Kazimierz Kuratowski was born on this day. He was a Polish mathematician, a logician and a leading representative of the Warsaw School of Mathematics. He made numerous contributions in the field of mathematics. Kuratowski was an active member of many scientific societies and foreign scientific academies, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the USSR. During World War II, he gave lectures at the underground university in Warsaw, since higher education for Poles was forbidden under German occupation. After World War II, Kuratowski was actively involved in the rebuilding of scientific life in Poland. He helped to establish the State Mathematical Institute, which was incorporated into the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1952. From 1948 until 1967 Kuratowski was director of the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and was also a long-time chairman of the Polish and International Mathematics Societies. He was president of the Scientific Council of the State Institute of Mathematics (1968–1980). From 1948 to 1980 he was the head of the topology section. One of his students was Andrzej Mostowski.
Germans surrendered to Russian troops at Stalingrad in the first big defeat of Hitler's armies. The Battle of Stalingrad was the single largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare. (2.2 million troops; 1.7 to 2 million killed,wounded or captured.) The Germans were starving, and running out of ammunition, but continued to resist, in part because they feared that the Soviets would execute any who surrendered. In particular, the so-called HiWis, (Soviet citizens fighting for the Germans), knew their fate if captured. Bloody urban warfare began again in Stalingrad, and the Soviets pushed the Germans back to the banks of the Volga. The Germans adopted a simple defense of fixing wire nets over all windows to protect themselves from grenades. But the Soviets out-witted them by attaching fish hooks to the grenades so they stuck on the nets when thrown. After five months, one week, and three days, the Army High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the West to replace their losses.
The Vistula–Oder Offensive ended in Soviet victory. The Vistula–Oder Offensive took place on the Eastern Front in the European Theatre and ended with the fall of Krakow, Warsaw and Poznań. The Soviets had strong positions around several key bridgeheads, with two fronts commanded by Marshal Zhukov and Marshal Konev. The Germans were outnumbered 5 to 1 and, and within days evacuated the concentration camps, forcing prisoners on their death marches toward the west. In less than two weeks, the Russians advanced 300 miles from the Vistula to the Oder. They were only 43 miles from Berlin which was left undefended, but Zhukov called a halt, and delayed the advance until April (due to continued German resistance on his northern flank (Pomerania).