Plan West
Plan Zachód was a military plan
Military plan
A military operation plan is a formal plan for military armed forces, their military organizations and units to conduct operations, as drawn up by commanders within the combat operations process in achieving objectives before or during a conflict...

 of the Polish Army of the Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

, for defence against invasion from Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. It was designed in the late 1930s.


During the time Józef Piłsudski was the dictator of Poland, most of Polish planning concentrated on contingences in case of a possible attack from the East. It was only after Piłsudski's death in 1935 that the new Polish government and military reevaluated the situation and decided that the current Polish plan for a Polish-German war, dating from the mid-1920s (Plan "S"), was inadequate and needed to be revised. However up to 1938, the priority was war in the East, not the West, and a majority of Polish fortifications were being erected on the Polish-Soviet border. The authors of Plan Zachód included generals Wacław Stachiewicz, Tadeusz Kutrzeba
Tadeusz Kutrzeba
Tadeusz Kutrzeba was an army general of the Second Polish Republic.Kutrzeba was born in Kraków, then part of Austria-Hungary...

, Leon Berbecki
Leon Berbecki
Leon Berbecki was a Polish army officer, who fought in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I with the Imperial Russian Army. Following the foundation of the Second Polish Republic, Berbecki served in the Polish Army.- Early life :Peter Leon Berbecki, born on a farm in Kalinowszczyzna in what is...

, Juliusz Rómmel
Juliusz Rómmel
Juliusz Karol Wilhelm Józef Rómmel was a Polish military commander and a general of the Polish Army. During the Polish-Bolshevik War, he gained great fame for achieving a decisive victory in the Battle of Komarów, the largest cavalry engagement of the 20th century...

, Tadeusz Kasprzycki
Tadeusz Kasprzycki
Tadeusz Kasprzycki was a member of the Polish Legions in First World War, general of the Polish Army from 1929 and Minister of Military Affairs of Poland from 1935 to 1939....

, and Władysław Bortnowski.

The plan

The first version predicted that Germans would attack from Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 towards Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, with supporting thrusts from Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

 and Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, aiming at establishing an early link through the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

 between German Pomerania and Prussia. After German annexation of parts of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 and changes of borders, Polish planners revised the plan with the expectation that a main thrust would originate from Silesia - through Piotrków
Piotrków may refer to the following places in Poland:*Piotrków Trybunalski, a city in Piotrków County, Łódź Voivodeship*Piotrków Kujawski, a city in Gmina Piotrków Kujawski in Radziejów County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship...

 and Łódź towards Warsaw and Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

. The Polish planners correctly predicted the direction of most German thrusts, with one crucial exception: they assigned low priority to a possible deep, flanking, eastward push from Prussia and Slovakia, a push that was however assigned high priority in the German plan (Fall Weiss).

A controversy involved the decision whether Polish forces should defend the lengthy borders, or withdraw east and south and try a defense along a shorter line, backed with rivers. Although the second plan was more militarily sound, political considerations outweighed them, as Polish politicians were concerned that Germany could be satisfied with occupation of some disputed territories (like the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....

, the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

 and Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

), and push for an early end of the war after occupying those territories. The western regions were also the most densely populated and had major industrial centers, crucial for mobilization
Mobilization is the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war. The word mobilization was first used, in a military context, in order to describe the preparation of the Prussian army during the 1850s and 1860s. Mobilization theories and techniques have continuously changed...

 and any continued military production of equipment and supply for the Polish army.

Even with the decision to protect the borders, due to Poland being virtually encircled from three sides by the Germans, it was decided that some areas had to be abandoned early on, as their defence would be next to impossible. Thus the north-west Pomorze Voivodship and Poznań Voivodship were to be abandoned early on, with a separate force, the Land Coastal Defence
Land Coastal Defence
Land Coastal Defence , commanded by Colonel Stanisław Dąbek , was an important unit tasked with the defence of Poland's Baltic Sea coast during the 1939 invasion.- Before the war :...

 protecting key parts of the coast as long as possible, and most of the surface Polish Navy
Polish Navy
The Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - MW RP Polish Navy, is the branch of Republic of Poland Armed Forces responsible for naval operations...

 evacuated to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 as specified in the Peking Plan
Peking Plan
The Peking PlanThe "Peking" in the name is the traditional English spelling of the former name of the city that is now the capital of China, which is now spelled in the pinyin system 'Beijing'. At the time, the city was not the capital, and its name was Peiping. Before the Second World War in the...

 (submarines were to engage the enemy in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 as per the Worek Plan
Worek Plan
The Worek Plan was an operation of the Polish Navy in the first days of World War II, in which its five submarines formed a screen in order to prevent German naval forces from carrying out landings on the Polish coast, and to attack enemy ships bombarding Polish coastal fortifications, in...

). The main Polish defence line was to be formed on the regions of the Augustów Primeval Forest
Augustów Primeval Forest
Augustów Primeval Forest is a large virgin forest complex located in Poland as well as in northern Belarus and southeastern Lithuania. The forest covers about 1,600 km², of which 1,140 km² is in Poland....

 - Biebrza
Biebrza is a river in north-eastern Poland, a tributary of the Narew river , with a length of 155 kilometres and the basin area of 7,057 km2...

