Pre-war fortification of Czechoslovakia in Czech Switzerland

Frontier fortification "river Labe (village Hrensko) - Lusatian mountains (hill Studenec)"

In 1938 the outflow of river Elbe from Bohemia in Hrensko constituted solid standby of left flank of defence of Northern Bohemia and at same time westernmost point of line Odra-Labe, that formed backbone of whole Czechoslovak defense. Natural bars were fortified by light fortification. Continual lines of light fortification (sporadically even in several sequences) passed off in close proximity of borders and they defended flank army emplacement on the river Elbe and they locked all entries to Bohemia from north. Much attention was paid to entries from "Šluknovský" and "Frýdlantský" hooks (elongations). Both hooks were released from direct defense in order to lead the light fortification more effective and wise along mountain ridges, that separate both hooks from Bohemia.

In woody (very poor for communications and very good defended by natural barriers) frontier terrain of Northern Bohemia combat readiness of already built light fortifications achieved great strength in 1938. Lines are starting by Hrensko and with sandlots in completely inaccessible terrain they lead along river Kamenice (mostly in one sequence) to the area north of village Srbská Kamenice. From there line of light fortifications is strenghten by next sequence, it intersects road from Srbská Kamenice to Jetrichovice, south of village Všemily it forms mightier cover and then it leads along line hill Borek (321 m) - hill Studenec (736 m) through area north of point Široký (611 m) to hill Hrebec (642 m), from there along southern banks of hill Malá Tisová (595 m) to hill Velká Tisová (692 m) and south of Jedlová intersects railroad to Ceská Kamenice. Whole line continues to Vápenný hill (790 m) in north-western part of Ješted´s mountains. There it attaches to right flank of second fortified line Melník - Dubá - Mimon - Hamr - Vápenný hill.

Whole line is transparently marked out in tourist map of Czech Switzerland (Decín´s and Sluknov´s region), issued by Club of Czech tourists (1998), scale 1:50000.

 

Fortification line Hrensko - Studenec

Sector Hrensko

Bunker in the valley of brook Suchá Kamenice.

First bunker is situated north of village Labská Strán. Exactly against it, on the other side of river Elbe, is undergoing frontier between Czech republic and Germany. Line of bunkers continues to the north along forest road from Labská Strán into valley of Suchá Kamenice (in total 3 bunkers), in itself valley there are 2 bunkers. Line proceeds further to the north to the point 500 m south of Hrensko (in total 6 bunkers). There it flips to the right (east) and it ends by road Hrensko-Janov (5 bunkers). On the same road 100 m closer to Janov the second sequence of 2 bunkers damms the road. This little sector of bunkers forms rightsided scythe (1,5 km from south to point by Hrensko and 1 km from this point to road Hrensko-Janov). Altogether there we can find 11 + 7 bunkers. First 11 guarded valley of river Elbe to the frontier (road Hrensko-Decín + river Labe), other 7 guarded and dammed road Hrensko-Janov (2 sequences).

In next sector (gorges of river Kamenice) bunkers weren´t placed, because gorges creates unsurmountable barrier.

 

Sector Dolský mill-Srbská Kamenice

Line of bunkers of light fortification begins again by Dolský mill. First bunker guards access from Vysoká Lípa and blocks access to village Kamenická Strán and next bunker guards access from Jetrichovice and blocks access to Kamenická Strán too. When we go from King´s pine spruce along blue-marked tourist path to the south to Srbská Kamenice after 500 m we bump into 2 bunkers and after further 500 m into further bunker. When the path starts to descend to Srbská Kamenice we run into beginning compact belt of bunkers, which forms impenetrable stop-gap by road from Všemily to Srbská Kamenice. Entire small valley, where the junction of rivers Kamenice and Chribská Kamenice takes place, is dammed up by bunkers located in 2 sequences (to the left from road Srbská Kamenice-Všemily 8 bunkers and to the right from road 10 bunkers - these in addition are blocking access by wood road from Všemily to Srbská Kamenice and partly access to Ceská Kamenice). If we go along blue-marked touristic path from Srbská Kamenice to Ceská Kamenice we knock right on several bunkers of the second sequence. Just 1 km from bus-station, from where the blue-marked touristic path gets along to Ceská Kamenice, we come up to hill Borovina on which north bottom there are 3 blockhouses and 1 behind them, that covers them (they form flat rhomb). Even this 4 bunkers we can assign to defence of road from Všemily to Srbská Kamenice. Also in total in this sectore there are 27 bunkers.

