.1944, the staff functioned under the name of Befehlshaber im Heeresgebiet Generalgouvernement – the Command of Land Forces of the GG district. Its commander, General Haenicke, held his post until the end of January 1945.
As late as the second half of 1944, in Spała and its vicinity more German soldiers again appeared, and also workers and prisoners-of-war forced to work for the Germans. This was connected with the use of the air base in Glinnik for military purposes and with the construction of the line of defense fortifications along the Pilica River (Piliza Line).
In January of 1945, the Germans started evacuating the hospitals and the few military divisions still staying there. With a view to the defence of the place, only the 136th Reserve Battalion was left, since the Russian attack was not expected there.
By the night of the 18th of January, 1945, the tactical units of the 69th Red Army, had forced a way across the Pilica River. After breaking the weak German defence and crossing the river, the Russian tanks immediately moved towards Tomaszów.
German Headquarters of Area ‘Centre’ in Jeleń and Konewka
Gefechtsstand “Anlage Mitte”
As a result of choosing Spała for the seat of the command of the “Oberost” and of concentrating considerable military forces there, the place had its role and significance in the further war plans for the conquests by Hitler’s army. The Germans had planned three command centres correlated with the major directions of expected military actions. One of those chosen places meeting the requirements of the German staff officers was Spała and its closest neighbourhood, where they decided to locate the command of the Army Group Centre. The undertaking was given the cryptonym Anlage Mitte (the centre area). The two other centres of command were located in East Prussia – Anlage Nord (later Hitler’s headquarters Wolfschanze and a number of smaller Mazurian command quarters) and in the Carpathian Region – Anlage Süd in Strzyżów and Stępina.
The suitable places for building fortified sites of commands were found in the villages Konewka and Jeleń in the beginning of 1940, and, immediately after that, the first stage of preparation work for construction was begun. In Tomaszów and Białobrzegi the first camps for workers of the Organisation Todt (OT) were set up. There began construction works at the building two large, concrete Train Shelters with infrastructure.
The decision to build the headquarters “Anlage Mitte” was made as late as September or even October 1940. It was planned that by June 1941, in Konewka and Jeleń two complexes of reinforced concrete shelters would have been set up. The major objects of these complexes were meant to be huge railroad shelters which could shelter whole sets of staff trains, several of which the Germans had been using since the beginning of the war as mobile centres of command for military staffs, and also for the highest dignitaries of the 3rd Reich with Hitler as its head.
cThe investor was a company Chemische Werke “Askania” (codename for the construction of military facilities). The investment was carried out by the construction company Philipp Holzmann AG. There also arrived workers from the O.T. (Organisation Todt) and divisions of the Labour Service RAD (Reicharbeitsdienst).
Within a year, two similar complexes of objects had been built at Konewka and Jeleń; they were somewhat different from each other in shape and length of railway shelters; the shelter at Konewka is 380 metres long and it is straight, while the shelter in Jeleń is somewhat shorter: it measures 355 metres and has the shape of a gently curving arch. The cross section of both shelters is in the shape of a pointed arch.; inside, on their entire length there stretches a semicircular aisle with rail tracks, from which there go ways down to a smaller, parallel corridor divided by steel, hermetic doors into compartments for railway service staff. The shelters are 9.5 metres high and their breadth at the base is 15 m; their characteristic shape “Dome Bunker” (Cathedral Bunker) was supposed to cause ricocheting of air bombs falling down on such a construction.
Near the large shelters, smaller ones were built for the technical stock containing generator, boiler rooms, ventilators pushing warmed-up and filtered air through underground channels into the railway shelter. Other shelters had water supply systems and water tanks in them. The quarters were also furnished with water-supply installations, sewage and dehydrating systems with sediment equipment and sewage settlers as well as fuel tanks for generators. Also several buildings, which had been at Konewka since the tsarist times were now occupied and adapted to the needs of quartering; the wooden villa, from 19th century, was occupied by the building management; later it was taken over by the quarters’ commanding staff, and several barracks for the service personnel.
Despite the fact that the construction works were on a large scale and the cost of building gigantic shelters of the quarters “Anlage Mitte” – immense, the Germans did not use this centre of command either during preparations for, or during the war with the Soviet Union begun by Hitler on June 22, 1941. There were two reasons for that: first of all, the choice of Wolfschanze near Kętrzyn for Hitler’s headquarters, and putting the German command of land forces (OKH) in the complex Mauerwald in East Prussia. Moreover, the quick forward movement of the Wehrmacht into the depths of the Russian land in the first period of fighting necessitated the shifting of military staffs to the east, following the line divisions and the receding front which made using the objects of the “Anlage Mitte” redundant.
The shelters in Jeleń were used once more by the Germans towards the end of the war in mid 1944. They located there a storehouse and a recycling workshop for recovering useful pieces of damaged engines which belonged to the Tomaszów branch of the firm Daimler-Benz Flugmotorenwerk. The complex at Jeleń was listed in the register of the disposition of German industrial objects under the cryptonym “Goldamsel”.
The shelter at Konewka was held in readiness for use until mid 1944, even though since 1942 it had been manned by a skeleton crew only. Towards the end of the war, the railway bunker and the grounds near it were used as a bomb and ammunition dump in connection with the military use of the nearby airfield at Glinnik by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. The complex at Konewka was given the cryptonym “Hühn”. In January 1945, the Germans left Konewka without a fight.