 River - Narew
The Narew River , in western Belarus and north-eastern Poland, is a left tributary of the Vistula river...

 River - Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

 River (and the towns of Modlin, Toruń
Toruń is an ancient city in northern Poland, on the Vistula River. Its population is more than 205,934 as of June 2009. Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland. The medieval old town of Toruń is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus....

, Bydgoszcz) - Inowrocław lakes - Warta River - Widawka
Widawka is a river, located in central Poland , a tributary of the Warta. Its length is 95.8 kilometers and its basin's area is 2385 km2....

 River - town of Częstochowa
Częstochowa is a city in south Poland on the Warta River with 240,027 inhabitants . It has been situated in the Silesian Voivodeship since 1999, and was previously the capital of Częstochowa Voivodeship...

 - Silesian fortifications - town of Bielsko-Biała
-Economy and Industry:Nowadays Bielsko-Biała is one of the best-developed parts of Poland. It was ranked 2nd best city for business in that country by Forbes. About 5% of people are unemployed . Bielsko-Biała is famous for its textile, machine-building, and especially automotive industry...

 - town of Żywiec
Żywiec is a town in south-central Poland with 32,242 inhabitants . Between 1975 and 1998, it was located within the Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship, but has since become part of the Silesian Voivodeship....

 - village of Chabówka
Chabówka is a village located on the outskirts of the southern Polish town of Rabka, in the Nowy Targ County, Lesser Poland Voivodeship. With population of 1,600 , Chabówka is a popular tourist attraction because of its location, near the Gorce Mountains.It also is an important rail junction,...

 - and the town of Nowy Sącz
Nowy Sacz
Nowy Sącz is a town in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship in southern Poland. It is the district capital of Nowy Sącz County, but is not included within the powiat.-Names:...

). The second defensive line was based on the Augustów Forest - Biebrza River - Narew River - Bug River
Bug River
The Bug River is a left tributary of the Narew river flows from central Ukraine to the west, passing along the Ukraine-Polish and Polish-Belarusian border and into Poland, where it empties into the Narew river near Serock. The part between the lake and the Vistula River is sometimes referred to as...

 - Vistula River - and Dunajec River. Finally, the third defensive line involved retreating southeast towards the Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n border, and holding as long as possible in the Romanian bridgehead
Romanian Bridgehead
The Romanian Bridgehead was an area in southeastern Poland, now located in Ukraine. During the Polish Defensive War of 1939 , on September 14 the Polish Commander in Chief Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły ordered all Polish troops fighting east of the Vistula to withdraw towards Lwów, and...


The plan assumed the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 would be neutral, as a Nazi-Soviet alliance
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 seemed unlikely. The plan however allowed for a Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

n attempt to take Wilno, a city disputed between Poland and Lithuania, and a small Polish force - primarily elite units of Border Defence Corps - was detached to secure that region.

The plan assumed that Polish forces would be able to hold for several months but due to German numerical and technical superiority would be pushed back (it was estimated Germans would have two to threefold advantage), until pressure from Western Allies (France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

) who were obliged (through the Franco-Polish Military Alliance
Franco-Polish Military Alliance
The Franco-Polish alliance was the military alliance between Poland and France that was active between 1921 and 1940.-Background:Already during the France-Habsburg rivalry that started in the 16th century, France had tried to find allies to the east of Austria, namely hoping to ally with Poland...

 and Polish-British Common Defence Pact
Polish-British Common Defence Pact
The Anglo-Polish military alliance refers to agreements reached between the United Kingdom and the Polish Second Republic for mutual assistance in case of military invasion by "a European Power". According to the secret protocol added to the treaty the phrase "a European Power" used in the...

) to launch an offensive from the West would draw enough German forces away from the Polish front to allow Polish forces to launch a counteroffensive.


The plan correctly assumed the size, location and most directions of attack by the enemy. By the time of the German attack, however, the second and further defensive lines and related items were not fully defined by the plan, nor had any of its aspects been subject to a military exercise. There were also other unfinished parts, particularly dealing with communications and supplies.

When Germany invaded Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 in 1 September 1939, Polish forces were dealt a significant defeat at the Battle of the Border
Battle of the Border
The Battle of the Border refers to the battles that occurred in the first days of the Nazi Germany invasion of Poland in September, 1939...

, just as the critics of the plan predicted. Further factors, such as underestimating German mobility and blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 strategy, and overestimating Polish mobility, the Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland (1939)
The 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland was a Soviet military operation that started without a formal declaration of war on 17 September 1939, during the early stages of World War II. Sixteen days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union did so from the east...

 and lack of promised aid from the Western Allies
Western betrayal
Western betrayal, also called Yalta betrayal, refers to a range of critical views concerning the foreign policies of several Western countries between approximately 1919 and 1968 regarding Eastern Europe and Central Europe...

, contributed to the Polish forces' defeat by 6 October 1939.

See also

  • Plan Wschód
    Plan Wschód
    Plan East was a Polish defensive military plan, created in the 1920s and 1930s in case of war with the Soviet Union. Unlike Plan Zachód , it was being prepared during the whole Interwar period, as the government of the Second Polish Republic treated the Soviet Union as the greatest potential...

    (Plan East), a Polish defensive plan in case of an attack by the Soviet Union

Further reading

  • STANLEY S. SEIDNER, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978.
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