What was Enigma?
The Enigma coding machine, created in 1918 for commercial use by German engineer Arthur Scherbius, was adapted for use by the German armed forces, especially the navy. The Enigma fulfilled the need, realized after World War I, for a secure and mobile military communication device. The decryption of the German Enigma code ultimately turned the tide of the Second World War in favor of the Allies, giving them the ability to evade and deceive the Germans.
The Polish Code Breakers
In the late 1920’s Poland realized that German forces intended to use the Enigma machine for war. The Polish Cypher Bureau recruited the top three mathematics students from the University of Poznan to begin work on breaking the code. Marian Rejewski, the first recruit, was able to break the code in two months using mathematical equations. Later joined by Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski, the three men continued to update their techniques as the Germans made frequent alterations to the machine.
Eventually, the Polish code breakers were able to create replicas of the Enigma machine which they shared with Great Britain and France. Based on the early work by the Poles, British code breakers at Bletchley Park were able to make headway in the decrypting of German military communications, concentrating particularly on those dealing with the German submarine fleet. Among the many brilliant British code breakers the name of Alan Turing particularly stands out. When Poland was invaded by the Germans, Rejewski, Zygalski, Rozycki, and other Polish code breakers fled to France where Rozycki passed away. Eventually the Polish code breakers had to flee from France to various locales, with many escaping to Britain. When the war ended, Rejewski decided to return to Poland to be with his family and Zygalski became a British citizen.
A three-rotor Enigma code machine
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Rejewski, Marian. "How Polish Mathematicians Deciphered the Enigma." Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 213-233. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.692.9386&rep=rep1&type=pdf
This guide was created by Victoria Wilson, English Department Intern, and Ted Bergfelt, Humanities Librarian, September-December 2019