If you were to survey people: Who broke the Enigma code? You’re more likely to get the same response that it was none other than the legendary and brilliant mathematician Alan Turing of Britain. While that is definitely not wrong, it is also not entirely right. If it wasn’t for the grueling work and effort of the overlooked Polish mathematicians, cracking the seemingly formidable German code would be a lot harder. Thus, this was how the team of mathematics genii poured their brains out against the clock at that time when uncertainties and threats of German invasion over Europe were just an arm’s length away.
Securing Independence Through Interception
Poland as a country only gained its independence after World War I. As a young country, they had to work on everything to make sure that they would keep that independence. Its military leaders knew that to do that, they had to stay one if not two steps ahead of its potential adversaries. One way to do that was to intercept and decode those nations’ encrypted messages to make sure that they were not brewing any plan against their country. Lieutenant Jozef Serafin Stanslicki of the Polish Army was tasked to set up a new cipher section in May of 1919. This would later become the Polish Cipher Bureau of the country.
It turned out to be the right idea. They benefited from it when the Polish-Soviet War happened from 1919 to 1921. They successfully intercepted the Russians’ encrypted signal that did not change from what they used during World War I. Because of this, they won the conflict after the decisive Battle of Warsaw. To them, it was a clear sign that their successful interception was a major key to securing both success and independence had a future conflict arise.
The Enigma Code
It was in 1924 when the Poles intercepted baffling broadcasts of a new type of encrypted messages from the German Navy. These messages were almost impossible to decipher because, unknown to the Poles yet, the Germans started using the machine designed and created by German engineer Arthur Scherbius called the Enigma machine. Now, this machine was a whole new different level of encryption that would soon be used by all branches of the German military forces.