General Kazimierz Sosnkowski (dob 1885) was a Polish nobleman, independence fighter, diplomat, architect, politician and a Polish Army general. Following the outbreak of the First World War Piłsudski formed the 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions, appointing Sosnkowski as his Chief of Staff and second-in-command. During the Oath crisis, when Piłsudski instructed the Polish Legion to refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Sosnkowski was arrested along with his commander and imprisoned in Magdeburg. After the end of the war he was released and became Deputy Minister for Military Affairs in the Polish Second Republic, serving in that position during the Polish-Soviet War. Between 1920 and 1923 he was Minister for Military Affairs. Subsequently, he served in a number of diplomatic roles, including a brief period as Polish Representative to the League of Nations. In 1925 he returned to active duty as Commander of the VII Corp District. During the Polish-Soviet war of 1920 he at first commanded the northern front (where his leadership was harshly criticized by other commanders). After the German invasion of 1939 he proposed forming a group of armies in the regions of Warsaw, Poznań, Pomerania and Łódź. This was rejected by Rydz-Śmigły due to the lack of coordination in the region of Warsaw and Kutno, and eventually resulted in the Polish defeat at the river Bzura. On September 10, 1939 he was appointed commander of the group of the southern armies and conducted several victorious battles. However the Soviet invasion of September 17, 1939 made it impossible to continue the war effort. Sosnkowski disguised himself and crossed the Soviet occupied territory of Poland, through Hungary and arrived in France in October 1939. In November 1939 he was selected by President-in-exile Władysław Raczkiewicz as his successor (against the wishes of General Władysław Sikorski). He was also appointed the Commander of the Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ). In 1941, he resigned from the Polish Government in Exile protesting lack of specifics regarding Polish eastern borders. After the tragic death of General Sikorski in July 1943, Sosnkowski officially became the Commander-in-Chief.
Bruno Schulz (died November 19, 1942) was a Polish Jewish writer, fine artist, literary critic and art teacher. He is regarded as one of the great Polish-language prose stylists of the 20th century. In 1938, he was awarded the Polish Academy of Literature's prestigious Golden Laurel award. Several of Schulz's works were lost in the Holocaust, including short stories from the early 1940s and his final, unfinished novel The Messiah. Schulz was shot and killed by a German Nazi in 1942 while he walking back home toward Drohobycz Ghetto with a loaf of bread. Schulz possessed an extraordinary imagination and an endless array of identities and nationalities. He was a Jew but thought and wrote in Polish and was fluent in German. Though he was immersed in Jewish culture, he was unfamiliar with the Yiddish language. His inspiration came from local and ethnic sources, rather than from the world at large. He avoided travel, and chose to remain in his provincial hometown, which over the course of his life had been subjected to occupation or wars.
Soviet troops encircled Axis forces. From November 19 to 23, 1942, the Soviet army launched Operation Uranus in the attempt to encircle the German sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation was executed at about midway in the five month long Battle of Stalingrad, and aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. The Red Army took advantage of the German army's lack of preparation for the bitter Soviet winter, the fact that German forces were overstretched near Stalingrad, and their lack of heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. Operation Uranus trapped between 250,000 and 300,000 Axis soldiers within an area stretching 50 kilometers (31 mi) from east to west and 40 kilometers (25 mi) north to south, as well as equipment such as 100 tanks, 2,000 artillery pieces and mortars and 10,000 trucks. The withdrawal to Stalingrad resulted in lines of retreat littered with helmets, weapons and other equipment, and heavy equipment which had been destroyed was left on the side of the road. Bridges spanning the Don River were jammed with traffic, as surviving Axis soldiers hastily made their way eastwards in the cold weather, in the attempt to escape the advancing Soviet armor and infantry.