 

Sector Srbská Kamenice - hill Studenec

400 m to the west from hill Borovina starts dense and coherent line of bunkers that defend all accesses from the north to Ceská Kamnenice (forest roads and gorges). This line exhausts to the road between villages Studený and Lipnice. In the part that leads north-eastly from hill Borovina to point 334 above Pauline´s valley and that is 2 km long we find 10 bunkers between hill Borovina and hill Borek and 5 bunkers between Borek (over Vlcí rokle - Wolfish dingle) and point 334. From there leads rough line of 15 bunkers that copies ridge above rivers Chribská Kamenice and Studený brook, this line ends by road between Lipnice and Studený. On the other side of road there are more 2 bunkers, which with the last bunkers of fortification line above Studený brook defend road from Chribská over Studený to Kunratice and Ceská Kamenice. Last 3 blockhouses are 500 m from that road in the bank between village Studený and hill Studenec. Also in total in this sector we can find 35 bunkers of light fortification. This sector commemorates quarter-arc that defends town Ceská Kamenice from north-west, north and north-east.

Another bunkers in sector Srbská Kamenice-Studenec (in particular bunkers above Pavlinino údolí - Pauline´s valley, photos from years 1982-1984)

 

Sector Lusatian mountains

Entire line proceeds from point 500 m north-west of Široký hill and 1 km west of point 502 (point 502 is situated on the road 500 m north of crossing Krížový buk). As given above it goes on over hills Hrebec, Malá Tisová and Velká Tisová, railway-station in Jedlová, Jelení stones, Stožec and further to the east (mainly in 2 sequences).

 

Museum of pre-war fortification (1938)

Visitors familiarize themselves with lot of informations about construction of frontier fortifications (iron concrete bunkers), about their equipment and organization. Visitors survey examples of pre-war Czechoslovak military-hardware too. You can find there also exposition of history of village Srbská Kamenice. Open for request = nonstop.

Srbská Kamenice nr. 46, 407 15, district Decín

telephone 0412/55 51 29 - chief: Mrs. Šejvlová

Miroslav Svirák

 

It has happend in the year 1938

(source: regional bulletin Ceská silnice, author: from narration of his father booked Antonín Foret from Varnsdorf)

Jeden z klasických řopíků z obranné linie předválečného Čsl. opevnění. Mezi bunkry byly průseky, dnes zarostlé, zájemci se mohou vydat po jejich linii.

In summer of that fatal year 1938 man could feel even in Jetrichovice strange animosity. In the garden-restaurants and along touristic paths there were far lesser amount of tourists and visitors than usually. Several tens of Czech inhabitants, mostly state employees, had to undergo still greater malice and even open hostility from side of German fellow-citizens, with them still recently get along well. Till then the roar of fuehrer of "new Germany" begun to roar and speeches of certain teacher of gymnastics (Henlein), who in Litomerice already in 1937 declared "hour of liberation of Sudeten Germans", "our Germans" how we called them in the era of first republic hadn´t serious reasons to complain. Czechoslovakia fairly observed "Saint-Germain´s pact about national minorities" from 1919. Even in Jetrichovice no one drove Germans to speak Czech. Council school (1st to 5th class) was in Jetrichovice there and "Citizen´s school" (6th to 8th or 9th class) was in Ceská Kamenice there. German real Gymnasiums were in Decín and in Varnsdorf there. As only minority in the world Germans had their own colleges - 1 university and 2 engineering universities. Nevertheless the Sudeten question became international problem. When the lord Runciman ended off his negotiation and channels in republic (he visited even family Kinský in Na Tokáni) it was clear that his mission was unsuccessfull. Terror of Germans against Czech inhabitants escalated and Hitler ever and anew asked for annexation of Czech borderland to the Reich.

