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Defense of the Brest Fortress

Defense of the Brest Fortress in June 1941 – one of the most heroic pages in the military history of our country. It was here that the Red Army first demonstrated to the world that it was invincible.

Stages of the defense of the Brest region

By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in the Brest Fortress were deployed several rifle battalions, battalions of anti-tank and air defense, a total of about 7,000 troops.



Storm of the Brest Fortress in Belarus

The storming of the Brest Fortress began early in the morning of June 22, it was carried out by units of the 45th German Infantry Division, numbering at least 18,000 soldiers under the command of Hitler’s General Fritz Schlipper.

After a powerful preliminary artillery preparation, during which more than 7,000 rounds of artillery ammunition were expended, the attack began. The order of the Red Army command to withdraw the Rifle Division units from the fortress was not fulfilled in time.

The defenders of the Brest Fortress were essentially taken by surprise, stunned by hurricane fire of artillery. In the first minutes of the surprise attack, the fortress and its garrison sustained significant damage and destroyed part of the command staff.

The garrison was broken into several parts, decapitated, so it was unable to put up a single coordinated resistance. Already on the afternoon of June 22, the first German assault troops were able to capture the Northern Gate of the Brest Fortress.

Red Army counterattack

Counterattack by the Red Army of the Brest Fortress

However, soon the defenders of the Brest Fortress were able to offer serious resistance to the enemy by launching a counteroffensive. Part of Hitler’s division was successfully dismembered and destroyed, including. in bayonet attacks.

However, some parts of the fortress remained under German control, and fierce fighting continued throughout the night. By the morning of June 23, some of our rifle battalions managed to leave the fortress, while the rest continued to fight with the Nazis.

The Germans in no way expected such stiff resistance, until now they had not had to face such resistance in occupied Europe, rapidly surrendering under the pressure of German weapons, so they retreated.

Switching to Defense

Deprived of command, Red Army fighters began to unite independently in small battle groups, choose their own commanders and continue the defense of the Brest Fortress.

The headquarters of the defense was the House of Officers, from where Captain Zubachev, Commissar Fomin and their comrades-in-arms tried to coordinate the actions of the scattered Red Army combat units. However, on June 24, the Germans occupied almost the entire citadel.

Fighting continued until June 29. As a result, most of the defenders of the fortress were killed or captured. To end the resistance, the Nazis dropped more than 20 air bombs weighing 500 kg each on the Brest Fortress, and fires broke out.

How long did the Brest Fortress hold out?

How long the Brest Fortress held out during the outbreak of World War II

Nevertheless, the survivors did not surrender, they continued to actively resist, the defense of the Brest Fortress continued, despite the vastly superior forces of the enemy attacker.

According to historians, some of our soldiers resisted the German army in the casemates of the fortress until August 1941. As a result, German commanders ordered the basements of the casemates to be flooded.

The defense of the Brest Fortress in 1941 clearly showed the Nazis what kind of enemy they faced, and what awaits them in the future on the territory of the Soviet Union. It was this first battle that became the harbinger of the Great Victory.

And the Brest Fortress was liberated from the Nazis only in 1944. After a major offensive, the Soviet army reached the western borders of the USSR and liberated the entire country, including Brest, from Hitler’s filth.

The fortress lay in ruins. They bore witness to the fierce battles that took place here in 1941, and to the unprecedented feat of our soldiers, whose fighting spirit and love for their country was not broken by the invaders.

Memories of the defenders of the fortress

Remembrance of the defenders of the Brest Fortress

The Soviet command learned about the heroic defense of the Brest Fortress only in early 1942 from the reports found in the former headquarters of the defeated German 45th Division. It was only in the late 40s that studies and articles about the defense of Brest appeared.

It is from these documents that we first learned about the siege of the Brest Fortress in 1941 and the courage of its defenders. After the war, our country began to piece together information about this military feat.

Reviving the memory of the defense of Brest engaged writer Sergei Smirnov and poet Konstantin Simonov. For the first time, with the presentation of the memories of survivors and material evidence of this feat is written in detail in the book “Brest Fortress.

In the mid-60s it was awarded the honorary title of Hero Fortress and was awarded the Order of Lenin. Since then, the Brest Fortress has become a memorial complex. In Brest, several monuments have been erected and a historical museum is in operation.

Today, wandering through the ruins and studying the history of the Brest Fortress, one can imagine what horrors of war these stones and walls, riddled with bullets and shells, had seen.

Not many documents about the heroic defense of the Brest Fortress have survived. They are more than replaced by nameless and signed inscriptions made by its defenders in the summer of 1941 on the walls of the fortress buildings, on the vaults of basements, etc.

Difficulties of researching the Battle of Brest Fortress

Difficulties of researching the Battle of Brest Fortress

Indeed, very few reliable documents related to the defense of the Brest Fortress in 1941 have survived. Historically important information can only be obtained from surviving defenders.

Most of the information about the Battle of Brest was given by the defenders of the fortress many years after the Great Patriotic War. Some of them do not match each other in terms of dates and circumstances of events.

However, the many women and children captured in the Brest Fortress during World War II are irrefutable evidence that active resistance by the Red Army continued until early August.

It is likely that the command of the 45th Infantry Division of Hitler’s Germany dreamed of informing their superiors in advance of the fall of the Brest Fortress, so they wrote in their reports deliberate lies.

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