We would like to present to you the heroes who contributed to the great success of breaking the code of the German encrypting machine ENIGMA. The first three of them are the young talented mathematicians – the graduates of the Cryptology Course written by Ciężki, Palluth and Langer. Each of these six heroes contributed significantly to the victory of the Allies during World War II.

Henryk Zygalski (1908-1978)

A research worker at Poznań University and the Polish Cipher Bureau. He designed the so-called Zygalski sheets, i.e. perforated sheets used for determining a sequence of coding rotors of Enigma. During World War II Henryk Zygalski was evacuated together with the fellow workers of the Cipher Bureau to France. He worked for a secret radio-monitoring unit under the codenames Bruno and Cadix for several years, and later he got through Spain to Great Britain. He continued his intelligence and cryptology works for the Polish Armed Forces in the Signals Battalion of the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief. After the war, he remained in Great Britain where he taught at higher education schools.

Marian Rejewski (1905-1980)

A chief Polish cryptologist who played a key role in the first attack on the Enigma ciphers and in December 1932 achieved a success. In 1929 he graduated from Poznań University at the Faculty of Mathematics and Life Sciences. Marian Rejewski attended the cryptology course organised for mathematics students in Poznań by Maksymilian Ciężki and Gwido Langer. After the outbreak of World War II, he continued successfully breaking the new protections of the German military ciphers. He was evacuated to France where he continued his work in the parts of France unoccupied by the Germans. After France was fully occupied by Germany, Marian Rejewski escaped through Spain and Portugal to Great Britain where he took up a job in the Polish Armed Forces. After the war, he returned to Poland where he was persecuted and invigilated by the communist authorities. It was not until the 70s of the previous century that he revealed his contribution to the cracking of the Enigma’s ciphers, as a result of publications issued abroad.

Jerzy Różycki (1909-1942)

The youngest of the three cryptologists. He graduated from Poznań University with two master’s degrees (in mathematics and geography). Jerzy Różycki was one of the students who attended the cryptology course organised by the Cipher Bureau. After the outbreak of World War II, together with the fellow workers of the Cipher Bureau, he was evacuated to France. Thanks to his organisational skills he was assigned to organise in Algeria a branch of the military intelligence service. He died in a crash of the “Lamoriciere” ship while returning to France from Algeria.

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The work on breaking the Enigma code was also addressed by others. Their figures are presented at www.enigma.umww.pl.


Gustave Bertrand

Alastair Denniston

Dillwyn Knox

Arthur Scherbius

Alan Turing

Calendar of events
  • 1918 – Arthur Scherbius submits a patent application for the Enigma cipher machine.

Scherbius's Enigma patent—U.S. Patent 1,657,411, granted in 1928.

  • 1926 – Enigma is used by the German navy.
  • 1928 – Enigma is used by the German land forces.
  • 1929, January – a cryptology course is launched at the University of Poznań; it is attended, among others, by Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski.
  • 1929, summer – having completed the cryptology course, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski start to work at the Cipher Office branch in Poznań.
  • 1930, summer – Marian Rejewski, after returning from Göttingen, also starts to work at the Cipher Office.
  • 1932, September – the team of the Poznań branch of Cipher Office is transferred to Warsaw.
  • 1932, October – Maksymilian Ciężki entrusts the task of breaking the Enigma code to Marian Rejewski.
  • 1932, December – Marian Rejewski recreates the machine and breaks first messages encrypted with Enigma.

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Maksymilian Ciężki (1898-1951)

He organised the scouting movement in his hometown, Szamotuły,  commanded a unit during the Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) Uprising. He participated in the Polish-Soviet War (1920) as a member of a special monitor and radiolocation group. Thanks to his experience as a cryptologist and radio operator Ciężki, together with an engineer Antoni Palluth, were assigned to a German section of the Polish intelligence service dealing with decrypting of German codes and ciphers. It was Maksymilian Ciężki who formed the team of the outstanding Polish mathematicians, whose contribution to the victory of the Allies in World War II. The Colonel Maksymilian Ciężki died in poverty in 1951 in Great Britain.

Antoni Palluth (1900-1942)

An officer of the Polish Communication Unit. Antoni Palluth was employed by the Polish military intelligence as a cryptology expert in the German section of the Cipher Bureau. In 1929 Antoni Palluth became a lecturer at Poznań University and gave lectures in military cryptology. A group of young graduates of mathematics at Poznań University completed his course. This is how the story of breaking of the German Enigma machine cipher began. Antoni Palluth was the main coordinator of their works. It was thanks to him that the Poles succeeded in recreating the German cipher machine. After the outbreak of World War II, Antoni Palluth was evacuated to France, where his cryptology related works were continued. In 1942 during another evacuation, to England, Antoni Palluth was captured by German forces at the Spanish border and taken to the German Sachsen Hausen-Oranienburg concentration camp. Palluth died during an Allied air raid of the camp.

Gwido Langer (1894-1948)

He was a student at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. During World War I, as an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s army, he fought in the region of Sądecki and Niski Beskid where he was taken prisoner by Russians. After being freed from captivity, he joined the Polish army which was being formed in Siberia. During the October Revolution he was taken captive again, by Soviets, and also managed to escape. Gwido Langer was the chief of the Cipher Bureau of the Polish Armed Forces in the period when it achieved its greatest successes. After the outbreak of World War II, together with other staff members of the Bureau, he was evacuated to France where he worked until 1943, the beginning of the German occupation of the so-called “free zone”. He made an unsuccessful attempt at geting through the Pyrenees to Spain. Having been betrayed by a French guide, he was taken prisoner by the Germans and remained in captivity until the end of the war. However, Gwido Langer never disclosed the secret of breaking the Enigma. After the war, he went to Great Britain, where he died in unclear circumstances. His remains were brought to Poland on 1st December 2010 and buried at the Communal Cemetery in Cieszyn.

 




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