The Summit TimesTHE SUMMIT TIMES


Vol. 9, Issue No. 28/2002
 

BRITAIN HONORS POLES FOR BREAKING ENIGMA CODE


A memorial to three Polish mathematicians, who had helped alter the course of World War II by their code-breaking work on Nazi Germany's famous "Enigma" machine, was unveiled on July 11 by Britain's Duke of Kent. The Duke was joined by descendants of the Poles and a message was read from Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski paying tribute to the men.

The Duke, a relative of Queen Elizabeth, honored Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski at Bletchley Park outside London, the former home of the thousands of British and Allied wartime code-breakers. Together, they managed to break the Enigma code, used by the German armed forced to encrypt top secret messages, and even built a replica of one of the Germans' machines.

Their work was a key factor in shortening the 1939-45 conflict, because it helped to break the lethal stranglehold German submarines enjoyed in the Atlantic by sinking vital transatlantic convoys.

A fictional version of the code-breaking story was the subject of a recent film, Enigma," which sparked controversy because it did not properly acknowledge the key role played by Poles. Instead, a Pole was portrayed as a traitor.

In July 1939, just weeks before the outbreak of the war, the Poles passed on their knowledge of German encryption to the British and French at a secret meeting in Poland's capital Warsaw. A few weeks later they delivered two replicas of Enigma machines they had built, one of which was sent to Bletchley Park.

Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the mathematicians, linguists and chess experts who worked at Bletchley during the war as "geese that laid the golden eggs, but never cackled."

Engraved on the sculpture is the inscription: "This commemorates the work of three members of the Polish intelligence service in first breaking the Enigma code. Their work greatly assisted the British code breakers and contributed to the Allied victory in World War Two."
 



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Copyright 2002 by Andrzej M. Salski