Telegram-Telaviv-bar

In 1948 an encrypted telegram was sent  from New York to Tel Aviv, Israel. Can a reader break this encryption?

Blog reader Dr. Karsten Hansky has provided me a very interesting document he has recently aquired. It is an encrypted telegram that was sent from New York via London to Tel Aviv on June 5, 1948.

 

An encrypted telegram

The recipient mentioned on the telegram form is GOVTT MEMISRAEL TEL AVIV, which probably stands for the government of Israel. Considering that the state of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv, this telegram was sent in an interesting time to an interesting place. It is well possible that the content of this encrypted message refers to the Arab-Israeli War, which was going on at the time (the Palestine Civil War, which had started in 1947, transformed into the Arab-Israeli War with the Israeli declaration of independence).

The telegram is noted on two forms (Karsten and I both think that these two forms belong together, but there’s still the possibility that we are dealing with two different documents). Here’s the first part:

Telegram-Telaviv-1

The ciphertext contains two cleartext words: VERTIALLY and VERTICALLY (the first one probably being misspelled). In the first line the word GANEMANA appears. I wonder what this means.

According  to the vendor of the telegram, the green writing means “London – Telegram translation in a conference”.

Here’s the second part:

Telegram-Telaviv-2

This second part contains a few cleartext words, too: FRIEDBERG, BANK, ANGLO, PALESTINE, FRIEDBERGS. Friedberg might refer to the town of Friedberg near Frankfurt, Germany. On the other hand, Friedberg is a German surname.

 

Encrypted with a codebook?

This telegram was probably encrypted with a codebook. The easiest (and maybe even the only) way to decipher it is to find the codebook that was used. Karsten Hansky has already checked a few codebooks:

  • ABC 6th edition
  • Bentleys Complete Phrase
  • Marconi International
  • Western Union

None of these codebooks proved to be the right one.

Thanks to Karsten for providing me this interesting cryptogram. Can a reader solve it or say something about the historical background? Comments are very welcome.


Further reading: Who can break these encrypted telegrams from 1876?

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Kommentare (19)

  1. #1 TWO
    11. April 2017

    Ganema is perhaps Panama?

    regards,

    TWO

  2. #2 Gerd
    11. April 2017

    It is remarkable that certain five-letter codes appear several times, as ITTYA, GIFYK, FUPAR.
    Frequent words in the codebook?

    Gerd

  3. #3 George Lasry
    11. April 2017

    There are a couple of repeated 5-letter groups, which would be unlikely for anything else than code books.

    Anglo Palestine Bank is the precursor of Bank Leumi, the #2 Israeli bank today. This may be about transfer of funds.

    Friedbergs – sounds more like a name in the plural form.

  4. #4 George Lasry
    11. April 2017

    #2 – in fact yes, it would be very unlikely to find repetitions of 5 letters, aligned to positions which are multiples of 5, in other types of ciphers. This is definitely a codebook, also made more probable with the use of plaintext words in some places (names not in the codebook).

  5. #5 Serapio
    11. April 2017

    “Anglo Palestine bank” was a bank in the founder times of Israel. See Bank Leumi at Wikipedia.

    Friedberg might be an Israeli working in this bank. “FRIEDBERG(´)S” sounds like the genitive of a person. Is he or she connected to the bank?

    There is also a 1227P which could be 12:27pm. There are no other numbers, except in the header. Could be the time of transaction of money. But I miss the date. This date could be coded somewhere nearby “1227p”, as “today” or “yesterday”.

  6. #6 Klaus Schmeh
    11. April 2017

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    Interesting post Klaus.
    Whoever was typing up the telegram was having a bad day :p
    The text “anglo palestine bank” (nowdays Bank Leumi) and the repeating chunked text is typical of the use of code books which was common for commercial telegrams of the time.

    “Friedberg” is a city in Germany, not sure if this is relevant in context to this telegram.

    Thanks for posting

  7. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    11. April 2017

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    Definitely looks like code books from the repeated chunked blocks.
    There is common cipher text between the telegrams.

  8. #8 Peter Lichtenberger
    Im Gelände
    12. April 2017

    Möglicherweise etwas ähnliches wie der Rudolf-Mosse-Code (der ist es nicht, das habe ich gerade gecheckt).

