Saturday, February 21, 2015

Compromise of Polish communications in WWII – an overview

In WWII Poland fought on the side of the Allies and suffered for it since it was the first country occupied by Nazi Germany. At the end of the war the suffering of the Poles did not end since they had to endure the Soviet occupation of their country and the installation of a communist regime. 

The betrayal of Poland by its Western Allies was a hard blow, especially since its armed forces fought bravely in multiple campaigns. Polish pilots fought for the RAF during the Battle of Britain, Polish troops fought in N.Africa, Italy and Western Europe, the Polish intelligence service operated in occupied Europe and even had agents inside the German high command. Finally the Poles had managed to solve the German Enigma cipher machine in the 1930’s and when they shared the details of their solution with British and French officials in July 1939 they helped them avoid a costly and time consuming theoretical attack on the Enigma.
Considering this impressive success of the Polish cipher bureau one would expect that Polish codes would have a high standard of security and that Polish military, diplomatic and intelligence communications would be secure from eavesdroppers. Surprisingly this was not the case. Even though the Poles periodically upgraded their cipher systems it was possible both for the Germans and the Anglo-Americans to read some of their most secret messages.

1). The main Polish diplomatic codes were read in the prewar period and in the years 1940-42.
2). The code used by the Polish resistance movement for communications with the London based Government in Exile was read by the Germans since 1942 (by the agents section of OKH/In 7/VI).

3). The code of the Polish intelligence service in occupied France was solved in 1943 and messages of the ‘Lubicz’ network were read. The book ‘Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949’, p529 says about this group: ‘Some of the Polish networks were very productive. One based in the south of France run by ‘Lubicz' (Zdzislaw Piatkiewicz) had 159 agents, helpers and couriers, who in August and September 1943 provided 481 reports, of which P.5 circulated 346. Dunderdale's other organizations were rather smaller’.
I’m going to cover this case in the future.

4). Polish diplomatic/military attache communications on the link Washington-London seem to have been read by the Germans and the British. A German intelligence officer named Zetzsche said in TICOM report I-159 ‘Report on GAF Intelligence based on Interrogation of Hauptmann Zetzsche’, p3
‘Intelligence concerning foreign diplomatic exchanges was received from the Forschungsamt (subordinated directly to GOERING) through Ic/Luftwesen/Abwehr, and was given a restricted distribution. It consisted of intercepted Allied radio-telegrams (e.g. London-Stockholm), ordinary radio reports (e.g. Atlantic Radio) and intercepted traffic between diplomats and ministers on certain links, e.g. Ankara-Moscow (Turks), Bern-Washington (Americans), London-Washington (Poles).

10. The last-mentioned source was of great value before and during the invasion and after the breaking-off of Turkish-German relations. In general the Forschungsamt reports contained a great deal of significant information concerning economic and political matters.’
The British also read this traffic as can be seen from messages like the following:

5). Polish intelligence/military attaché messages from the Middle East and Bern, Switzerland were read by the Germans throughout the war. For example:

Unfortunately there is limited information available on these cases and some very interesting TICOM reports have not been declassified by the NSA yet. Once they are released I will be able to rewrite these essays.

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