Posts Tagged ‘Polish’

Polish codebreakers ‘cracked Enigma before Alan Turing’

February 21st, 2016

By the time war broke out the Germans had increased the sophistication of the machine and the Poles were struggling to make more headway. But based on the Polish knowledge, Turing managed to build a huge computer that would finally crack the cipher.

However, despite their help, history and Hollywood has largely ignored their role. The most recent film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, barely mentioned the Poles.

Now the Polish government has launched a touring exhibition entitled “Enigma – Decipher Victory” to remind the world of their crucial contribution. They have already taken the exhibition to Canada and Brussels.

Maciej Pisarski, deputy chief of mission, Polish Embassy in Washington, said: “The story of Engima was very important to us and the breaking of Enigma code was one of the most important contributions of Poland to the Allies victory during the Second World War.

“Out contribution to Enigma is something that we learned a lot about as children in Poland but we have a feeling that the knowledge is not so widespread. It was a crucial association which gave the allies the edge over the Germans.

“We were trapped on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War which meant we did not get the credit that we should have received and nobody wanted to admit that anyone in Eastern Europe had anything to do with Enigma.

“We felt it was important to fill in the blanks. It is our moral obligation to right this wrong and put this picture in a more complete way.”

The Enigma machine was invented by German engineer Arthur Sherbius at the end of the First World Wat and were used by the military and government of several countries. The British had struggled to work out how to crack the early Enigma machines, and by the early 1930s the Poles were way ahead.

Poland’s main codebreakers were Jerzy Rozycki, Henryk Zygalski and Marian Rejewski who joined the Polish General Staff’s Cipher Bureau in Warsaw.

While Britain still used linguists to break codes, the Poles had understood that it was necessary to use mathematics to look for patterns and had broken some of the early pre-war German codes.

They had then taken a further step by building electro-mechanical machines to search for solutions, which they called “bombes”.

On the eve of war in 1939 Bletchely codebreakers Alastair Denniston and Dilly Knox met with members of the Cipher Bureau at a secret facility in a forest in Pyry near Warsaw to share their knowledge.

Alan Turing, also later visited the Polish codebreakers and used their knowledge to develop his own “bombe” capable of breaking the more complex wartime Enigma codes.

But the Poles have received little credit, most notably in the recent film The Imitation Game, where their contribution was dismissed with a single sentence.

Dr Grazyna Zebrowska, science and technology advisor for the Polish Embassy in Washington, said: “I think the real story has been lost over time.

“The Polish involvement was well known during World War Two but during the communist time it was not so convenient to admit that there had been so much cooperation between Britain and Poland. It was a very special and very secret alliance.

“The Imitation Game film is all about Turing and everyone in Britain and it is just meant to be a short space of time, but I think there was an audible sigh in Polish cinemas when our contribution was reduced to just one line.

“We’re hoping this exhibition will show the work of the Polish mathematicians.”

Codebreakers at Bletchley Park, 1942

Speaking about The Imitation Game, Pisarski, added “I am sure it is a very good movie but I don’t think it tried to tell the whole story.

“We want to present a more complete picture of the past. It’s important to do justice to the people involved but to underline and underscore the strong cooperation between Britain and Poland when it came to Enigma.”

Polish pilots had the highest kill rates in the Battle of Britain, Polish troops fought in the North African, Italian and Normandy campaigns, and were involved in the Battle for Berlin.

Despite their efforts, a British desire to appease Stalin meant that Polish forces, still under the command of Poland’s independent government in exile, were banned from taking part in official V-E Day celebrations.

During the war Polish codebreakers Zygalski and Rejewsk ended up in England with the Army where they tried to join the Bletchley codebreakers but nobody would acknowledge the team existed.

Zygalski ended up working as a mathematician at the University of Surrey.


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Polish army will be drafted in to settle Nazi gold train mystery

September 1st, 2015

Meanwhile authorities have blocked public access to the site following a suspicious forest fire over the weekend.

At a crisis meeting on Tuesday morning, police, the town council and the local forestry commission agreed to seal off the area.

Police and technicians have now erected signs warning would-be explorers not to trespass in the area.

The embankment by the Wroclaw-Walbrzych main line considered to be the favourite for the train’s location in the town of Walbrzych, southern Poland, was badly scorched along with 219 square yards of forest and bush.

The blaze was only contained when five fire engines were scrambled to the scene after the alarm was raised at around 8pm on Sunday night.

