New centre dedicated to Polish Enigma codebreakers opens in Poznań
A new centre telling the story of the Polish mathematicians who broke the German cipher machine and contributed to the victory of the Allies in World War II, opens in Poznan this weekend.
Costing around PLN 30 million and modelled on an educational and scientific institution the new Enigma Cipher Centre is divided into three parts which include opportunities for visitors to test their own code-breaking skills, send messages in morse code and see an actual German Enigma machine on loan from the Museum of Polish Arms in Kołobrzeg.
The main focus of the centre, however, is the story of Poznań mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki, who influenced the fate of the world by being the first to break the German cipher machine code in 1932.
Reconstructing the Enigma machine, just before the outbreak of war the young mathematicians gave copies to the English and the French.
The Allies used the work of the Poles throughout the war to read German coded messages and historians estimate that this help shortened the war considerably, thereby saving countless lives.
The idea for the new centre was born almost 10 years ago when Szymon Mazur, a sociology graduate from the university and an enthusiast of Poznań's history, was dismayed that the city that produced the Enigma code-breakers had no place that told their story.
He said: “Breaking the Enigma in 1932 was certainly one of the most important scientific achievements of the 20th century. The people who did it, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski, are among the most outstanding graduates of the University of Poznań.”
He initially put his idea into the first citizens' budget, a scheme in which local residents can vote on what projects get local funding. It received several thousand votes in favour, but this was not enough.
After much effort, the project finally received co-financing from EU funds and the Adam Mickiewicz University was also involved in the project.
The new facility is operated by the Poznań Heritage Centre, the same institution that manages the Poznan Gate.
A challenge for the centre’s designers was how to show the work of mathematicians and cryptologists in an interesting and accessible way.
Mazur said: “Due to the nature of the subject, a traditional museum model does not fit. Ciphers and encryption, decryption, intelligence and counterintelligence are covered with a veil of secrecy, inaccessible for ordinary mortals.
“Therefore, from the very beginning the idea was to create a modern educational and scientific institution that provides knowledge about cryptography and cryptology, ciphers and the breaking, of cipher machines, including the Enigma, in an accessible form, and all this with an emphasis on the three cryptologists who started their adventure with Enigma right here, in Poznan.”