On Friday 23rd September 1938 in 22.00 the president of republic issued a decree of mobilization of Czechoslovak military forces. In 22.00 Czechoslovak government declared state of armed readiness with connection with general mobilization (18 years of reservist = 1 250 000 men). Already in 15 minutes the first reservists reported by their mobilization organs. By 48 hours from declaration of mobilization enter a arms 80% of all reservists !!!. 5th day after declaration of mobilization mobilization ended. All already builded frontier fortifications were filled. In our region played role in defence of state border and adjacent zone (10 km to inland) unit of "S.O.S.-Stráž obrany státu" (Guard of defence of state) from Jetrichovice. Its operating space ranged from closure "Czech road" in Zadní Jetrichovice (Hinder Jetrichovice) - at that time romantic summer resort with hotels and guest-houses on the river Krinice - to Cerná brána (Black gate). Commander of unit S.O.S. was recipient of Financial guard Antonín Foret (1904-1979) - assistent of commandant of Financial guard in Jetrichovice (nr. 114), he acceded to office after untimely dead B.Forst. Unit of S.O.S. was formed from members of Financial guard, gendarmerie and after mobilization even reservists (mostly glassmen from Kamenický Šenov). They have superior armament as well as our whole army - Nickel´s pistol CZ 9 mm, repeating-rifle model 24 with 7,92 mm, and famous light machine-gun Bren model 26 - manufacture of Brno´s arsenal.Chests with ammunition and supplies of hand-grenades represents not bad gunpower. Standpoints, that some of men inhabited already several months from partial mobilization in May, were situated next door to todays green-marked touristic path from Zadní Jetrichovice to Panenská jedle (Virgin fir) - first in close proximiry of Czech road above gamekeeper´s lodge, second about 1500 m east from Jankuv´s hill below point 385 m. Simple log-cabins were built in the rock, in which were carved these words: OUR COUNTRY YOU HAVE FAITHFUL GUARD, CSR and date 1938. To first encounter with fanatic "ordners" evidently from nearby German village Hinterhermsdorf took place day after mobilization on Saturaday 24th of September in the morning. Nazis crashed by detonation the frontier push-bolt on the Czech road and with several cars they broke to our country. They were supported by machine-gun on the German side of frontier. Gunplay lasted from 6.50 to 10.00. On our side were 3 heavily wounded (penetrations of knees and lungs) and greatly aggrieved facades and roofs of houses in Zadni Jetrichovice. However attackers didn´t get through. Resolute resistance against lesser or greater attacks in our borderland persisted another one week. People, who were ready to bring self-sacrifice of soldiers of first sequence, were all of sudden drew off. On the 1st October 1938 in 2.00 German army begun to annex without struggle our territory. Day before agreed together on this solution puissants shucks of that time in Bavarian Munich.....

Distressfull and derogative counter march of Jetrichovice´s unit S.O.S. came to an end till 3rd of October 1938 between Libechov and Melník, where the Czech inhabitants took them up. Only there was time to think of their next of kin and assets, that they abandon in snatched borderland. In villages around town Melnik many of them found new home after evicting from Czech borderland.

 

Concrete wood

(source: news Pruboj from 29.5.1982, author: Jindrich Marek, retrenched)

Construction of fortification line in Czech Switzerland and Lusatian mountains was initiated as late as in second half of the year 1937, but in plans of corps-headquarters were already entered in 24-km long sector between villages Jetrichovice and Nová Hut 157 objects "type 37" (113 was to be in first defensive-line /forefront/ and 44 had to form second defensive-line at the most endangered places). Building of light fortification-chain neccessitated creation of new military unit, because 42nd infantry regiment had to defend 82 km long sector of Hlavní obranné pásmo (HOP) (Main defensive zone) almost alone - 13 km long sector along river Bílina, then sector along river Labe (Elbe) from town Ústí nad Labem to the border in Hrensko and sector from Jetrichovice to Cvikov, where already reassumed defensive sector of Litomerice´s 2nd infantry regiment. Therefore on 22nd February 1938 on the basis of decree of Ministry of national defence (MOD) nr.14 (Taj.I) of 1st department 38 and order of commander of 3rd division nr.3543 (Taj.X) 1st department by 42nd infantry regiment was established guard-battalion nr.XXII for special tasks. As its commander was placed Major of infantry Jan Žižka (he was killed on 8th May 1945 on barricades during Prague insurrection 1945).

Guard-battalion XXII was not only guard-unit but it also formed core of future combat formation, that in case of war had to defend these 157 projected bunkers in woods of Czech Switzerland and Lusatian mountains. Main points of defense were sections at Krížový Buk (Cross Beech) and Nová Hut (New Glass-works), where to attacker offered itself access to Czechoslovak inland.

