German Militaria


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This is an original 3-rotor Enigma cipher machine, serial number 7424.  This type of Enigma was used by the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and High Command as late as May 1945.  This piece, based upon the serial number, was produced in the late 1930s.  The identification tag located under the metal cover of the machine indicates it was manufactured by Heimsoeth & Rincke in Berlin.  Both the Enigma machine and its oak box are in excellent condition for a machine that was used throughout the war.  This is an excellent, museum quality example of a 3 Rotor Enigma.  This piece includes 5 rotors, I, II, III, IV, and V all with matching serial numbers.  This is rare as the rotors could be, and often were, interchanged among Enigma machines in the field.  In the late 1930s, 3 rotor Enigmas were manufactured with 5 rotors to increase the security of the machine. Operators setting up the machine for use would choose 3 rotors to use from among the five issued with the machine. Included with the machine is a reproduction rotor box for the two additional rotors.  This Enigma is fully functional and has had a battery holder that accepts standard flashlight batteries installed to allow the lamps to light up when letters are encoded with the machine.  Seven original Stecker cords are included with the machine.
 
Invented by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, the Enigma cipher machine was adopted as the principal crypto-system for all branches of the German military and High Command starting in 1926. Polish mathematicians working for their country’s Cipher Bureau first broke the Enigma code in the early 1930s with the assistance of the French intelligence service who obtained Enigma related information from a German spy.  The Poles went on to design the first mechanical machines to successfully attack the Enigma code.

The groundbreaking success of the Poles allowed the British at Bletchley Park, and later the Americans in Dayton, Ohio, to regularly read German coded transmissions throughout most of World War II.  Mathematicians Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman’s efforts to break the Enigma codes resulted in the creation of the first computers. Historians generally agree that the Allies’ ability to break Enigma coded messages resulted in a significant shortening of the war and the saving of thousands of lives.  Relatively few Enigma machines survived the war as the retreating German armies destroyed them to avoid their capture, and, at the end of the war, Churchill ordered the remaining machines destroyed.

It was not until 1974, when F. W. Winterbotham wrote The Ultra Secret, that the world became aware of the Allied successes in breaking the German Enigma code during WWII.  Many documents pertaining to the Ultra secret have only been declassified in the last decade and there are still ongoing efforts by historians to decode Enigma messages from the War.

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Enigma Machine#6487



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