History of the building

The biography of this place is a story about two different buildings connected by the fact that they both witnessed events from the local and world history. One of them is the building of the Prussian military supply depot where the Enigma codebreakers began their battle with ciphers. The other building is the headquarters of the Regional Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party – the so-called Party’s House – where the events of the Poznań protests in June 1956 and the political transformation of 1989-1990 took place. It was later turned into the seat of the Faculty of History of Adam Mickiewicz University.

The building – one of a kind in the neighbourhood

It is 1847. The construction of the building of the so-called military supply depot at the corner of ul. Święty Marcin and ul. Wałowa (today’s ul. Kościuszki) has just been completed. The building resembled medieval fortifications and housed the headquarters of the quartermaster, which provided supplies for the Prussian Army in Poznań. For a long time no other building could match this one. During the development of the construction market after 1871, new, multi-storey tenement houses with hotels emerged at ul. Święty Marcin. However, the real breakthrough came at the beginning of the 20th century when the western part of the Poznań Fortress, which impeded the development of the city, was pulled down. It was then that the work on the construction of the monumental Imperial Castle, opposite the building of the military supply depot, commenced. The Castle began to dominate the new, glamorous district.

This is where the undercover war of the brilliant minds began

After 1918 the building of the military supply depot, also called Military Office, was still used by the army. This time, however, it was the Polish Army. It housed the headquarters of the 14th Wielkopolska Infantry Division. The nearby Castle was turned from the seat of Kaiser into the residence of the President of Poland. Part of the building was given to the University of Poznań. It was there, at the Department of Mathematics and Philosophy, that in 1929 the candidates for a secret course on cryptology organised by the Polish secret intelligence were selected from the best students of mathematics. These students were Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki. They joined a branch of the Polish Cipher Bureau, which had its headquarters in the basement of the building of the military supply depot. It was there that at the turn of the 1920s and the 1930s these brilliant mathematicians began their work as cryptologists. The experience they gained there contributed to their success in breaking the code of the German Enigma machine in 1932 in Warsaw.

New authorities, new building

After the Battle of Poznań (January-February 1945), the military authorities decided to rebuild the destroyed military supply depot. The work soon ceased, however, because the plans for the building changed. Due to its prestigious location in the city centre, the authorities reached the decision to build there the headquarters of the Regional Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party. The modernist building, designed by a renowned urban planner and architect Władysław Czarnecki, was built in 1948-1950. It was one of the most impressive new seats of the Party in Poland. It was here that regional secretaries would reside. Here the regional party apparatus operated, plenary meetings took place and courses on Marxism and Leninism were organised.

Sudden plot twists

During the Poznań protests of 1956 some of the protesters stormed the building. Banners were hanged and propaganda materials were removed but the building itself was not vandalised. The second extraordinary event in the history of the building took place in January 1990 when a group of students from the Independent Students’ Association began to occupy it, demanding it to be handed over for public benefit. The authorities gave in to their demands and up to 2015 the building functioned as Collegium Historicum of Adam Mickiewicz University. Generations of future historians, archaeologists and ethnologists were taught there. Three years after the Faculty of History was moved to Morasko in 2015, the building was renamed Collegium Martineum. Today it houses the Enigma Cipher Centre, a multimedia library documenting the history of the place as well as institutions belonging to the University such as Bilingualism Matters managed by the Faculty of English.