Locals come to take a look at the believed location of the the Nazi 'Gold Train'at Walbrzych

On Friday a Polish official confirmed that an object had been found which may be the fabled Nazi ‘gold train’.

Piotr Zuchowski, head of conservation at Poland’s culture ministry, said his officials had seen radar images of a train discovered by two treasure hunters who had been tipped off to its location by one of the men who hid it.

“A man on his deathbed gave the people looking for the train the information they needed to find it,” he said, describing the find as “unprecedented”.

The Polish culture ministry later said on Tuesday it would no longer comment on the train, saying in a statement that all questions should now be referred to the Dolny Slask authorities.

Both Walbrzych and Dolny Slask authorities have previously said they remain sceptical about the train and had seen no conclusive evidence of its existence.

Since the end of the Second World War rumours of Nazi gold train disappearing without trace have flourished in the town of Walbrzych, in south-west Poland, close to the border with the Czech Republic.

Although the train’s cargo is as yet unknown, Polish officials have confirmed that the two treasure hunters will be in line for a finder’s bounty.

Mr Zuchowski said: “If it is confirmed, the train is carrying valuable items, the finders can expect a 10 per cent finder’s fee, either in the form of a reward from the ministry or from the owners of the property.

“Of course any items of value will be returned to their original owners, assuming we can find them.”

Meanwhile experts have claimed that the apparent discovery of a Nazi train thought to be packed with looted treasures could be the first of many, suggesting just a fraction of Hitler’s vast tunnel complex in the country has so far been discovered.

Walbrzych in western Poland has been gripped by the decades-old mystery of missing Nazi gold trains since officials said on Friday they are ’99 per cent certain’ that a hidden train has been discovered by treasure hunters.

Matt cartoon, 1 September


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On the hunt for the Nazi gold train: Inside the Polish tunnels hiding the bullion

August 23rd, 2015

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

This is a measure nobody before has taken, and has fuelled speculation that this time somebody may have actually found something.

But just where the train might have been found remains unknown. The two who have claimed to have found it have kept the location under wraps, saying, through their lawyer, that they may reveal their secret to the president of Walbrzych next week. But until then the location stays secret.

The local press have claimed one place the train could lie is the village of Walim. Stretched along a valley some 12 miles west of Walbrzych and overlooked by the forested Owl Mountains, Walim has emerged as a contender for the location because its hills are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels.

One of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich, Project Riese involved digging miles of tunnels in a series of complexes across the Walbrzych region, which was until 1945 part of Germany. Thousands of slave labourers died hewing the rock for reasons that still remain unclear. Some say the tunnels were for a secret command centre, others claim they were for underground factories for Hitler’s secret weapons, or even hid research on an atomic bomb.

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

To this day not all the tunnels have been explored so believers in the gold train legend say the locomotive and its cargo may still lie hidden in a secret siding.

On his office computer Pawel Brzozowski, Walim’s director of culture and tourism, pulled up an old German map of the village. It showed a now non-existent railway line running into Walim. He explained the theory was that there may have been a special track laid that led into a Reise tunnel.

“In May we found that somebody had carried out illegal digging on one of the hills near the cemetery not far from the track may have been, and this indicates that somebody has been searching,” he said.

Some of the tunnels and caverns in Walim’s hills are large, big enough, perhaps, to house a train. Mr Brzozowski said he hopes the legend and its gold lies buried somewhere in the hills but maintains a dose of scepticism.

“It would be important for us, if it was found,” he explained. “It could bring people here, and already people are asking about it. We are just waiting to see what happens. But some people laugh about it because there have always been stories about the train.”

Further up the valley at the entrance to Walim’s Reise tunnels, now a tourist attraction, Marcin Pasek, shakes his head at talk of finding the gold train. A tunnel guide for five years he has heard the legend many times and it still fails to ring true for him.

“I have my reservations about this,” he said with a slight laugh. “There has been talk but no evidence. Maybe there was some treasure but why leave it on a train? In the past Nazi loot has always been found in boxes: never on a train. Or maybe somebody has found a train, but perhaps it’s just an old abandoned train with no treasure.”

While his scepticism about the discovery claims appears to strike a chord with many people in the Walbrzych region there is also abundant hope the train and its precious cargo will soon be uncovered. That would bring a surge of publicity to a region unknown to many in Europe, and provide a an economic boost to town to a that has suffered of late.

