“To all commandants of airfields throughout Germany ……….order the apprehension and transportation to Belin, alive or dead ….. of chief of staff Ernst Rohm, ………………..”
The elite Polish codebreaking team, Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Rozycki were stunned into shocked silence as they realised implications of the message they had decoded using the Polish Enigma machine which had been constructed under Marian’s direction.
The intercepted message was of the highest security classification. It was made under the direction of Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany’s sole political party, the Nazi’s. The message authorised the apprehension alive or dead of many of Germany’s leading political figures. In itself shocking, as this was effectively a death warrant for those named on the list, the instruction swept away hundreds of years of established German jurisprudence- accused persons were entitled to a trial. Removing this fundamental right to a trial was dispensing with, as if of no significance, one of the fundamental rights in a civilised society.
Ernst Rohm was the leader of the Sturmbteiling (SA), the paramilitary branch of the Nazi party. He was known to be a staunch Nazi supporter and one of its earliest members. He had demonstrated himself to be one of Hitler’s supporters.
The appearance of Ernst Rohm’s name on the list indicated both Hitler’s ruthlessness and strength as a political figure. Ernst Rohm as commander of the SA was powerful. The SA enjoyed a degree of independence and could potentially pose a threat to Hitler’s autonomy if there was a divergence in their political views in the future. That Hitler was prepared to order the death of such a high level ally demonstrated both Hitler’s confidence in his own authority and his ruthlessness in that he was prepared to remove even those who posed a potential threat to his power.
Between the 30thJune and 2ndJuly 1934, under Hitler’s direction hundreds of people were apprehended. The death toll estimates are between eighty-five and one thousand.
Many of those apprehended were immediately executed, others were afforded ‘one minute trials’ before being shot by firing squads.
The Nazi party in the aftermath of ‘Operation Hummingbird’ ordered destruction of all documentary evidence of the orders. Attempts were made to prevent true figures of the death toll from being published.
Days afterwards the German legislature introduced a new law legitimising self-defence by the state in the face of treason –effectively retrospective legislation authorising the murders.
Hitler gave a speech stating “Let it be known for all time to come, that if anyone raises his hand to strike the State, he will die.” His actions effectively established himself as “the supreme administrator of justice for the German people.”
He had in the ‘ Night of the Long Knives’ killed of existing opposition and sent a chilling message of intimidation to those who might consider opposition to his vision for Germany in the future.
The Polish codebreakers watched anxiously over the next few days as the Nazi propaganda machine rolled into action and the justifications for the deaths rolled across newsreels. They had accessed the top secret messages. They knew that Hitler had ordered the murder of his fellow Germans, his supporters and those who might pose a threat to his government. These actions told them more clearly than any encoded message that Poland would be dealt with ruthlessly if Germany chose to invade and seek return of her ‘lost territories’. With heavy hearts they intensified their vital codebreaking work.
Author The Cypher Bureau
CROMARTY CRIME AND THRILLERS WEEKEND CROMARTY BLACK ISLE APRIL 2018
Cromarty Crime and Thrillers Weekend is an excellent opportunity to attend courses and listen to crime and thriller writers talk about their books. Cromarty, famous to anyone familiar with the shipping forecast is situated on the Cromarty Firth in the north east coast of Scotland. The historic fishing village, boasting museums in the form of a thatched cottage to writer Hugh Miller and Cromarty Court House which re-enactment ancient trials.
It happens to be one of my most favourite places so I booked as soon as it was possible to do so.
For those who opt for the residential weekend, accommodation is in the Old Brewery with meals and generous portions of wine included. The weekend flew past, opening with a reception dinner which was followed by series of three hugely entertaining whodunits presented by the local drama society. I won’t give details –no spoilers here.
On Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to attend a workshop held by Shona McLean who-as I was able to proudly tell anyone who would listen- was in the same latin class as me at school. Ian Rankin chatted entertainingly and informatively to his editor about the publishing process and then there was an intriguing talk by Mary Ellis about her book, The Other Mrs Walker. The evening entertainment was dinner and a film. On Sunday, I found myself next to Professor Dame Sue Black who is a particular hero of mine, at breakfast, so star struck or what, it was a real privilege to chat to her about ‘the headless corpse,’ episode on Dan Snow’s History Hits. Sue was, in the course of the program, dubbed, much to her disgust by Dan Snow, as a national treasure. The episode concerned of course the investigation into a coffin at Wardlaw Mausoleum alleged to hold the body of Simon, The Fox, Lovat, the last man to be beheaded for treason at the Tower of London. Also, for Outlander fans the very real uncle of fictional character Jamie Fraser. The episode concluded that the body in the coffin was that of a thirty-year-old woman. Simon the Fox therefore has continued to be as wily in death as in life. Whilst it would appear his body lies in the Tower of London, many Fraser enthusiasts believe the wrong coffin was opened and that his body was returned to his highland seat as he wished and lies in one of the other coffins in the mausoleum.
