Enigma encryption machine from World War II sells for $233,000


A rare Enigma machine, the proto-computer used by the Nazis to send codes during World War II, just sold at auction for $233,000 to an unnamed buyer. Of course, the Enigma code was cracked by Alan Turing and the other cypherpunks at Bletchley Park.

German soldiers issued an Enigma were to make no mistake about their orders if captured: Shoot it or throw it overboard.

Based on electronic typewriters invented in the 1920s, the infamous Enigma encryption machines of World War II were controlled by wheels set with the code du jour. Each letter typed would illuminate the appropriate character to send in the coded message.

In 1940, building on work by Polish code breakers, Alan Turing and his colleagues at the famed UK cryptography center Bletchley Park devised the Bombe, a mechanical computer that deciphered Enigma-encoded messages. Even as the Nazis beefed up the Enigma architecture by adding more wheels, the codes could be cracked at the Naval Security Station in Washington, DC - giving the Allies the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic. The fact that the Allies had cracked the Enigma code was not officially confirmed until the 1970s.

"Rare German Enigma Code Machine Sells at Auction for $232,000" (NBC News)

Service Enigma Machine (Sotheby's)

Notable Replies

  1. Was the winning bidder a Mr. Hobbs Baranov?

  2. atl says:

    I just hope the new owner doesn't have a fleet of U-Boats, otherwise we've done a very, very stupid thing.

  3. Correction: the Polish secret service, Biuro Szyfrów, made the first bomby, using information gleaned by the French. They gave the technical specs for the bomby (Polish word, btw) to their allies, the French and British, when Poland was invaded. French and Polish agents who were captured by the Nazis kept the secret of Enigma being broken throughout the war.

  4. Now we know how OPM is planning to prevent another breach.

  5. If the mysterious buyer can afford that kind of expensive humour, he could gift the Enigma to the German government. They will get the joke.

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