Mines around Walbrzych have closed, jobs lost and the population has dropped 170,000 to 110,000 in just 25 years.

“We hope it’s true. For this region it would be good news,” said Mr Marciniak, the cafe owner. “But even it isn’t, the legend will live on,” he added with a smile. “Nobody ever sees the Loch Ness monster but people still go to Loch Ness.”


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On the hunt for the Nazi gold train: Inside the Polish tunnels that may hold the bullion

August 22nd, 2015

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

This is a measure nobody before has taken, and has fuelled speculation that this time somebody may have actually found something.

But just where the train might have been found remains unknown. The two who have claimed to have found it have kept the location under wraps, saying, through their lawyer, that they may reveal their secret to the president of Walbrzych next week. But until then the location stays secret.

The local press have claimed one place the train could lie is the village of Walim. Stretched along a valley some 12 miles west of Walbrzych and overlooked by the forested Owl Mountains, Walim has emerged as a contender for the location because its hills are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels.

One of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich, Project Riese involved digging miles of tunnels in a series of complexes across the Walbrzych region, which was until 1945 part of Germany. Thousands of slave labourers died hewing the rock for reasons that still remain unclear. Some say the tunnels were for a secret command centre, others claim they were for underground factories for Hitler’s secret weapons, or even hid research on an atomic bomb.

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

To this day not all the tunnels have been explored so believers in the gold train legend say the locomotive and its cargo may still lie hidden in a secret siding.

On his office computer Pawel Brzozowski, Walim’s director of culture and tourism, pulled up an old German map of the village. It showed a now non-existent railway line running into Walim. He explained the theory was that there may have been a special track laid that led into a Reise tunnel.

“In May we found that somebody had carried out illegal digging on one of the hills near the cemetery not far from the track may have been, and this indicates that somebody has been searching,” he said.

Some of the tunnels and caverns in Walim’s hills are large, big enough, perhaps, to house a train. Mr Brzozowski said he hopes the legend and its gold lies buried somewhere in the hills but maintains a dose of scepticism.

“It would be important for us, if it was found,” he explained. “It could bring people here, and already people are asking about it. We are just waiting to see what happens. But some people laugh about it because there have always been stories about the train.”

Further up the valley at the entrance to Walim’s Reise tunnels, now a tourist attraction, Marcin Pasek, shakes his head at talk of finding the gold train. A tunnel guide for five years he has heard the legend many times and it still fails to ring true for him.

“I have my reservations about this,” he said with a slight laugh. “There has been talk but no evidence. Maybe there was some treasure but why leave it on a train? In the past Nazi loot has always been found in boxes: never on a train. Or maybe somebody has found a train, but perhaps it’s just an old abandoned train with no treasure.”

While his scepticism about the discovery claims appears to strike a chord with many people in the Walbrzych region there is also abundant hope the train and its precious cargo will soon be uncovered. That would bring a surge of publicity to a region unknown to many in Europe, and provide a an economic boost to town to a that has suffered of late.

Mines around Walbrzych have closed, jobs lost and the population has dropped 170,000 to 110,000 in just 25 years.

“We hope it’s true. For this region it would be good news,” said Mr Marciniak, the cafe owner. “But even it isn’t, the legend will live on,” he added with a smile. “Nobody ever sees the Loch Ness monster but people still go to Loch Ness.”


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Polish nightclub owner defends giant yellow swastika

February 27th, 2015

But Marek Pelian said the design was a yellow path to guide his guests.

“What swastika? This is just the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz,” he told the local press, explaining that one arm of the design leads to the nightclub’s door while another will lead to an outdoor stage that has yet to be built.

“This design has four arms, just like the galaxy, and this is an astronomical disco,” he added as further explanation. “Just because Hitler used it does not mean it’s a sign of totalitarianism.”

His explanation has failed to win everyone over.

• Paving stone swastika embarrasses German town

In a commentary piece for Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading Polish newspaper, Pawel Krysiak, a Czestochowa resident, said in Poland the swastika will always be “associated with genocide, not the Wizard Oz,” and reminded Mr Pelian of what happened to Czestochowa’s Jews during the war.

“In the autumn of 1942 the Nazis deported 40,000 people to the Treblinka death camp,” he wrote. “This is what happened to people under the sign of the swastika. Czestochowa still lives in the shadow of this crime and we do not want to forget it.”


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