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Issue 4 - October 2000

What A Cracking Job!

Enigma Machine PAINSTAKING work by Polish mathematicians which helped the Allies win World War II has been officially recognised by Britain, more than sixty years on.

The efforts of three Poles in helping to crack the famous Enigma code used by the Nazis had gone largely unrecognised outside of that country since the War.

In an emotional ceremony, the Duke of York presented Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek with an Enigma encoding machine taken from a captured Nazi submarine and described it as "a symbol of our gratefulness and thanks".

At the start of a two-day visit to the country, the Duke said: "The Enigma codes would not have been broken if it were not for the knowledge of Polish mathematicians."

Polish historians say mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski cracked the code in 1933 and gave Britain and France replicas of the Enigma encoding machine in July 1939, just before War broke out.

The Allies' ability to decipher the Nazis' secret messages proved vital throughout the 1939-45 conflict.

It was also suggested by Historian Andrzej Poplonski that about 80 per cent of Britain's intelligence about secret Nazi operations came from Polish sources.

But there has long been anger at what was perceived as the British taking the credit for the code-craking, and even today the Encyclopedia Britannica carries no mention of the Polish role.

Poplonski said: "Until the mid-1970s no one in western Europe knew about us. The British passed on our information on as their own."

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the three mathematicians fled to France where they continued to work for the intelligence services.

Rozycki was killed in 1940 near the Balearic Islands, Zygalski died in 1978 in Britain and Rejewski died two years later in Warsaw.

They were honoured last July with posthumous decorations that were given to their families.


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