Harry Welsch was a notable German cryptographer and mathematician during the Second World War. Not much seems to be known about him. Norwegian Enigma expert Frode Weierud would like to change this. Can my readers help?
During World War II, the British concentrated their crypto efforts in Bletchley Park near London – a concept that proved quite successful. In Bletchley Park Alan Turing and a number of other skilled cryptanalysts developed methods and machines that enabled them to break the Enigma and a few other encryption systems, which had an enormous impact on the course of the war.
The Germans, on the other hand, failed to join their cryptologic forces in WW2. Instead, they operated at least a dozen different crypto units, each one doing their own thing. This lack of cooperation among crypto specialists led to the German codemaking and codebreaking efforts being considerably weaker than the ones of the British.
The fact that there were about a dozen German crypto units might also be the reason why the German crypto activities of WW2 are not as well researched as the work of the British cryptologists in Bletchley Park. A crypto history scholar who is currently trying to change this situation is Norwegian Enigma expert Frode Weierud.
Photograph used with the permission of Frode Weierud
Frode is a retired electronics engineer previously employed at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He has had a lifelong interest in cryptology and its history, with special emphasis on WW2 cryptology and codebreaking. If you want to know more about Frode and his work, check his website Crypto Cellar and his blog CryptoCellar Tales.
Earlier this year, Frode published a blog post titled Who was Harry Welsch? According to this post, Harry Welsch was a German cryptographer and mathematician, who worked for one of the many German crypto units during WW2. His responsibilities seem to have included the security of the Enigma. On 12 January 1944 he finished a classified report on weaknesses of the Enigma – a remarkable document, which proves that the Germans were far from clueless about the shortcomings of the Enigma.
Frode writes about Welsch:
Of course I don’t know what he he looked like and I don’t know when he was born, but as he undoubtedly had a higher education, possibly at university level, it is reasonable to think that he was at least 20 years old when he started working for In 7/VI. He started working in In 7/VI Referat 1 (section 1), General cryptanalysis, on 3 April 1941 with the military grade Funker (private). This might indicate that he had been drafted into the army and that he had already had a short military service, or that he during the army selection process had been selected for signal intelligence work. However, even this is not sure as other people entering the service directly from academia also sometimes initially would be registered as private (Funker).
[…] However, what the report shows is that Harry Welsch indeed had a very solid background in statistics and that he must have had some university education and probably a degree. It is impossible to really judge anything about his background from this one report; he might have been an insurance mathematician but he might also have been a high school teacher or simply a university student. I have of course looked high and low for trances of Harry Welsch both before and after the war but I have not found any trace of him in connection with mathematics or statistics.
Of course, it would be very interesting to learn more about Harry Welsch. Frode has conducted intensive research, but all he found was a soccer player of this name. This sportsman named Harry Welsch might or might not be identical with the cryptologist.
Can a reader find out more?
Further reading: Who can decipher these encrypted consular messages?
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