GERMAN WEATHER REPORT CODEBOOK, FOR ENIGMA USE. Wetterkurzschlussel. [WKS. Weather short Signal Book]. Berlin: Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, 1942.

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Lot 269
Wetterkurzschlussel. [WKS. Weather short Signal Book]. Berlin: Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, 1942.

Sold for US$ 225,000 inc. premium

Fine Books and Manuscripts

12 Jun 2018, 13:00 EDT

New York

Wetterkurzschlussel. [WKS. Weather short Signal Book]. Berlin: Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, 1942.
4to (300 x 215mm). 26 pp, comprising title page, 6 pp of basic instructions, and 19 pp of codes in numbers and letters, 2 pp blank leaves at end. Without the folding charts of the Atlantic normally slipped in at end, and the small booklet inside the front cover. Original red cloth, covers slightly warped by damp. 3rd edition [Naumburg], numbered 2084 on upper cover and title, marked secret.
Provenance: Official German Naval issuing stamp (inside the front cover); Deutsches Hydrographisches Institut, Hamburg (6 stamps, two on the cover, first leaf and title, deaccessioned.
WITH: 1937 Berlin edition of the Wetterschlussel, for sea use, numbered IIB [second edition], no 2236, published in January 1937, with the cover and title stamped "Krieigsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven." (2)

German Enigma codebooks from World War II are some of the rarest printed wartime material, and of these codebooks the ones used on the U Boat fleet are the rarest of all, firstly because they were made of paper that dissolved in water, and secondly all commanders had strict instructions to destroy both the enigma machines (theM3 or M4), and their codebooks if they were about to be captured. Some 700 U Boats were sunk at sea during the war, and of the remaining 300 many were scuttled by the German Navy in 1945, without giving up their secret codes or enigma machines.
Each German U Boat was equipped with two enigma machines, and two codebooks, the Kurzsignalbuch, the general signal cypher for receiving instructions and reporting back to base, and the Wetterkurzschlussel, the code used to report back to base the weather reports from various parts of the Atlantic.

Both these Enigma Codebooks are of the utmost rarity, with no copies of this Wetterkurzschlussel [WKS] appearing at auction (and just 2 copies of the WKS 1942 listed at the US NARA and another in the Bundesarchiv, Freiburg, both lacking the maps and booklet), and only one copy of the general signal book appearing at auction (Bonhams June 2014 $146,000). The present copy was, for a short time after the war, in the old German Hydrographic Institute Library, and was probably left behind in one of the Kriegsmarine Command Centers on the German coast. The present owner acquired this example in Germany. It is probable that apart from the two listed in the Institutions above, only the Naval Divisions of the USA, France, Britain, and Holland hold a few copies of these codebooks. In 1945, Churchill declared that all the captured Enigma machines had been destroyed, but in fact they were kept by the Allies, and used as enciphering devices during the Cold War, having sold the Enigmas back to Russian and East German Operatives.

The principal problem of communications during World War II from ship to land was the likelihood of a message being intercepted by Allied planes and other watching points.
The Allies had evolved a High Frequency Direction Finding system (HFDF), which could track the position of the message source, so when the enigma machines were adopted by the German military, their use of short length signals reduced the possibility of the source being located by HFDF. Doenitz had introduced the four rotor Enigma M4 in late 1942 because he was sure the code had been compromised, and then he kept changing the codes and number of rotors to outflank the Allied code breaking efforts. With the Wetterkurzschlussel, a code to report the weather and swell conditions, only a 7 letter message was required, which being very short prevented the Allies from tracking the positions of the submarines. Submarines were expected to send regular weather reports throughout the day, so that a good picture of the meteorological situation could be built up, and central command could make decisions as to the positioning of Wolfpacks of U Boats to intercept convoys at various moments of bad weather or other situations.

The capture of 1st and 2nd editions of this codebook in May and August 1941, and October 1942, played an important part in the Breaking of the Enigma Code by the codebreaking staff at Bletchley Park. In early may HMS Somali captured a German Weather Ship off Iceland and acquired both its Enigma machine and the WFS codebook. Later in May 1941, HMS Bulldog forced U110 to the surface and the crew hastily abandoned ship, following which, a party of British seamen entered the sub and retrieved all the charts, books and an enigma machine from the vessel, which unfortunately sunk the following day while being towed back to port. In August 1941, U570 was captured intact off Iceland, although it was declared that everything had been destroyed! In October 1942 HMS Petard captured codebooks from U559, hence the publishing of this new third edition.

The earlier 1937 Wetterkurzschlussel, with the Wilhelmshaven stamp that is included with this lot, was probably in use at Wilhelmshaven Naval HQ, which would receive daily weather reports from static weather ships in the North Sea and Atlantic. This codebook is an instruction book for the decoding of weather reports from weather stations.

GERMAN WEATHER REPORT CODEBOOK, FOR ENIGMA USE. Wetterkurzschlussel. [WKS. Weather short Signal Book]. Berlin: Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, 1942.
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