War vet­er­ans kept si­lent for 30 years over code-break­ing role

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY ROBYNROSEN

IT TOOK Sid­ney Gold­berg more than 30 years to tell his wife, fam­ily and friends what he did dur­ing the war.

It was only in 1974, when Fred­er­ick Win­ter­both­amwrote The Ul­tra Se­cret, the first ac­count of de­cryp­tion op­er­a­tions dur­ing the war, that Mr Gold­berg and the other 25,000 code-break­ers be­gan to re­veal their ex­pe­ri­ences.

Mr Gold­berg, now 86 and liv­ing in Ken­ton, north Lon­don, is one of 35 vet­er­ans to at­tend a spe­cial cer­e­mony at Bletch­ley Park to­day to re­ceive a new award for ser­vices to the Gov­ern­ment Codes and Ci­pher School (GC&CS).

Born in Leipzig in 1923, Mr Gold­berg moved to the UK at the age of 11. At the age of 18, two years into the war, he put his lan­guage skills to use and be­came a sig­nals in­ter­preter, in­ter­cept­ing Ger­man air­craft mes­sages, in the RAF.

“They were very short of staff and so took on Jewish peo­ple be­cause we knew Yid­dish—even­thoughthat­wasn’tmuch help with Ger­man,” he said. There was noin­tro­duc­tionor­train­ing.“Iwasputin front of a ra­dio and told to twid­dle.”

Even 30 years on, when their obli­ga­tion un­der the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act was lifted, Mr Gold­berg still kept quiet. “I’d just got used to it by then and it didn’t feel strange,” he said.

Mor­ris Hoff­man, now 93 and liv­ing in New Bar­net, be­came in­volved af­ter a pro­fes­sor at Birk­beck Col­lege, where he was study­ing lan­guages, sug­gested he ap­ply for a po­si­tion ad­ver­tised by the For­eign Of­fice for Ger­man speak­ers.

On Fe­bru­ary 12 1942, he ar­rived at Bletch­ley Park. “The de­ci­pher­ing was be­ing done in Hut 6, next door to our hut, and the de­ci­phered mes­sages were passed to us through a hole in the wall, to be emended, trans­lated, eval­u­ated, and sent to the De­fence Min­istry.”

With the help of de­cryp­tion ma­chine, Enigma,MrHoff­man­made­cru­cialmaps of Ger­man troop lo­ca­tions.

At the age of 18, Gor­don Rosen­berg found the idea of sign­ing up to a se­cret unit a thrilling con­cept. His am­bi­tion to fly for the RAF was snatched away af­ter he was found to be colour-blind.

He had an in­ter­view for the codes and ci­pheruni­tand­be­fore­heknewit,he­had been vet­ted, signed the Se­crets Act, and was sent to Bletch­ley Park.

Mr Rosen­berg, now 87 and liv­ing in West­cliff-on-Sea, said: “I didn’t know the im­por­tance of it at the time.”

To­day is the first time he has re­turned to Bletch­ley Park in more than 60 years. Like his fel­low Jewish vet­er­ans, he re­mains in­cred­i­bly mod­est and hum­ble about his work, which, his­to­ri­ans ar­gue, re­duced the war by two years.

“I never looked for recog­ni­tion so I was sur­prised to get the award. I think I was priv­i­leged to do the work I did, par­tic­u­larly as I was Jewish. There was a lot of prej­u­dice around then but no-one I worked with ever said any­thing — we all just got on with the job.”

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