Rare Third Reich “Enigma” Code Machine Tops $100,000 at Auction
A rare “Enigma” machine, used by National Socialist Germany to create military communications code thought to be unbreakable, sold at auction for more than $106,000.
The 28.5-pound cipher machine went to an internet buyer, according to Heritage Auctions. It comes with operating instructions, a case with an engraved Third Reich emblem - and a rich lore including how British scientist Alan Turing helped crack the code.
One of the unit’s 26 light bulbs is broken, according to the description.
It’s not the first time a NS code creator has traded hands for such a sum. In May, an Irish private collector swiped up a different encryption machine, known as the “Hitler mill” because of its hand crank, for 98,000 euros ($109,000) from a Munich auctioneer, according to the Telegraph.
As World War II drew to a close, Germany demolished the vast majority of machines used to send and receive encrypted messages to prevent the Allies from getting a hold of them.
Winston Churchill ordered all captured Enigma machines to be destroyed at the end of the war. Most of the remaining 250 machines rest in unknown watery graves, according to Heritage Auctions.
The three-cipher rotor design was considered unbreakable until the early 1940s. It could scramble letters into any one of 17,576 combinations, except the use of the original letter.
Human oversight - signing off each communication with “Heil Hitler,” as dramatized in the movie “The Imitation Game” - allowed the Allies to deconstruct many of the cipher’s coded communications.