Lot 41
  • 41


180,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • A Fully Operational Three-Roter Enima I Cipher Machine. Erfurt, Germany: Olympia Büromaschinenwerke AG for Heimsoeth und Rinke, 1944 
3-rotor Enigma I cipher machine, serial number A01259 / bac / 44E, with 3 aluminum rotors, each rotor with 26 positions labeled with numbers, housed in the original oak case (13¼ x 11 x 6½ in.) with leather handle, case with hinged front panel stamped "ENIGMA" and "Klappe Schleissen" opening to reveal Steckerbrett. Control panel with standard raised "QWERTZ" keyboard of 26 glass and metal keys with white on black backgrounds, light panel with letters A-Z and hinged rotor cover lifting to reveal 26 light bulbs, reflector & rotor compartment, and battery compartment, ebonite Steckerbrett (plug-board) and 12 patch-cables (10 plugged into Steckerbrett and 2 spares stored in lid of case), lid with 10 spare bulbs, green contrast filter, spare patch-cables, and instructions printed on metal plate ("Zur Beachtung!"). Instruction plate, power source indicator plate, and green contrast filter replaced; Stecker cables with original plugs and newer cables.  WITH: A circa 1934 German Baumuster Type T1 Telegraph key, and 2 facsimile Enigma operating manuals.

Catalogue Note

A VERY FINE, FULLY OPERATIONAL 3-ROTOR ENIGMA I CIPHER MACHINE. The Enigma I, often called the "Heeres" Enigma, was used by the German Heer (Army), the Luftwaffe (Air Force), and later, by the Kriegsmarine (Navy) before the introduction of the "M4" 4-rotor machine. The serial number A01259 / bac / 44E of the present machine indicates that it was manufactured for Heimsoeth und Rinke in 1944 by Olympia Büromaschinenwerke AG. Olympia Büromaschinenwerke AG is commonly known as the Olympia Typewriter Company and was founded in 1903. It produced a number of items for Germany during the war, including M4 Enigma machines. The company survived the war but went out of business in 1992 as computers replaced the need for typewriters. Patented in 1918 by Arthur Scherbius, the Enigma machine uses three electromechanical cipher wheels, each with 26 contacts at either side. The three rotors would be placed in pre-arranged positions, and the user would then type in a plain text message using the keyboard. The machine would encipher the message, and each corresponding encoded letter would light up on the light panel. The enciphered message would then be sent to the receiving party, usually via Morse code. The receiving party would then decipher the message, using another Enigma machine with the rotors set to the same position as the first. The rotors of all Enigmas were interchangeable, and indeed, rotors were swapped out very frequently.

The Enigma machine set a challenge that was answered by the remarkable team at Bletchley Park, whose achievements provide one of the most compelling stories of World War II. Breaking Enigma was the work of many, including Polish cryptographers who had already begun to decipher Enigma traffic before the war; naval forces who risked their lives capturing Enigma machines and code books; Alan Turing and other mathematicians with their revolutionary models for deciphering; Tommy Flowers and other mechanical geniuses who designed 'Colossus', the world's first programmable digital computer, at the GPO Research Centre at Dollis Hill in north west London; the hundreds of Wrens who operated the Bombes and, later, Colossus machines that made possible the daily decrypts. Their work saved countless lives and had an enormous impact on the submarine war in the Atlantic, the North African campaign, and the Normandy invasion; the work of Bletchley Park is often said to have shortened the war by two years. Furthermore, by coming to the understanding that to defeat Enigma it was necessary to mechanize much of the work of decryption, they helped to inaugurated the computer age.