A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine (aka Heeres Enigma), Berlin, July 1944.
A late-war Enigma machine in working condition, with serial number 18660, manufactured for the German military. In original oak box with hinged front panel and leather handle, inner front panel with "ENIGMA" and "Klappe schliessen" stamps, rotors I, II, and III, each rotor with serial number WaA618, standard QWERTY keyboard of 26 keys, white on black backgrounds, battery switch, ebonite Steckerbrett [plugboard] with 12 stecker cables (10 plugged into the Steckerbrett and 2 spares stored in the top lid of case), battery case with 2 packages of functioning spare light bulbs, upper lid with 10 bulbs, green glare filter, and replica "Zur Beachtung" sign. 13 1/4 x 11 x 6 1/2 inches. Some light restoration to finish, electrical contacts have been cleaned to improve operation of lamps.
Offered with: 1 WWII German telegraph key;
2 facsimile Enigma operating manuals; 1 copy of Dr. Tom Perera's book, Inside the Enigma; The Secrets of the ENIGMA Machine and other Historic Cipher Machines.
Provenance: Property of a Vermont collector, acquired from the Enigma Museum.
Patented by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, the Enigma machine utilizes three interchangeable rotors which scramble plain-text messages and produce a cipher text message which is then sent, generally via Morse code, to a receiving party with an Enigma set up in the same configuration as the sending Enigma. All of the machines could use the interchangeable wheels from any enigma, so to find a matching set of wheels with the same serial number as the Enigma is quite rare. Though the German military was familiar with the Enigma, it was not adopted as their primary cipher device until 1926, when they discovered that all German naval coded messages had been intercepted and read by the British during the latter half of WWI.
It is unknown exactly how many enigma machines were made, but we know that few survived the war. Rather than have the machines fall into enemy hands, they were destroyed by the Germans upon retreat and documents pertaining to their manufacture were burned or in many cases simply lost. On top of this, Churchill ordered all Enigma machines to be destroyed at the end of the war, so few machines remain intact.
This example of the standard three rotor enigma machine "Modell 1" was used principally by the army (Wehrmacht), and was their favored enciphering device. British attempts to break the Enigma code were fruitless for years. The breakthrough eventually came after the creation of the famous British codebreaking center Bletchley Park. Using the technology transferred to them from the brilliant Polish codebreaking team, as well as documents supplied by the French Intelligence from a German spy, the great Alan Turing, along with Knox, Foss and many others were able to break the Enigma code, shortening the war by en estimated two years, and saving countless lives.