Alan Turing – the codebreaker

It was a secret world behind the Victorian facade of the house in Bletchley Park some 70 kilometres Northwest of London. At the beginning of the second World War the British government realised that it would be essential to decode the messages of Nazi Germany to win the war. But all messages were encrypted with the help of Enigma machines – codes that everybody believed were unbreakable. At Bletchley Park analytics from all over Britain were gathered, sworn to secrecy and set to shifts 24 hours a day – a work that would be useless at the end of every day when the Germans changed their codes.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a trailer of "The Imitation Game". Screenshot: pb

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a trailer of „The Imitation Game“. Screenshot: pb

 

„The Imitation Game“ which hits German cinemas at January 22nd celebrates and focuses on codebreaker Alan Turing, the unsung hero who helped to win the war for the allies. It is believed today that he shortened the war for about two years and saved millions of lives. Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of the first experts in Bletchley Park. Born in 1912, he has just finished his studies in Cambridge and is „an odd duck“ according to his mother and colleagues. In his job interview right at the beginning of the film he calls himself one of the best mathematicians in the world, a genius who somehow lives in his own world but he discovers that Enigma can only be beaten by another machine. A machine –  the Turing bombe as it is called later –  that would work without interruptions and which he is eager to build against all odds. Only after Alan discovers by chance that some words will appear in every German message he and his colleagues are able to reduce the unbelievable numbers of possible codes so that the bombe is finally able to do its work. It’s an irony of history that the arrogant greeting „Heil Hitler“ – „Hail to Hitler“ helps the allies to win the war because these words are in fact hidden in every message.

But the life of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park isn’t to get easier at all. It is Alan who knowing that homosexuality is illegal tries to hide his biggest secret and protect his privacy while – at least in the film – is suspected to be a Russian spy. After World War II he isn’t celebrated as a war hero but sentenced to chemical castration to „heal“ his homosexuality. But the oestrogens not only caused growing breasts but left Alan unable to concentrate on his beloved work and he killed himself in 1954.

His work which is the basis of the modern computer technique and the internet was classified till 1970s. Queen Elizabeth granted Alan an Royal pardon on December 24th 2013 after the British Parliament refused to pardon Alan in 2011, even after former Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized 2009 on behalf of the British government: „I am very proud to say: we’re sorry. You deserved so much better.“

Read my review of the film here.

The German version of this blog entry was first published in Fränkischer Tag and on infranken.de.

Sherlock Holmes and London

Given the fact that Sherlock Holmes is one of best known fictional character not only in Britain where he is part of the national heritage but worldwide, it is not astonishing that there are whole libraries filled with all sort of books about the only consulting detective. So you have to look very carefully on any new one, if you don’t want to be disappointed.

The book cover Foto: pb

The book cover Foto: pb

„The man who never lived and who will never die“ isn’t just another book about Sherlock Holmes. Although it is accompanying the exhibition in the Museum of London which is still open till April 12th, it totally stands on its own feet. Alex Werner who compiled the book, throws a very different light on Arthur Conan Doyle’s figure, setting him in his surroundings while explaing that he only can exist within London. The city as some critics say is besides Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson the third main figure in all stories. And so the book pays tribute to that by showing lots of historic pictures of London while explaining the historical background not only of the original Conan canon but of all adaptions throughout the years – no  matter if you are watching a film situated in Victorian or contemporary London.

The articles are well written and stuffed with all information a Sherlock Holmes fan needs to know. And he will also need this book which will be a treat long after the exhibition is gone.

Alex Werner, Sherlock Holmes – The man who never lived and will never die, Ebury Press, about 20£/ 20€.

Themenfremd und doch nicht: Je sui Charlie

Die kaltblütige Ermordung der Journalisten der französischen Satirezeitschrift „Charlie Hebdo“ lässt mich sprachlos und irgendwie ungläubig zurück.

Immer noch.

Denn der Anschlag ist ein Anschlag auf die Presse- und Meinungsfreiheit, die keinen Unterschied macht zwischen großen überregionalen Zeitungen, Online-Portalen und Blogs wie diesen. Und auch wenn ich hier über sogenannte weiche Themen schreibe, so geben meine Blogeinträge doch auch immer eine Meinung wieder.

Meine.

Deshalb bin auch ich Charlie. I am Charlie. Je suis Charlie.

Und ich bin Raif.

Foto: @prixpics/Twitter

Foto: @prixpics/Twitter