August 16, 2018




Marian Adam Rejewski (dob) was a Polish mathematician and cryptologist who reconstructed the Nazi German military Enigma cipher machine sight-unseen in 1932. The cryptologic achievements of Rejewski and colleagues Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski enabled the British to begin reading German Enigma-encrypted messages at the start of World War II, seven years after Rejewski's original reconstruction of the machine. The intelligence that was gained by the British from Enigma decrypts later formed part of what was code-named Ultra and contributed to the defeat of Germany. In 1929, while studying mathematics at Poznań University, Rejewski attended a secret cryptology course conducted by the Polish General Staff's Cipher Bureau (Biuro Szyfrów), which he joined in September 1932. The Bureau had had no success in reading Enigma-enciphered messages and set Rejewski to work on the problem in late 1932; he deduced the machine's secret internal wiring after only a few weeks. Rejewski and his two colleagues then developed successive techniques for the regular decryption of Enigma messages. His contributions included the cryptologic card catalog, derived using the cyclometer that he had invented, and the cryptologic bomb.  Five weeks before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Rejewski and colleagues presented their achievements to French and British intelligence representatives summoned to Warsaw. Shortly after the outbreak of war, the Polish cryptologists were evacuated to France, where they continued breaking Enigma-enciphered messages. After the Fall of France, they and their support staff evacuated,  and they resumed work undercover a few months later in Vichy France. After the French "Free Zone" was occupied by Germany in November 1942, Rejewski and Zygalski fled via Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar to Britain. There they enlisted in the Polish Armed Forces and were put to work solving German ciphers.


Miracle at the Vistula: Red Army advanced towards Warsaw and nearby Modlin Fortress: It marked the beginning of the Battle of Warsaw.  Poland, on the verge of total defeat, repulsed and defeated the invading Red Army.  On August 16, Polish forces under the command of Józef Piłsudski counterattacked from the south, disrupting the enemy's offensive, and forced the Russian army into a disorganized withdrawal eastward and behind the Neman River.  On August 25, the Battle ended with a decisive Polish victory.  Russian casualties were 10,000 killed, 500 missing, 30,000 wounded, and 66,000 taken prisoner, while Polish losses were 4,500 killed, 10,000 missing, and 22,000 wounded.  Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, referred to the Battle as "an enormous defeat" . In the following months, several more Polish follow-up victories saved Poland's independence and led to a peace treaty with Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine later that year, securing the Polish state's eastern frontiers until 1939.


Bialystock Ghetto liquidated:  As part of Aktion Reinhard, the ghetto was raided by regiments of the German SS with Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian and Belorussian auxiliaries (Hiwis), known as Trawniki-men, aiming at the ghetto's final destruction. Faced with the final deportations, when all hope for survival was abandoned, the ghetto underground staged an uprising against the Nazis. On the night of August 16, 1943, several hundred Polish Jews began an armed insurrection against the troops who were carrying out the liquidation of the Ghetto. The resistance fighters attacked first. It was 10 o'clock in the morning. A fleet of German planes appeared in the sky and flew at a low altitude over the heads of the fighters, and shot at them from above. The courageous fighters split into several units and continued shooting at the Germans. The war was not balanced. About 300 poorly armed Jews, fought against more than 3,000 SS soldiers, armed with mechanized firearms of all types. Helping the Germans were also Ukrainian and Byelorussian criminals. Some of the Jewish resistance escaped into the forest, many others died.  The deportations resumed with the remainder of the Jews sent to death camps in Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz.


SECRET AND PERSONAL FROM PREMIER J. V. STALIN TO THE PRIME MINISTER, Mr W. CHURCHILL (no.321)  "After a talk with Mr Mikolajczyk I instructed the Red Army Command to drop munitions intensively into the Warsaw area.  A liaison officer was parachuted, but headquarters report that he did not reach his objective, being killed by the Germans. Now, after probing more deeply into the Warsaw affair, I have come to the conclusion that the Warsaw action is a reckless and fearful gamble, taking a heavy toll of the population.  This would not have been the case had Soviet headquarters been informed beforehand about the Warsaw action and had the Poles maintained contact with them.  Things being what they are, Soviet headquarters have decided that they must dissociate themselves from the Warsaw adventure since they cannot assume either direct or indirect responsibility for it....."   (August 16, 1944)

Soviet Tanks Stop at the Vistula:  The Red Army reached the outskirts of Warsaw in the last days of July 1944 (the 1st Belorussian Front had virtually decimated the Germany army during the Lublin-Brest Operation, and Operation Bagration. The Soviets had overwhelming superiority over German sectors), but the Soviets stopped at the Vistula, merely 10 km away from the center of Warsaw, and remained in their fixed positions for the next 45 days.  The Polish fighters had expected that with the Soviet forces to help them , they could recapture control of Praga in a matter of days, which would then free the way to cross to the left bank and engage in the main battle of the Uprising.  As a matter of fact the Soviets had urged the Polish fighters to launch the Warsaw Uprising. (see July 29, 1944)  The inaction of the Red Army virtually guaranteed the destruction of the Polish fighters, and civilians at the hands of the Germans. The sudden halt of the Red Army elicited amazement from the German 9th Army. Their journal entry on August 16, 1944 read as follows: "....Contrary to our expectations, the enemy has halted all of their offensive actions alongside the entire front of the 9th Army...."


Soviet-Polish border agreement:  The Border Agreement was signed in Moscow between the Soviet Union and the communist Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, officially establishing the borders of Poland, and ceding the pre-war eastern territory to Russia, according to the Yalta agreement of February 1945. Poland's eastern border was roughly based along the Curzon Line, an argument which Stalin used to justify his claims to seize eastern Poland.  The treaty also recognised the division of the former German East Prussia and ultimately approved the finalised delimitation line between the Soviet Union and Poland: from the Baltic sea, to the border tripoint with Czechoslovakia in the Carpathians.


Pope John Paul II's ninth visit to Poland. It was a three day pilgrimage to Poland with the high point of the consecration of the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, and beatification and 400th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.   In 1600, Mikolaj Zebrzydowski, the Voivode of Krakow, commissioned the construction of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska ,  the first Calvary in Poland ( Way of the Cross) which was based on the topography of Old Jerusalem. The holiest icon in the shrine is the painting of Holy Mother of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska .  On May 3,1641 the image was seen to have tears of blood streaming down her face,  and has since been attributed with many miracles.  The town was erected in 1617 to accommodate the throngs of faithful pilgrims who flocked to the shrine every year .  As a child, Karol Wojtyla often went to the shrine with his father to pray before the image of the Holy Mother.  When he became a seminarian, his devotion to the Blessed Madonna was magnified, entrusting his life to her.

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