Enigma Cipher Machines



2015-06-26 10:56:35

Enigma Cipher Machines were a type of encryption machine developed by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of the First World War.Their most notable use was by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The German military model (Wehrmacht Enigma) is the most famous type of Enigma machine.

There are many variations of Enigma machine, rather than the common assumption that was one type or even a single machine. They are now of great interest to militaria collectors.



Scherbius created the Enigma machine for commercial use, applying for a patent in 1918. It was initially used in the banking industry, but was later adopted by the German Navy as a cipher machine in 1926.

The famous Wehrmacht Enigma, used during the Second World War, was introduced in 1930. By 1932, Polish intelligence had cracked the German Enigma code.


The techniques developed by the Polish were passed to British and French intelligence shortly before the outbreak of war, proving vital to the eventual cracking of the revised ciphering used by the German military.

The deciphering of Enigma codes is often credited (most notably by Winston Churchill) with hastening the end of the war, particularly in Europe.


Enigma machine were electro-mechanical devices, consisting of a keyboard (used to type messages into the machine), a series of internal rotors, and stepping components used to turn the rotors in response to typing.

The continual rotor movement and stepping components caused a change in the encrypted alphabet with every key pressed, ensuring that the codes were not predictable and thus very difficult to break.


In the 1970s, information about the use of Enigma and the decryption of its codes was declassified. It has since become a subject of much fascination for the public and collectors.

Enigma machines are displayed in many museums across the world, including Bletchley Park - the home of British-code breaking during the Second World War.

In 2000, a rare Enigma machine was stolen from Bletchley Park and ransomed back to the museum, with a demand for £25,000. It was eventually returned, without payment.

A 1939 Enigma machine was sold by Christie’s for $107,129 in 2010 – surpassing its initial high estimate of $75,000.

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