Breakfast over it was a real privilege to listen to the updates on Rosmarkie Man and Prof Dame Sue Black talking about her one and only fictional book –All That Remains- I can’t wait to read it. The weekend closed with presentations my local authors and prize awards for a writing competition. An excellent weekend. Thoroughly recommend it!
E = MC2
Energy can neither be created or destroyed.
And so it is said that the Battle of Culloden is fought, year after year, on the same site, on the anniversary. Ghosts. Trapped forever in a moment. No wonder spirits remain. The Highlanders who fought at Culloden were fighting for their lives, their families, their future, their language and their culture. They lost. And in losing unleashed one of the most horrific periods in Scottish history. The repercussions for the survivors of the battle were brutal. No quarter was given to wounded soldiers. They were executed. No quarter was given to Jacobite sympathisers. They were executed. Men, women, children, the elderly, the infirm. Gaelic, the language of the Scots was outlawed, as was their tartan. The Battle of Culloden ended the Clan system in Scotland and heralded the beginning of the Highland Clearances. Now, ancestors of those who fought return, like salmon seeking their birth place, year on year from around the world, seeking they know not what, but compelled none the less. From the America’s, from Canada, from New Zealand and Australia. That is energy.
Strangely, by coincidence, I too have found myself at Culloden Battlefield on the 16thof April for the last three years. One of my earliest memories is of visiting the battlefield. I have visited the site frequently throughout my life and even now it is a place that never fails to draw me. I find it the most atmospheric place on earth. Second- Loch Ness, Highlands. Scotland. Third- Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland, Fourth-Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. Not every day of course. But dark days, when clouds grey and black drift across the sky and only rare shafts of light break through, falling like ghostly ladders to the ground below. When the hills around the Moray Firth in the distance are sprinkled with snow and when sheets of sleet bite the skin and the beginnings of a gale begin to howl through the few trees which sprinkle the moor. On days like that, there is no other place on earth like the moor and it is easy to believe in ghosts and a lot more beside.
This year it was sunny and the ghosts, for me, were less evident. I had the particular pleasure of attending a talk by Inverness Library about a selection of ancient books they had discovered in their archives. The books, it appeared had been placed in boxes for disposal and had not been catalogued. When the library was being prepared for renovation the books were discovered and their importance realised. The catalogue of books are unlikely –as a result of their age and fragility to be generally available in the library but are available by appointment by contacting Inverness Library by telephone at 01463 236463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
First hand testimony
Ref 368 The Book of Lamentations of Charles Anon 1746
Ref 2914 The Contrast Anon 1825
Politics and Propoganda
Ref 369 An Answer to the 2ndManifesto of the Pretender’s eldest son Britannicus 1745
Ref 370 Hereditary right not Indefeasible A True Scotchman 1745
Music, Plays and Poetry
Ref 63 The Rise and Progress of the Rebellion. D. Graham 1803
Ref 2571 The Pageant (10 plays) Anon 1939
A collection of sermons Various 1745
The Unexpected and the Unusual
385 Notes on the Swords from the Battlefield Lord Archibald Campbell 1894
The full catalogue of books is available on request from the library.
It was a real privilege to have an opportunity to see the books and listen to the presentation.
Question time at the close of the presentation became quite heated, perhaps surprisingly given that it related to ancient books, but the point was made emphatically that ‘fake news’
is no modern invention.
CRIME AT THE CASTLE GLAMIS CASTLE 24TH FEBRUARY 2018
‘Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis!
All as the weird women promised,
And I fear Thou play’d most foully for’t.’
Blanquo, MacBeth, Shakespere.
What a venue. Congratulations to the organisers for choosing this fantastic location for a crime writing festival. The castle was closed to the public for the duration of the festival and as events were programmed throughout the day, with generous intervals, there were many opportunities to wander around the castle, indoors and outdoors-although there was a bitterly cold wind, and soak up the atmosphere.
Book signings in the Crypt were a perfect opportunity to mingle with the authors and buy some books- as usual I came home with a heavy suitcase. The courses and talks were excellent.