By cold and raw days and nights soldiers mounted guard at guard-posts by Srbská Kamenice, Studený, Krížový Buk, Jedlová, Nová Hut and many other places. In fog and rain they were guarding their sectors against spying eyesights of Henleiners, from which they could expect only the worst. For example already 22nd March was assaulted guard by Srbská Kamenice. Fortunately assault done without serious consequences, but search for offenders was fruitless. However much more dramatic moments had coming...

On 12th September under influence of Hitler´s radio speech on NSDAP congress in Norimberk broke out Henleiner´s putsch, that seriously endangered also lines of light and heavy fortifications in borderland. Therefore already following day headquarters of czechoslovak army decreed password "DOMOBRANA" (militia), that among others also meant summoning of 72.000 men in order to strengthen garrisons of bunkers.

Light machine-gun ZB-26 (Zbrojovka Brno), later popular weapon of WW2, well-known under denomination Bren (english production from czechoslovak license).

Hence proclamation of general mobilization of czechoslovak army in the night 23rd September caught units in sector of guard-battalion XXII practically already prepared. In this day were under Žižka´s command in addition to his 4 companies also 11th company of Rumburk´s battalion (that shifted behind fortification line to Ceská Lípa on 22nd September and filled role of regimental reserve) and reinforcements which consisted of mortar-platoon (2 mortars caliber 8 cm), cannon-platoon (4 anti-tank cannons caliber 37 mm), improvised armoured train with heavy machine-guns and cannon calibre 8 cm at railway-station in Jedlová, sapper platoon of 42nd infantry regiment in Chribská, one platoon of 33rd artillery battery (1 gun calibre 8 cm) and emergency services in Chribská (1 mechanized infantry platoon and 3 light tanks Škoda vz.35). In the fortification line stood ready already on 23rd September 1716 men with 20 heavy and 297 light machine-guns. To the sector of 11th company by Srbská Kamenice came personally commander of Frontier zone 33 (HO 33) general František Melichar in order to control and encourage them. Bernard (code name of guard-battalion XXII) was ready...

On Thursday 29th September 1938 unit reached the highest numbers. With same reinforcements as week ago now stand prepared to fight in 24 km long defensive sector 2243 men with 20 heavy and 320 light machine-guns. Woods of Czech Switzerland and Lusatian mountains and cells of their concrete "ropíks" (popular denomination derived from abbreviation of institution that managed construction of fortification - Reditelství Opevnovacích Prací - Directorate of fortification works) thus hid small regiment. But next day brought tragic dénouement of long weeks of strain and readiness - message about Munich´s dictation (alias Munich accord)...

At first this day was passing "in peace", if we don´t count with "usual" skirmishes of S.O.S. field guards (Stráž obrany státu - Guard of state-defense) with Henleiners in forefront of defensive line. The biggest conflict broke out in the morning hours on frontier in Zadní Jetrichovice. Six membered S.O.S. patrol there on czechoslovak territory stroke against large amount of german soldiers and SA and SS members, who were celebrating in local pub probably news from Munich. Wild skirmish took place, in which Nazis had, supported from Germany by four heavy machine-guns, several dead and wounded men. From S.O.S. patrol was wounded only private Ladislav Škaloud. While fighting field guards didn´t forebode anything yet, in fortification lines oppressed soldiers already afternoon heard news about Munich dictation.Nobody believed ! However at 18.15 it was confirmed by order of commander of Frontier zone 33 (HO 33). In the morning 1st October arrived from headquarters order to prepare evacuation. Powerless soldiers bitterly experienced hard moments of their disgrace. This moments recalls for example member of S.O.S. - inspector of financial guard František Frýda, as follows: "I hardly can describe state of mind that reigned in bunkers after capitulation. Old reservists raged or they wept without diffidence. Angry soldiers set wooden facing of bunkers on fire, bunkers burnt inside. Through fog soaked smell of smoke. Soldiers ladened by ammunition were slowly leaving burning bunkers and they damned those, who caused our dishonourable defeat...".

