In 1916, a man living in Aschersleben, Germany, received an encrypted postcard. Can a reader decipher it?

For the third time in the history of this blog, a crypto mystery from the Harz – a mountain range in Northern Germany – will be covered today. The first Harz cryptogram I wrote about was an encrypted postcard from the village of Schierke. I blogged about it in 2014. The encryption was quite easy to solve.

In April this year, I introduced an encrypted inscription on a baroque altar in Langelsheim, a town in the northern part of the Harz mountains (check the Cryptologic Travel Guide for details). This cryptogram is still unsolved.


A postcard sent to Aschersleben

Recently, I came across another Harz cryptogram. It’s again a postcard. It stems from the collection of my friend Tobias Schrödel, who is known as comedy hacker, crypto book enthusiast, and TV expert (“Stern TV”).

This postcard from the Harz is especially interesting for two reasons: first, ist was sent to a man (usually, the recipients of encrypted postcards were women), and second, it was written during the First World War. The reciever, a man named Hugo Carl, probably was the spouse of the sender. It is well possible that Hugo Carl was a soldier.

I don’t know if the woman on the picture side is the sender. At least, it is clear that the encrypted message starts below the photograph:

The rest of the message can be found on the address side:

Hugo Carl, the recipient, lived in Aschersleben, a town in the Harz mountains. His residence was in a street named Steintor, which still exists today. The card was stamped in Aschersleben in 1916. I can’t see any other stamp. This probably means that the card was sent from Aschersleben to Aschersleben, which is certainly unusual.



The encryyption method applied is probably a substitution cipher (MASC). The alphabet consists of ordinary letters, numbers and symbols. The commas probably separate words. There are also full stops and question marks in the text.

The first three letters on the address side are “m. q. 6.” They look different from the rest of the message. Perhaps, they represent a date. Contrary to many other encrypted postcards, this one does’t have a signature that is separated from the rest of the text.

Can a reader decipher this card?

Further reading: Who can decipher these inscriptions on a Freemason medal?


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Kommentare (15)

  1. #1 TWO
    26. September 2019

    What a beautiful Fraulein!

    Perhaps sent by a sister to her brother who is away at the Marne front?

    To avoid censorship?

  2. #2 TWO
    26. September 2019

    I found an adresbook from 1947 thhats two wars later but who knows?
    What is the housenumber?

  3. #3 Thomas
    26. September 2019

    Wie gefällt dir die Karte? Mir sehr gut. Mlh (mein liebes Herz?) wir hatten ja ganz vergessen uns gestern Abend zu verabreden, wo wir uns heute Abend treffen wollen. Dort, auf dem Kirchhof, nicht wahr? Ich dekoriere heute das Schaufenster. Das ist recht gut, dabei kann ich nicht so viel grübeln. Weißt du, ich sehe aus, als wenn ich gestern Abend recht tolle Sachen gemacht hätte. Bis auf Wiedersehn, Deine Trude.

  4. #4 TWO
    27. September 2019


  5. #5 Thomas
    27. September 2019

    Yes, I think her name was Gertrud.
    MLH – a less romantic interpretation would be ‘ Mein lieber Hugo!’

  6. #6 Thomas
    27. September 2019

    Just noticed that the stamp is upside down, which was a stamp code expressing something like “I love you”:

  7. #7 TWO
    27. September 2019


    I was exactly thinking the same that it stands for : Hugo.

    I can’t find a record for Hugo Carl but it seems there is a house in Vor dem Steinturm that has the same family living in it since at least 1946 or so.

    Would it not be wonderful if Hugo is their ancestor and they receive a copy of the postcard?

    Mind you there are privacy concerns and most likely my hunch is incorrect

    Kirchhof is graveyard?

  8. #8 Thomas
    27. September 2019


    I doubt that descendant are still living there (BTW: Steintor instead of Steinturm), since already the 1930 directory of Aschersleben doesn’t list any Carl family. You’re right, Kirchhof means graveyard.

  9. #9 Kerberos
    27. September 2019

    “”This probably means that the card was sent from Aschersleben to Aschersleben, which is certainly unusual.””

    This sounds unusual today,
    but up to the fifties there was a special tax and stamp
    for local mail in Germany.
    E.g. the clockmaker/jewellery business in Pforzheim,
    which consisted of a lot of specialized independent craftsmen
    functioned on basis of local mail, delivered twice a day.
    Telefone was much too expensive for them.
    The situation was similar in most towns in Germany.

  10. #10 TWO
    27. September 2019


    1930 you say?

    Next postcard please…

    Enjoy your weekend

  11. #11 x3Ray
    27. September 2019

    @Thomas: Cool, schnelle Lösung! 🙂
    Aber wenn man die “Übersetzung” kennt, dann kann man das fast lesen, weil die Zeichen in ihren Formen den normalen Zeichen ähneln (Leetspeak vor 100 Jahren).

    Wobei es hie und da Fehler geben könnte, bspw. “wie gefällt dir dies Karte”, da scheint noch ein “s” hinter “die” zu stehen.

    Sehr interessant auch, dass Konsonantengruppen (ch oder st) durch jeweils ein Zeichen ersetzt worden sind. (Oder seht ihr das in den Fällen als Ligaturen von zwei Zeichen?)

  12. #12 x3Ray
    27. September 2019

    Den Poststempel könnte man auch als 1910 lesen; ich sehe hier
    14.10.10 5-6N

  13. #13 schorsch
    28. September 2019

    Ich denke auch, dass der Stempel auf 1910 lautet. Die Verschlüsselung einer Postkarte im Jahr 1916 in Deutschland wäre einer Aufforderung “Lyncht mich, gleich hier und jetzt!” gleichgekommen. Die allgemeine Stimmung gegenüber allem, was auch nur entferntest als Spionage aufgefasst hätte werden können, war damals von einer durchaus mörderischen Hysterie geprägt.

    Insbesondere wäre eine solche Postkarte 1916 ganz sicher nicht zugestellt, sondern Absender und Empfänger vor ein Kriegsgericht gestellt worden.

  14. #14 Hias
    28. September 2019

    “uns gestern Abend zu verabreden, wo wir uns heute Abend treffen wollen”
    Wurden Postkarten damals tatsächlich noch am selben Tag zugestellt? Der Satz würde sonst keinen Sinn geben.
    Auch immer wieder interessant ist die Anordnung der Briefmarke mit der damit verbundenen Bedeutung.

  15. #15 x3Ray
    30. September 2019

    @Hias #14 Die Frage darf man sich durchaus stellen, zumal der Brief ja auch erst zw. 17 und 18 Uhr abgestempelt worden ist.

    Spannend finde ich auch die Frage, ob die Postkarte die Absenderin zeigt. 🙂