  9. #9 Karsten Hansky
    12. April 2017

    I tested the following codebooks without success:
    – ABC 6th edition
    – Bentleys Complete Phrase Book
    – Marconi International code
    – Western Union Telegraphic Code

    The question is whether a standard book was used or not. The recipient was the Israel government. Therefore it is possible that a special codebook was used.

    Regards

    Karsten

  10. #10 Thomas
    12. April 2017

    New York?
    Maybe the sender was the delegate of the provisional government of Israel to the United Nations in New York, Mr. Eban. In June 1948 Mr Eban sent telegrams to Mr. Shertok, the foreign minister of the provisional government in Tel Aviv, which according to footnotes in David Tal’s “War in Palestine 1948” are contained in the book “Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel, Vol. 1: 14 May – 30 September 1948”. Unfortunately I couldn’t find this book online.
    On the edition’s website http://www.archives.gov.il/archives/#/Archive/0b0717068001ad6b/File/0b07170684d62daa there is a link to the website of the Israel State Archives. Although there is a “English” button, the documents seem to be only in Hebrew. Is there anyone who can read Hebrew and search the Israel State Archives website for Eban’s telegrams from June1948? At least there maybe hints on the content of the telegram from June 5th.

  11. #11 Thomas
    12. April 2017

    The link above leads to the of the Israel State Archives website. The edition’s website: http://diplomatic-documents.org/editions/israel

  12. #12 Klaus Schmeh
    12. April 2017

    Marley Maria Morgenstern via Linkedin:
    The first Word is GoVtt wich is can be ment God in german V is five in Latin Nummbers may be you need to translate this text a missing link to hebrain Letters cause they all have also a number. So I think it could be very to encode this text by asking a Rabbi

  13. #13 Thomas
    12. April 2017

    Govvt= government? The following word “Memisrael” stands for the Government of Israel, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1948v05p2/d494

  14. #14 George Lasry
    13. April 2017

    MEM ISR is definitely Government of Israel (in Hebrew MEMshelet ISRael ממשלת ישראל)

    Interesting anecdote – I showed this to someone who worked in the Israeli Foreign Office in the 1950s, and while he cannot help with the code itself, he mentioned that the green ink is probably from Walter Eytan (Ettinghausen), the first Director General of the F.O. from 1948-1959. He also happens to work at Bletchley Park in the Naval Section as a translator. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1309938/Walter-Eytan.html

  15. #15 Thomas
    13. April 2017

    Very interesting, that proves that the recipient was the Foreign Office of Israel. The UN representant, Mr. Eban, corresponded not only with the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Shertok, but also with the Director General, Mr. Eytan, https://books.google.de/books?id=4N84CQAAQBAJ&pg=PT323

    I wonder if there were codebooks containing groups of Latin letters to encrypt Hebrew words/phrases.

  16. #16 Gerd
    13. April 2017

    We know that the codebook did not have a code for “Anglo Palestine bank”. I would expect a dedicated codebook for use by the than new Israel Government to include a code for this.
    So maybe it makes sense to try more of the known “standard” codebooks of the time?

    Gerd

  17. #17 Thomas
    13. April 2017

    “Friedberg”:
    In September 1948 Lieutenant Shula Friedberg of the Israeli Army’s Woman’s Corps visited New York and was received by the Israeli Consul General in New York (http://archive.jta.org/1948/09/16/archive/israel-day-celebrated-at-new-york-citys-golden-anniversary-exposition; https://archive.org/stream/americanjewishti10unse#page/n108). The background was the United Jewish Appeal of 1948 in order to get financial support for Israel in the US. Maybe the telegram had to do with the preparation of the visit of the Israeli delegation.

  18. #18 Thomas
    13. April 2017

    It can be assumed that the Anglo Palestine Bank, which issued the Israeli Pound for the government in 1948 (see the previous page in the link in #17), was involved in the fundraising activities of the United Jewish Appeal.

  19. #19 Karsten Hansky
    17. April 2017

    John McVey found the corresponding codebook: “Peterson International Code (3rd edition, 1929)”.

    See: http://jmcvey.net/cable/ex/index.htm

    John will send me the translation later this week and Klaus will post it here.

    Regards

    Karsten