A rare 1944 edition of the Kurzsignalheft, or "Enigma Code Book" circa 1944 12 x 8-1/2 in. (30.4 x 21.5 cm.)

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Lot 111
A rare 1944 edition of the Kurzsignalheft, or "Enigma Code Book"
German, circa 1944
12 x 8-1/2 in. (30.4 x 21.5 cm.)

Sold for US$ 146,500 inc. premium

World War II

5 Jun 2014, 10:00 EDT

New York

A rare 1944 edition of the Kurzsignalheft, or "Enigma Code Book"
German, circa 1944
the top secret "Short Signal Code Book 1944," in red cloth covers, printed and dated 1944, the inside cover stamped with various applications, the first page corner neatly torn to remove a stamp, printed with basic instructions, followed by the codes in numbers and letters and then in letters and numbers with a pink card divider, the back with additional coding information. The last edition published.
12 x 8-1/2 in. (30.4 x 21.5 cm.)


  • Provenance:
    Time-Life Collection; The War Museum

    During the Second World War the German U-boats used Kurzsignale or Short Signals to send their messages. The Kurzsignale were an important part of the complex Kriegsmarine communications system. In general, the Kurzsignale were four letter groups representing all kinds of sentences regarding tactical information such as course, enemy reports, position grids or weather reports.

    An important reason for the Kriegsmarine to apply these Kurzsignale was the Allied use of High Frequency Direction Finding, also called HFDF or Huff Duff. This system enabled Allied Forces to accurately determine the position of German transmissions. This was an important tactical advantage in the Atlantic, revealing the positions of German ships and U-boats. The use of Kurzsignale decreased the length of the Morse messages enormously, often reducing broadcasting time to less then one minute. This way, the German Navy made it harder to fix positions with Huff Duff.

    The Kriegsmarine procedures on sending messages with the Enigma cipher machine were far more complex and elaborate than the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe procedures. Of course, secure communications were a most vital part of the supremacy of the Kriegsmarine in the Atlantic. The U-boats relied completely on secure communications to receive their orders, coordinate patrolling on sea, and their Wolfpack tactics. If the communications were compromised, this would reveal German naval positions and result in Allied tactical countermeasures or active hunt on the U-boats.

    During the War, several different Kurzsignale methods were used on U-boats. Until 1942, Alpha signals were used. An Alpha signal was a small message, usually containing a single four-letter groups. From 1942 on, U-boats commonly used the Beta signals. Various editions of Kurzsignalhefte, the Short Signal Codebooks, were applied during the war. Each Kurzsignal message, or Beta signal, had a strict format, containing an introduction, an identification to the key, and the message, encrypted with the Enigma cipher machine.

    To apply the Kurzsignale, the Kriegsmarine used several different codebooks. The two most important codebooks were the Kurzsignalheft for all kinds of operational messages, and the Wetterkurzschlussel for weather reports. The Kurzsignalheft contained tables that converted sentences into four-letter groups. All kinds of expressions in many different topics were listed. Logistic matters such as refueling and rendezvous with supply ships, positions and grid lists, names of harbors, countries, weapons, weather conditions, enemy positions and ships, date and time tables. All possible situations and topics were listed. Another codebook contained the Kenngruppen and Spruchschlussel, resp key identification and message key, that is the start position to the rotors of the Enigma. The Kurzsignalheft codebooks were printed on special paper with red, water soluble, ink. If the codebooks could be captured, they were destroyed by throwing them into water.

    This edition was more complex than the previous. The Kurzsignalheft 44 consisted of two parts, Heft I and II. Heft I contained the Satzbuch or sentence book, to convert sentences into four-figure groups, and the Schlusselzahltafel or key number table. Heft II, called Buchgruppenheft, was used to convert four-number groups into four-letter words. In addition, to sign messages or identify other U-boats in a message, the Kriegsmarine used a codebook called Marinefunknamenliste or Naval Callsign List. This was a list with all existing U-boats and trigrams, three letter words, assigned to each U-boat. Unfortunately for the Kriegsmarine, the more complex 1944 edition didn't came into service on time to change the odds for the decimated U-boat fleet in the Atlantic.
A rare 1944 edition of the Kurzsignalheft, or "Enigma Code Book" circa 1944 12 x 8-1/2 in. (30.4 x 21.5 cm.)
A rare 1944 edition of the Kurzsignalheft, or "Enigma Code Book" circa 1944 12 x 8-1/2 in. (30.4 x 21.5 cm.)
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