The ‘Republican hacker’ who helped unravel the Nazi machine Enigma | Technology


The enigmatic, discreet and kind Faustino Antonio Camazón, born in Valladolid in 1901, died in Jaca in 1982 without revealing his crucial participation in World War II. He was the head of the Spanish team that collaborated with Poles and British for unravel Enigma, the Nazi messaging machine used for communications during the contest. The declassification of French secret archives has shed light on the Spanish role in this episode and the documentary Team D The forgotten codes Rescue your story now.

Encryption is not a current computing system. Message encryption is over 2,000 years old and has been key, especially in times of war. Nazism Sophisticated Enigma, a machine patented in the first quarter of the last century to replace characters with others according to a secret code. And they thought it was inviolable. But the team of the Polish Marian Rejewski, who collaborated with that of the British Alan Turing (considered the father of computer science) and who joined seven Spaniards exiled after the Civil War, got hack her.

Camazón is part of the link between modern computer science, developed from binary codes, and ancient cryptography, based on written language. The private library of this former Republican police commissioner, accidentally acquired from a merchant of copies used by Professor and historian Guillermo Redondo, has 800 books in 150 languages.

His knowledge leads him to the intelligence services of the Second Republic to decipher messages during the Civil War. At that moment he began to know Enigma, since Hitler's regime sold units of this encrypted messaging machine to Franco.

During his stay in the concentration camps for the Spanish exiles after the Civil War, he gets the garbage dumps to send a letter to the French intelligence services. “At that time, espionage was based on the personal action of the agents,” says Paz Jiménez Seral, Algebra professor at the University of Zaragoza. But the boss of Deuxième Bureau, as the information service of the Gallic Army, George Bertrand, was known to know in Poland had successfully turned to mathematicians to decipher messages and replicate Enigma, so it incorporates the Spanish team to its services.

An Enigma encryption machine.


An Enigma encryption machine.

Enigma is a sophisticated typewriter that, from a previously established code and that changes constantly, replaces some characters with others. The encrypted message is retransmitted by radio and the receiver, who knows the decryption algorithm thanks to a table, reconstructs the content. The Germans assumed that millions of calculations were needed to unravel Enigma.

But Polish mathematicians and the Spanish team, in collaboration with Turing and an army in the shadow of more than 8,000 people dedicated to listening and processing data, get to hack the machine, building replicas and the first computers to discover the changing encryption codes. “One of the creators of Enigma did not know until 20 years after the war that his machine had been unraveled. That was one of the main weapons of the allies, ”says Manuel Vázquez Lapuente, PhD in Mathematics at the University of Zaragoza.

One of the decrypted German messages informing of the "liquidaci =" "de =" "jud ="


One of the German messages deciphered in which the "liquidation of 1,548 Jews" is reported.

“Enigma had weak points that took advantage of the Intelligence teams. The permutations theory (variation of the order or position of the elements of an ordered set) opened the gap, ”explains Paz Jiménez. Turing then developed Bombe, a computer produced in 1939 at the Government Code and Cypher School, in Bletchley Park, following the model designed in 1938 by the Polish cryptologist Marian Rejewski; and Colossus, an electronic calculator. The devices allowed the allies to have the necessary tools to read the encrypted German communications. “200 Bombe devices and 36 Enigma machines were built,” says Zaragoza mathematics.

The German invasion of France divided the international team of which PC Bruno, a denomination of the Spanish unit, was part of, and forced Camazón and the rest of his countrymen to take refuge in Algeria. At the end of the War, he returns to France and retires within the secret services of the neighboring country without any more evidence of his fundamental participation in the War than a brief entry in the recently declassified archives in France. Thanks to a brother-in-law canon, he returns to Jaca to spend his last years without revealing what he had done during that time. "To shoot, we returned to the neighborhood where he lived and the neighbors acknowledged seeing him, but nobody knew anything about him," says the director of the documentary, Jorge Laplace.

Still from the documentary 'Team D The Olive Codes' in which Luis Ballarín identifies his uncle José Antonio Camazón.


Still from the documentary 'Team D The Olive Codes' in which Luis Ballarín identifies his uncle José Antonio Camazón.

But one of the Polish mathematicians took photographs of the group that arrived at the hands of the professor of Physics of the University of Granada Arturo Quirantes, who published a first article. The image was seen by Luis Ballarín, who recognized his uncle. Despite having lived with him in recent years, the self-imposed silence of Camazón, who wrote missing memoirs, has avoided recomposing the trajectory of these heroes of World War II. The Polish group has been recognized in their country, but in Spain there is nothing to remember their deed.

The obscurantism about the members of PC Bruno has been one of the greatest difficulties for the filming of Team D Olive codes, premiered in Valladolid and projected in the Seville Film Festival (SEFF), attended by the director of the documentary and the two mathematicians determined to highlight the figure of Camazón and his team.

“From the Spanish Enigma machines we get a single plan in the RTVE archives. It has been difficult to tell the story from an audiovisual point of view, ”says Laplace, director of 23 shots and screenwriter of 30 years of darkness.

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