Franciszek Alter began his career as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army, reaching the rank of captain. He fought in the Polish Army during the Polish-Soviet War. He was promoted to general in March 1939. During the German invasion of Poland, he commanded the 25th Infantry Division (part of the Army Poznań). His division took part in the battle of Bzura and the defense of Warsaw, where it capitulated on the 28 September.
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