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Polish Senate calls for 'justice' over WWII Enigma code-breakers

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 09.10.2012 12:46
Poland's Senate is preparing a resolution that seeks to honour the “marginalised” Polish contribution to the cracking of Nazi Germany's wartime Enigma codes.
Enigma machineEnigma machine

Enigma machine

“In Western Europe, there is still the lingering notion that the breaking of the ciphers was the achievement of the English,” said Senator Jan Rulewski (Civic Platform), in an interview with Polska Zbrojna (Armed Poland), a weekly published by an offshoot of the Ministry of Defence.

“The Senate wants to restore justice,” he added.

The decoding of ciphers of Germany's Enigma Machine played a key role in the Allied victory, and historians have argued that the war was shortened by several years thanks to information gleaned by cryptographers.

In July 1939, on the eve of war, the Polish General Staff's Cipher Bureau demonstrated to their British and French counterparts how to crack the Nazi communications system. The Poles had been the only ones to penetrate the network, and had been unravelling German codes since 1932.

Three mathematicians, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski were instrumental in the Polish operation.

Continued work was then undertaken by the British at Bletchley Park, a manor in central England that had been commandeered by British Intelligence for the war effort.

Although the three Poles did not take part in work at Bletchley, a memorial endures there paying tribute to the achievements of the Polish cryptographers.

However, Polish senators believe that the frequent absence of references to Poland's cryptographers in foreign history books requires action.

Professor Roman Kuzniar, an adviser to President Bronislaw Komorowski, has applauded the initiative.

“If we don't highlight our achievements, then nobody is going to do it for us,” he said.

His opinion reflects post-war Polish emigrants to the UK, who were outraged by the 2001 movie Enigma, starring Kate Winslet and based on Robert Harris' novel of the same name.

“The English author chose to portray a Pole as a traitor, although obviously we feel that this is a gratuitous slur on Poles who fought side by side with their British allies,” stated Andrzej Morawicz, then President of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain.

Poland's Senate will open an exhibition about the country's contribution to Enigma code-breaking on 17 October, the same day that members will vote on adopting the resolution. (nh)

tags: World War 2
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