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I found a youtube lecture by Stephen Kotkin. He is a professor of history, wrote 2 books on Stalin with a 3rd on the way, and has access to certain Russian archives. That's all I know about him, credential-wise.

At 33 minutes in, he says basically the following: The Germans crossed the line (the agreed-to line dividing Poland between Germany and USSR in the Molotov-Ribbentropt Pact) and were holding territory allocated to the Soviets, the Soviet and Germans talked about this, then Stalin decided to retake the territory by force, and did so. (Later he says the territory was the Galician Oil Fields.)

Is this true? Did the Red Army and German Army really clash in Poland at this time, with casualties on both sides? If so, what is the battle called and where can I read more about it? I couldn't find it on wikipedia or even google.

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    Is there somewhere something written by this guy about this incident? Videos are such a waste of time in general. – LangLangC May 20 '18 at 13:32
  • @LangLangC Yeah he wrote 2 books with a 3rd on the way, "Stalin 1918 - 1928" and "Stalin waiting for Hitler, 1928 - 1941", and he seems to have access to Russian archives, which he talks about a lot. The books focus on Stalin himself. I haven't bought them yet. Don't know why you said that about videos. They're cheaper than books, and with lectures you can just listen to them while doing other stuff on the computer. That's what I always do. I guess I shoulda added some of his credentials in the OP. Will do that. – DrZ214 May 20 '18 at 14:23
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    You're right about cost (and utility sometimes). But I read much faster than most people talk. Videos are mostly unreferenced and hard to follow up, like now. So if you researched into this (prior to posting or now) then an additional link to written material about this would be very helpful. – LangLangC May 20 '18 at 16:03
  • "I couldn't find it on wikipedia or even google." internet is not the best place to seach about history – Marian Paździoch Jul 9 '18 at 20:58
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This does not appear to be true. There's no mention of it in Weinberg's A World at Arms, which is about the best one-volume history of WWII. The German multi-volume history Germany and the Second World War covers this period in volume 2, Germany's Initial Conquests in Europe, pages 118-126. Warlimont's memoirs, Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939-45, have further details. While Warlimont is often self-serving, he doesn't portray himself in a good light here, and so his account is worth considering.

The German High Command, OKW, did not expect the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland at the time it happened, according to Warlimont. It came as a surprise to them, and they did not know about the treaty of 23rd August, or the agreed boundary. Orders were got out as fast as possible (which wasn't very quickly) since the potential for clashes was obvious. The Soviet Military Attaché in Berlin was briefed by Warlimont on 17th September on the progress of the German invasion. Since Warlimont hadn't been told about the boundary by then, he stressed the German claim to the oil area in that briefing and thought he was going to be fired once Stalin telephoned Ribbentrop to complain.

Should OKW have anticipated the Soviet invasion? The Poles had defeated the proto-USSR in 1919-21, the Soviets seemed to be pre-occupied with their conflict with Japan, and the Germans had a low opinion of Soviet capabilities in general. The Germans advanced beyond the agreed boundary line because the Wehrmacht didn't know about it. Even if they had known, they would likely have crossed it so as to be able to defeat the Poles, rather than giving them a safe area to rally in.

Once the Soviets attacked, OKW laid down a maximum limit to the German advance on 17th September and required units beyond that line to pull back. Subsequent lines were laid down every day from 18th to 21st September, pulling German forces back to the "four rivers" boundary line that had been agreed on 23rd August, backed up by orders from Hitler. The intention was to keep German and Soviet troops apart, and to give the Germans time to move back wounded, prisoners, and their own and captured material. Another reason for doing it in stages was to avoid giving various undefeated Polish forces time and space to regroup.

The Germans hoped to revise the agreed boundary, and there were various changes, but the Polish oil fields had always been on the Soviet side of the line, and stayed there. There was no fighting involved in the Red Army taking them over, according to all of these sources. The withdrawal from Brest-Litovsk was amicably negotiated by German and Soviet commanders on the scene, and there was a joint parade before the Germans left.

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    So you're saying the Germans did cross the line, but withdrew with no fighting? Does Weinburg explain why the Germans crossed the line in the first place? Was it just a mistake? – DrZ214 May 20 '18 at 12:59
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    There were two reasons for the Germans originally crossing the agreed line: (1) to encircle and defeat the Poles, for example at Białystok and Lvov and (2) because the Germans did not know whether the Soviets actually planned to occupy eastern Poland at a time Stalin seemed more concerned with resolving its undeclared conflict with Japan in the Far East – Henry May 20 '18 at 14:13
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    @Henry Quite. But Germans "crossing the line" fighting the Polish or for any other reason is not the question. Did Read Army and Wehrmacht fight against each other over this strip is. But if that is a clarification to address OP's comment here: What's so different compared to Soviet/American meet-up in Thorgau '45? The Americans "crossed a line" only to withdraw non-violently shortly afterwards. I see little difference in reasons. – LangLangC May 21 '18 at 12:12
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    P.S. The German High Command, OKW, does not appear to have expected the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland. Why is that exactly? This was agreed to in MR-Pact. Why would OKW not expect USSR to take their half? – DrZ214 May 22 '18 at 10:53
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    OKW might also have expected that the Soviets would not enter Poland until Germany had finished fighting the Poles. The Soviets had, after all, been defeated in the Polish-Soviet War, and OKW had a low opinion of Soviet military capability. – John Dallman May 29 '18 at 14:10
1

Yes they did.