 

Another military events from September 1938 from region around Jetrichovice

(source: book Zárí 1938 /September 1938/, author: Miloslav John)

12th September

At night came numerous messages about disorders and provocations of Henlein´s followers associated with encounters with czechoslovak authorities. The most notable actions took place of course in Ceská Kamenice. Czechoslovak police failed to get them under control on several places.

14th September

About 2000 Henlein´s followers provocated in Krásná Lípa, but czechoslovak authorities let them alone.

20th September

Numerous groups of well-appointed Freikorps (FS) occupied during forenoon among others also railway-stations Rumburk, Chribská, Rybnište and intermediate train-stops on the track.

22nd September

At 7.25 was notified of gunplay with FS by Zadní Doubice between members of S.O.S. and Reichsgerman Grenzwache. Battle station of S.O.S. was before that at 5.45 near Doubice assaulted by about 70 members of Freikorps. Unit of S.O.S. with two wounded retreated and marooned one heavy wounded soldier on spot. During morning unit of S.O.S. get on counter-attack, reconquered former position, liberated wounded soldier and held their position until arrival of reinforcements. Then they advanced to the state border and returned firing to Reichs frontier-guard (Grenzwache).

23rd September

At 3.00 operational section of czechoslovak supreme headquarters issued command to action against Šluknovský elongation. At 4.40 commander of II.armycorp and commander of HP-XIII (frontier zone nr. XIII) commanded to earmark for intervention from HO-33 (frontier area) part of infantry regiment nr.42 and from HO-34 I.battalion of infantry regiment nr.47 as reserve-troops. After previous reconnaissance by scout plane Škoda-328 czechoslovak army opened at 6.00 advance into Šluknovský elongation fore HOP (main defensive positions). From Krížový Buk (Kreuzbuch in german, Crossbeech in english) to the north went ahead battalion III/42 mounted on trucks. At edge of wood in front of Chribská infantry alighted from trucks, deployed themselves into army worms and with surprise they attacked against positions of Freikorps, here and there reinforced by uniformed members of Reich-german SA and SS. At 8.00 Chribská with its surroundings was cleaned from Nazi storm troops. At 8.45 czechoslovak mounted infantry supported by firing of IOV-33 (improvised panzer train) attacked Krásná Lípa. In the meantime I.battalion of infantry regiment nr.47 supported by 3 light tanks LT-35 set along state road from Nová Hut in the direction of Varnsdorf.... At 17.00 were liberated in Varnsdorf some of hostages and captives from S.O.S. Towards night was in Varsndorf and its surroundings absolute calm and peace, done away with Nazi decoration and re-established activity of czechoslovak authorities. By action it was captured large amount of weapons including Reich´s radio set, captured many members of FS and arrested some of henleiner´s prominents, who fail to slip away through czchoslovak lines into German Reich. During night czechoslovak units in consequence of mobilisation-declaration expedite returned behind HOP and in foreground kept only units of S.O.S.

24th September

Railroad-plough of czechoslovak army performing destruction of track near Krásná Lípa was surprised by several groups of FS. At same time was assaulted "priming-arrangement´s patrol" by the bridge to the east of Chribská, that in accordance with instructions bridge blew up, thereby the railroad-plough was isolated and transport on the track was interrupted for 3 days. After emergency repair of bridge went out again panzer-train IOV, that emancipated plough from henleiner´s encirclement and saw the plough back to hinterland.

25th September

Traffic on the track Decín-Varnsdorf was stopped because of destruction of track by destruction railroad-plough in last days and demoliton of several bridges. After evacuation of czechoslovak army several stations between Chribská and Varnsdorf were occupied again by henleiner´s insurgents, who showed their face also on stations Benešov nad Ploucnicí and Ceská Kamenice. They of course didn´t prevent from passage of panzer-train (IOV) and they broke their cover long time after its departure.

26th September

According to evidently additional message to head postion of II.corps - infantry company from 42.regiment backing up with 2 light tanks LT-35 and 3 armoured fighting vehicles Škoda OA type 30 realized break-out into Krásná Lípa in order to carry away wounded Czechs from by henleiners controlled hospital. Into the town penetrated 6 trucks with infantry. Panzers secured the arrival roads. Upon return to HOP (main defensive positions) intense playgun took place with assailing Freikorps, that cost czechoslovak mounted infantry 3 wounded. Casualties of henleiners, that had to be with regard to amount of czechoslovak forces, were not discovered.

 

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