Facebook chips in to save historic WWII code-breaking center


How much Facebook donated to the United Kingdom's Bletchley Park.

Heritage Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In efforts to keep the United Kingdom's Bletchley Park alive and relevant, Facebook has donated around $1.3 million to the museum. As a critical venture during World War II, Bletchley Park carried out extensive code-breaking for the Allies during the grisly battles and notably employed Alan Turing as one of its main codebreakers.

Like many other fields, COVID-19 directly hit the museum, costing it a loss of at least $2,500,000, The Verge reports. The pandemic-induced loss has been so cumbersome that Bletchley Park announced it would cut a third of its worker base, according to the outlet. Facebook could save some of those jobs.

What this means for the museum — The sum alone from Facebook may not completely save Bletchley Park from succumbing to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, but it certainly could bring public attention toward preserving the center's legacy.

In particular, the center's mathematicians and scientists like Turing were known for decoding cipher text from the Enigma machine and arguably shortening the span of WWII by exposing Nazi strategies. As Input previously reported about one Enigma machine hitting the auction block, the encryption device was vital to Germany's U-boat fleet and its leader, Karl Dönitz. As the head of sales Sophie Hopkins described for LiveAuctioneers, the Enigma machine is special because of its "use of four rotors, instead of three" plus "the operator’s ability to select these from a pool of eight interchangeable rotors, together with stricter operating procedures, gave the M4 Enigma a much higher level of encryption."

Additionally, Bletchley Park gained recognition for using Colossus Mark 1, which was key for decoding cryptographic text in the 1940s. With the help of this machine, Bletchley Park helped Allies retrieve crucial and high-level military intelligence from the German High Command in occupied Europe. In addition to bringing attention to Bletchley Park's powerful contribution to WWII decoding efforts, Facebook's donation to the museum may also shed light on Turing's life as a young gay man in England in the 1950s, the horrific bigotry he suffered, and his horrendous death by cyanide poisoning.

What Facebook says — The social network's vice president of northern Europe, Steve Hatch, announced that Facebook was excited to offer this donation to Bletchley Park.

"The historic achievements of Alan Turing and the Bletchley team have benefited all of us greatly, including Facebook," Hatch said in a press statement, "and we’re thrilled to help preserve this spiritual home of modern computing."