In the Polish book published in 2005 "Kampania polska 1939 roku: początek II wojny światowej" Czesław Grzelak, Henryk Stańczyk on page 274 and 275 we can find:

Soviet-German competition for capturing the city (*) resulted in a confrontation of armies of both agressors. Before the noon of 19th of September the Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 137 2nd Mountain Division, when marching to - already captured by Soviet tanks city Winnik - they encounter those troops. A firefight developed with the result: Germans lost 3 AT guns, 5 KIA and 9 WIA; Soviets lost 1 tank, 2 panzer cars, 6 KIA and 4 WIA. That clash (besides apologies from Germans) seems not to be completely random. It may have been a test of strength of both sides [...]

(*) Lwów

On the page 332 there is:

[...] on the 23th of September near Widomla German tanks shooted at Soviet patrol from 310th Rifle Regiment of 8th Rifle Division. Casualties of Red Army was 2 KIA and 2 WIA. Apologies from German side was accepted from the Soviet side.

(translation is mine, sorry for not being gramatically correct)

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    So did they actually know they were fighting each other, or did they think they were fighting Polish troops? – DrZ214 Jul 9 '18 at 21:46
  • @DrZ214 1. what's the difference deliberately or accidentally 2. the book does not state it 3. I can assume it was not accidentally taking how well Germans handled reconnaissance (air) and also the fact it was middle of the day and also the fact that Soviets lost tank and cars which were most probably "soviet type". – Marian Paździoch Jul 10 '18 at 9:34
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    Huge, huge difference between deliberate and accident. Huge difference in intentions by Stalin or Hitler, if they wanted this "test" or if it was just an accident. Also, I cannot understand from the language, who fired first? – DrZ214 Jul 10 '18 at 15:31
  • the book does not state who shooted first – Marian Paździoch Jul 11 '18 at 6:17
  • It's a massive difference, both in the scale of the actions and the intent and purpose of them. If I am a soldier on patrol in a warzone and I see a guy in an unfamiliar uniform coming towards me with a rifle in his hands, I shoot him and ask questions later, especially if I've not been told to expect friendly forces from another country (and thus unfamiliar looking equipment) to be in the area. – jwenting Jul 11 '18 at 9:59
0

German and Soviet troops clashed during the Polish campaign accidentally. That's because the momentum of the German advance as so great that they overstepped the original treaty line in an area east of Warsaw and west of Lvov. When the Soviets marched in from the east, they defeated Polish forces as well, but on at least one or two occasions in late September 1939, they and the Germans ended up firing on each other, instead of Poles, for a few minutes or hours, suffering "light" casualties, and apologizing later.

Although the Germans pulled back from some cities they captured, notably Brest-Litovsk, they kept most of the extra territory they had gained, pursuant to an amendment to the original Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty. In exchange, the Soviet Union was allowed to occupy Lithuania (originally designated as a German sphere of influence) as well as Latvia and Estonia, plus their remaining share of Poland.

  • Sources would be good for the first paragraph. Also, do you have anything to say about Marian Paździoch's answer? – DrZ214 Aug 3 '18 at 11:46
  • @DrZ214: The link in the first paragraph discusses, or at least alludes to, the clashes. Marian's answer discussed "what happened." The gist of my answer is the "consequences." – Tom Au Aug 3 '18 at 15:19
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There's a mention about clashes near Lviv by Volotchitsky army group and Germans.

Unfortunately, my sources are only in Russian: Wikipedia and LJ

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    Does it say how many died and how long the fighting lasted? – DrZ214 Jun 19 '18 at 19:13
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    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts (perhaps translated?) mof the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – LangLangC Jun 19 '18 at 21:48
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Generally, the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty signed shortly before Blitzkrieg (01 September 1939) thwarted any direct military conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviets. No clashes, just the soldiers and generals meeting to hand over some superfluous spoils.

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    Welcome to HistorySE. Sources would improve this answer and make people respond more positively to your contribution. – Lars Bosteen May 21 '18 at 10:23
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    (01 September 1939) that's wrong date; + this question is about actual actions taken (deliberately or accidentally), not about signed sheets of MR-Pact. – Marian Paździoch May 29 '18 at 8:54
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Soviet and German armies had strict orders to avoid any fighting each other, and they did not fight each other. However partition of Poland in 1939 treaty was secret. After the fighting stopped, small adjustments had to be made to put the actual position of the troops into correspondence with the agreement. In Brest there was a joint military parade of the Soviets and Germans, before the Germans left it to the Soviets.

Polish troops did not have orders to engage the Soviet troops. Of course this did not exclude some small scale fighting, in the conditions of general disorder. The Soviets disarmed Polish troops, deported their officers to prison camps and later murdered many of them. (Katyn massacre is the best known one, but there were several more on the same scale, in particular in Kharkiv).

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    You're talking about Russian vs Polish troops. My question is about Russian vs German troops. – DrZ214 May 21 '18 at 5:34

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