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The Festungsfront Oder-Warthe-Bogen (OWB) or in Polish; Międzyrzecki Rejon Umocniony (MRU), is a fortified defense-line and part of a larger network of fortifications, bunkers and observation posts along the Oder and Warthe rivers, near the former border of Germany with Poland and Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of WW2. The fortifications were built between 1934 and 1938, with Oder-Warthe-Bogen as the middle section (construction started in 1936) to connect the fortifications of the “Pommernstellung” in the North and the “Oderstellung” to the South-East. These defense lines were meant to halt an “invasion” from the East and this is why the defense lines are better known as the “Ostwall” or “East Wall”.
It is pretty obvious that the plans and tactics of OWB are very much inspired by the Maginot Line in France, which was seen as an example of modern fortification during that time. Typical for these fortifications or in German “Panzerwerke” (Pz.W) of the central section of OWB is that they are all (21) interconnected by a 30 km long underground tunnel system called “Hohlgangsystem” of which around 20 km was fitted with small tracks for the use of electric trains for fast transportation of men and equipment.
Most Panzerwerke of the central section were large rectangular shaped type B (1.5 m wall thickness) concrete bunkers. Designed as self sufficient closed combat quarters, the Panzerwerke housed crew quarters, sanitary amenities, machine rooms and ammunition storage next to the standard armament consisting of 1 or more Type 20P7 “6-Schartenturms” (Eng: 6 embrasured armored turrets) for 2 MG’s, a Type 438P01 armored infantry observation cupola, a type 424 P01 armored turret for a M19 “Maschinengranatwerfer” or semi-automatic 5cm mortar (max. range 600m and 360° radius), a type 420P9 “Stahlring” (Eng: Steel mantle) for a FN Gerät “Festungsflammenwerfer” or fixed telescopic flame thrower (max. range 60m and 360° radius) and a type 7P7 armor plated MG stand in flanking position to protect the bunker entrance.
Fortification Museum in Pniewo, Poland
The structures of Festungstellung Oder-Warthe-Bogen are scattered over the countryside, stretching over an area of many kilometers. Although it is very tempting (and not without any danger) to just get out there and explore the bunkers on your own, we would like to recommend the guided tours of the museum as a start.
They will not only show you the relatively small but very informative exhibition they have about the Ostwall and the Oder-Warthe-Bogen, but they can also take you on a tour inside Pz.W 716 and Pz.W 717, which are part of the “Werkgruppe Scharnhorst” section (OWB is divided into 13 of these “Werkgruppen”) and provide a walk down the Hohlgangsystem or tunnel system including a visit to Bahnhof “Heinrich” (Station) and the corridor connecting both Panzerwerke. These Panzerwerke are situated next to the museum grounds.
Tours can be taken with German or English speaking guides on set times. This will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the Pz.W structures and (may you have not done your homework) get the chance to ask questions about the fortifications and the area. Guides are often locals here and can provide useful tips about where to go on your own (or the best place to eat at Pniewo or Kalawa!).
The museum also has some field guns and other stuff on display outside, though most of this is from the Cold War era.
Something that is of the WW2 era and very hard to miss is the T34-85 on it’s front lawn. The tank is in a good condition.
Monument for the 44th Guards Armoured Brigade
This monument is dedicated to the soldiers of the 44th Guards Armoured Brigade who lost their lives during the attack on OWB on the 30th of January 1945. Even though the Red Army managed to break through the line in just three days, the number of casualties was considerable. This stone is next to the road near the museum. You will pass it when you are walking towards Pz.W 717.
Visit the Fortification Museum in Pniewo
For more information about the museum’s guided tours, exhibition and opening hours, please visit their website at http://bunkry.pl/