Aerial Archaeology Research 
Group (AARG)

European Association of Remote 
Sensing Laboratories (EARSeL)

Hosted by:

Institute of Prehistory, Adam 
Mickiewicz University, Poznań

Conference Organising Committee:


The conference field trip to Międzyrzecz Fortified Front
07:30  Departure from Adam Mickiewicz Square
10:00 Arrival at Międzyrzecz Fortified Front 
10:00-10:30 Coffee break
10:30-13:00 Visit to the site
13:30-15:00 Lunch at the Międzyrzecz castle
15:00-18:00 Return to Poznań
Important note!

Visitors must wear boots or sport shoes and dress for a temperature around 10C regardless of the weather forecast. 

Międzyrzecz (Latin Meserici, German Meseritz) is a district town in Lubuskie province, in the Obra valley at the mouth of the Paklica River. The town is first mentioned in the chronicle of Thietmar of Mersenburg who recorded a visit by the emperor Henry II to the tomb of the Five Holy Brothers in 1005 (Benedictine monks murdered two years earlier). 

Międzyrzecz Fortified Front

The system of the Międzyrzecz Fortified Region (Międzyrzecki Rejon Umocniony - MRU) is a unique monument of 20th-century art of fortification. It is one of the most interesting structures of this kind across Europe, comprising installations such as anti-tank barriers, bunkers and defensive structures over an area of nearly 80 km (50 miles). Built in the 1930s and during the World War II in order to protect the eastern frontier of the Third Reich, it in fact never played an essential role in war. 

Fortification of the eastern border of the Third Reich started in 1932, as a result of the crisis in political relationships with Poland. As early as 1933 fortifications were built in Eastern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. However, the ultimate concept of blocking an advance on the capital Berlin had still not been completed, thus it was provisionally decided to close the so-called Lubuska Gateway. In May 1935 the design of these fortifications was completed, but Adolf Hitler, the Chief of German Military Forces, was to decide about its implementation. And so, on October 30th 1935, Hitler, accompanied by officers from the Wehrmacht High Command, inspected the construction of fortification and fascinated by the project, accepted the plan.

Preparatory work started in spring 1936 and continued extensively for three years. However, the successful attack on Poland in September 1939 saw a gradual abandoning of all the work in the Międzyrzecz Fortified Front. Moreover, the war with the USSR in 1941 and the good military situation on the eastern front, as well as recruitment of workers by the army emptied the work camps. When, at the end of 1943, the Russians took the initiative on the eastern front, the Międzyrzecz Fortified Front gained importance again. However, Hitler, not admitting the need of defence for Berlin, refused to discuss the subject. Only when the Russians arrived at the Vistula River on 12th January 1945, did defensive preparations start in earnest.

As a result of the powerful attack of the Soviet army, after 15 days the troops of the Red Army arrived at the advance positions of the Międzyrzecz Fortified Front. The fortification system failed to fulfill its role. Aimed at a long-lasting defense, it resisted for only three days. On the evening of January 31st the Germans began to retreat from their battle positions in the Miedzyrzecz Fortified Front. The chaos and the lack of communication between the German troops prevented an efficient transfer of orders, and the soldiers, hearing the battle noise behind them, retreated in fear that they might be encircled. Only few panzerwerk crews, obeying orders, kept fighting somewhat longer, but on the night of February 1st the Germans deserted the fortifications.

Find out more at: http://bunkry.nazwa.pl/pl/index.html

Lunch at the Międzyrzecz Castle

Constructed during the reign of Casimir III the Great in 14th century, the castle replaced an earlier stronghold and became the seat of the castellans and starosts of Międzyrzecz. It was reconstructed in 16th century to meet requirements of defence against artillery. To that period are dated two massive artillery bastions (basteja) with thick walls (up to 3,5 m). The castle was severely damaged during the Swedish wars in 17th century and it has never been rebuilt. At the beginning of the 18th century, the elders of Międzyrzecz were residing in a town council building constructed by the castle ruins. Archaeological excavations were carried out there in 1950s and the remains were secured as a permanent ruin. 

Visitors can relax at the castle's premises, take a stroll around the Museum complex which comprises an extensive parkland and a complex of historic buildings (the town council building, the gate house and the inn) or visit the museum which has one of the largest collections of l7th and 18th century coffin portraits. A unique Polish custom which evolved in 17th century, this was the most important element of funeral decorations, related to ceremonial burials of the noblemen of Poland. Baroque portraits were usually painted on tin, copper or iron sheets and fixed to the shorter side of coffins, by the dead person's head. After the burial ceremonies, the portraits were placed on church walls. Exceptional features of the Międzyrzecz collection are coffin portraits of foreigners who settled in Poland and took over Polish customs.