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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Kommentare (15)

  1. #1 Tobias Schrödel
    12. Dezember 2018

    There is a man called “Harry Weller”, who invented a crypto disk. How ever, this man lived in Los Angeles in 1957 and chances are low, that he is the “Harry Welsch”, you are looking for. But who knows. Maybe he migrated and had his name changed – not to be accused as a Nazi???

  2. #2 Dampier
    13. Dezember 2018

    abo : ]

  3. #3 Tobias Schrödel
    13. Dezember 2018

    One more thing: Is it for sure, that the first name is really Harry? Harry is an english name. In german it is the short form for Heinrich, Harald or Harold.

  4. #4 Thomas
    13. Dezember 2018

    Did Frode Weierud search for Welsch in “Biographisches Lexikon in Mathematik promovierter Personen an deutschen Universitäten und Technischen Hochschulen WS 1907/08 bis WS 1944/45 (by Renate Tobies)”, providing biographical sketches of mathematicians working during the Third Reich?
    Unfortunately, the images in his blog post don’t show a source containing Welsch’s first name.

  5. #5 Frode Weierud
    13. Dezember 2018

    I have of course looked in Renate Tobies Biographisches Lexikon, the only Welsch there is Joseph Welsch that was born in 1882 and who would have been 63 years old in 1945. A bad fit for Funker Welsch, however that he is related to Joseph Welsch in some way is indeed possible seeing that Joseph Welsch was a high school teacher in Hamburg. The first name Harry is not so uncommon in Germany, you find it specially in North Germany. To prove that he really is named Harry Welsch I have uploaded a copy of the personnel listing for April 1941 showing that Funker Harry Welsch joined In 7/VI on 3 April 1941. The link is here:

  6. #6 Thomas
    14. Dezember 2018

    @Frode Weierud
    Thanks, that’s interesting.
    An old brochure issued by the “Statistisches Bundesamt” mentions internal papers written by “Dipl-Math. Harry Welsch” (Wirtschaft und Statistik 10/1984, p. 868, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.destatis.de/GPStatistik/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/DEAusgabe_derivate_00000514/Wirtschaft%2520und%2520Statistik-1984-10.pdf%3Bjsessionid%3DEB66B93FE196443A14E669053C8998D6&ved=2ahUKEwiy6rbcj5_fAhUDPVAKHaTADOQQFjABegQICRAB&usg=AOvVaw3UrzyZ_8_0qM71xQWVAM2i). Thus we can assume that there was a mathematician Harry Welsch working for the “Statistisches Bundesamt” in Wiesbaden. Statistics and cryptology aren’t far apart.

  7. #7 NullcoManix
    14. Dezember 2018

    OK, what we have is a Dipl. Math. Harry Welsch, publishing in 1960 and being alive in 1984 (the citation marks his co-author Marin Noumey as deceased).

    Someone living close to a university library could check out his paper, “Einige Aspekte der Stichprobenauswahl mit größenproportionalen Wahrscheinlichkeiten” in “Allgemeines Statistisches Archiv, Sonderhefte” No. 17 (1960), pp. 43 ff.

  8. #8 Thomas
    14. Dezember 2018

    I think you’ve misunderstood the footnote 4 in the link #7: Nourney (who had been a “Leitender Regierungsdirektor” in the “Statistisches Bundesamt”) and Harry Welsch were coauthors only concerning the internal papers. The article “Einige Aspekte…” (from 1980, by the way), had been written only by Nourney.

  9. #9 Frode Weierud
    14. Dezember 2018

    Many thanks Thomas, I think you have found Harry Welch. I will see if I can get a copy of the article written by Martin Nourney that appear in STENGER, H. (Hrsg.)
    Praktische Anwendungen von Stichprobenverfahren.
    Mit Beitragen von H.Stenger, etc.
    (Sonderhefte zum Allgemeinen Statistischen Archiv Heft 17). 84p. VH. 1980. Paper. It might there is some more reference to the work of Dipl.-Math. Harry Welsch there. I am curious about the title Dipl.-Math., I am used to Dipl. Ing. but Dipl.-Math. is new to me. What institute of learning deliver or delivered degrees with this title? Again many thanks for find the first post-war trace of Harry Welsch.

  10. #10 NullcoManix
    14. Dezember 2018

    Sorry about the confusion concerning Martin Nourney.

    According to this book review, Nourney was head of the Mathemetical Methods Group at the Statistisches Bundesamt until his death in 1984.

  11. #11 Gerd
    14. Dezember 2018


    the “Dipl.” title from german universities varies with the faculty from which you get it.
    so “Dipl.-Ing.” is a diploma in engineering,
    “Dipl.-Math” is a diploma in mathematics,
    “Dipl.-Phys.” a diploma in physics and so on.
    so as expected, Harry Welsch was an educated mathematician.

  12. #12 Thomas
    14. Dezember 2018

    @Frode Weierud
    As Gerd said, the diploma is awarded to students of mathematics by some universities. Since both von Denffer and Rinow had attended the Friedrich-Wilhelm-University in Berlin (here the Wiki articles on them aren’t correct, because it became named in honor of Humboldt not before 1949), my first guess was they might have took Welsch with them to the Referat F. But that proved wrong, as the Friedrich-Wilhelm-University didn’t award the diploma, because the mathematicians were included in the philosophical faculty, so that the mathematicians had to pass a “Staatsexamen” (teachers exam). Hence Welsch most likely got the diploma from another university.

  13. #13 Frode Weierud
    11. Januar 2019

    I have now received a copy of the article from Sonderhefte zum allgemeinen Statistischen Archiv, Heft 17/1980, S. 43ff, unfortunately it does not mention anything about Harry Welsch. I have also received a reply from Statistisches Bundesamt to my request for information about Harry Welsch. Unfortunately they have a rule that when a former employee reaches the age of 70 years his or her personnel dossier is automatically destroyed, so they are unable to say if they ever had an employee with the name of Harry Welsch. So Harry Welsch still remains a mystery. Who is Harry Welsch?

  14. #14 Frode Weierud
    11. Januar 2019

    After my status report above I also asked the library of the Statistisches Bundesamt to make a search in their collections to see if they could find any internal or external publications authored by Harry Welsch. The library immediately did a thorough search in their own collections but also in other collections such as the German national library. Unfortunately with negative result. They found no trace of any documents authored by Harry Welsch. However, I have not yet given up. I am still exploring other options.

  15. #15 Klaus Schmeh
    11. Januar 2019

    @Frode: Thanks for keeping us updated.