The anti-chamber to the castle crypt is called Duncan’s Hall, and is described as the site of the murder of King Duncan as narrated in MacBeth, by Shakespere. Whilst there are mixed views as to the veracity of the claim, the castle has no shortage of dark history.
Glamis Castle is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Strathmore.(Earls of Angus). First recordings of the castle’s turbulent past begins with the mysterious assignation of King Malcolm II of Alba at the site of the current castle in 1034. King James V was kidnapped as a young man by the 6thEarl of Angus. James, subsequently, perhaps in revenge charged the Earl’s widow of murdering her husband and plotting to kill the king. She was convicted of witchcraft and burnt at the stake in 1537. Her son, the 7thEarl was also sentenced to death although he was released on the death of the James V. Turbulent times. The castle was visited by Mary Queen of Scots, Cromwell’s forces, the Old Pretender, Government forces after Culloden, even becoming a military hospital during the First World War. The castle lays claim to several ghosts, the White Lady-the countess burned for witchcraft, the Grey Lady and even Scotland’s first black ghost-a servant child left to sit on a stool as punishment who was subsequently forgotten and froze to death. Earl Beardie –who played a hand of card with the devil and lost his soul and many more.
The Crime at the Castle Crime Writing Festival provided an excellent opportunity to attendees to visit a fantastic historic venue, listen to established crime writer’s talk about their books and inspiration- I particularly enjoyed chatting with Chris Brookmyre in the castle lounge, getting some one to one advice from Alex Grey, and catching up with my latin class school-mate S.G. McLean who writes intriguing historical crime. There was also a delicious lunch in the castle dining room.
Anyone attending the festival looking for inspiration to start their own writing adventure has really no excuse for not getting on with it!
13th February 2018 is the thirty eighth anniversary of the death of Marian Adam Rejewski, the Polish mathematician who cracked the Enigma code. The code used by the Nazi’s in the lead up to and during the Second World War.
My novel, The Cypher Bureau, is of course inspired by the life of Marian Adam Rejewski but I still find it extra-ordinary how little appears to be known about his achievements, certainly in the United Kingdom. Marian Rejewski and his colleagues Hendry Zygalski and Jerzy Rozycki were awarded an INEE Milestone award, an award given only to persons of good standing whose achievements have changed the world. The award was given post humously in 2014.
The academic world has long recognised the achievements of Rejewski and his colleagues. Why then are his achievements still not widely recognised in Britain?
There would appear to be a number of factors-
The nature of Rejewski’s work was secret. Had it been discovered by the Nazi’s that the Enigma code they were using was not secure then they would have stopped using the code immediately and the work carried out by the Allied cryptologists would have been wasted. All Allied personal involved with Enigma were sworn to secrecy. Indeed, I recall seeing an Octogenarian being interviewed not so terribly long ago about the work she had been involved in at Bletchley Park-Britain’s top secret decoding base, and she refused, very politely to give any information, citing The Official Secrets Act. Ten thousand people worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. The Polish Cypher Bureau constructed Enigma machines to their own design in a factory in Warsaw before the outbreak of the Second World War. Further machines were constructed in a factory in Paris during France’s occupation. It was an extra-ordinary achievement that the secret that the code had been broken did not come to the attention of the Nazi’s before the war ended. There is no evidence to suggest that they ever thought the code had been broken. Secrecy was the game of the Allied code breakers and they were good at it!
After the Second World War came The Cold War. Some of the most prominent English codebreakers died during the war or soon afterwards. Dilly Knox of lymphoma in 1943, Alan Turing of cyanide poisoning in 1954 and Alaistair Denniston aged 79 in 1961. They were not able to comment on the legacy. For the Poles, in Russian occupied Poland there would have been no incentive to provide information about their involvement in code breaking. Before leaving Britain to return to Poland, Marian Rejewski was advised that it would be prudent to keep a low profile.
Notwithstanding the above, I think it has been perhaps natural for the British historian to promote the work of Bletchley Park. Alan Turing was an extraordinary mathematician and has been credited with invention of the first computer. However, first to crack the Enigma code he was not. This crown was not claimed by Turing himself. It is those who came afterwards either through ignorance or carelessness.
Perhaps it is a form of nationalism to accredit someone of the same nationality where possible with a prestigious achievement- being Scottish, it is perfectly obvious to me that the Scots invented just about everything- Churchill himself said “Of all the small nations of the earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.”