Dukla Pass


In northeastern Slovakia and on the border with southeastern Poland lies an area called the Dukla Pass. Between September 8 and October 28, 1944, an armored battle was fought between German and Soviet forces. A mini-scale, if you will. Earlier that year, the Czech government in exile had appealed for Soviet help to support a Slovakian uprising. The Soviet Red Army saw this as an opportunity to drive the Germans out of Slovakia once and for all. From the Soviet side, the plan was to attack from the north through the Dukla Pass and into Slovakia against Svidnik and Presov. The operation was estimated to take five days, but the Germans had built up a strong line of defense in the Carpathians and were prepared.

Soviet and German tanks clashed at the Dukla Pass and territory was conquered and lost every other time. The fighting flamed back and forth for about a month and the Soviet plan to attack south in the direction of Svidnik had to be abandoned. Only after about a month the Red Army was able to establish a stronghold in Slovakia. The fighting was also moved east in order to attack the Germans from the flank in order to break through the German defense. Just west of the village Dobroslava was fought, among other things, an armored battle reminiscent of a Kursk in miniature and named the Valley of Death. It was not until 28 October that Soviet (and Czech) forces were able to take Svidnik. The original plan to reach Presov failed, however, and it would take another four months before Presov was liberated. Although the Red Army failed, the battle resulted in the expulsion of the Germans from the area around the Dukla Pass.

Current status: Preserved with museums/monuments (2019).

Location: 49°24'52.04"N 21°41'58.49"E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Despite the size and extent of the battle, it has fallen into oblivion but has a lot to offer for those who find it. The battlefield spreads over a larger area and there are several bunkers, monuments and museums in different forms and everything is characterized by classical Soviet style which in its vulgar form becomes something fascinating. It is still Czechoslovakia that is in focus and the feeling is that this is their equivalent, among other things Stalingrad, Normandy, El Alamein, Monte Cassino and the Warsaw Uprising. The Czechoslovak war cemetery is lavish and nationalism penetrates the Soviet filter. The most interesting place is still the Valley of Death, where a number of Soviet T-34 were placed on the battlefield like pawns in a war game. Another thing I want to highlight is the German war cemetery in Hunkovce, which is very well maintained and nicely designed.

Follow up in books: Cumins, Keith: Cataclysm: The War on the Eastern Front, 1941–45 (2019).