Various codebreakers have solved thousands of original Enigma messages from World War II over the last few years. Here’s a message of this kind that is still unsolved. Can my readers help?
Breaking original Enigma messages from World War II has been a very active and successful field of research in recent years. One of the pioneers in this field was Jim Gillogly, a reader of this blog, who in 1995 described a new computer-based ciphertext-only attack on Enigma messages.
Enigma breaking projects
In later years, the following Enigma breaking projects were realized:
- Breaking German Wehrmacht Ciphers: In 2004 Frode Weierud and Geoff Sullivan, two more readers of this blog, started a project named “Breaking German Wehrmacht Ciphers“, in the course of which they solved hundreds of original Enigma messages from the Flossenbürg concentration camp and Hitler’s Russia campaign. Last year, Frode Weierud and Olaf Ostwald published a paper titled Modern breaking of Enigma ciphertexts in the scientific magazine Cryptologia. This article reports on further improvements in Enigma codebreaking with modern means.
Frode Weierud (photo used with permission)
- M4 Message Breaking Project: In 2006 musician Stefan Krah along with hundreds of supporters, who provided computer capacity, broke three cryptograms encrypted with the four-rotor naval Enigma.
- Breaking German Navy Ciphers: Michael Hörenberg, a teacher from Southern Germany, and Dan Girard (both readers of this blog) have been very successful in breaking Enigma messages, too.
Michael Hörenberg (photo used with permission)
All in all, breaking Enigma messages has made considerable progress in the last 15 years. Not only have computers improved, but Enigma codebreaking algorithms have also become more and more sophisticated.
An unsolved message
Wolfgang Schmidt, captain (Hauptmann) at the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) and curator of a Bundeswehr museum in Feldafing near Munich, has now provided me an original Enigma message I hadn’t known before. It was sent on January 10th, 1945. Apparently, the Enigma breaking experts mentioned above have already examined this cryptogram, but it has not been solved yet.
Wolfgang Schmidt told me the following things about this message:
- The form mentions “Oberbefehlshaber Oberrhein IIA” as the sender. At the time of transmission the “Oberbefehlshaber Oberrhein” (Supreme Commander of Upper Rhine Area) was Heinrich Himmler. “II A” denotes his deputy.
- The urgency level is “KR BLITZ”. This is unusual, as the highest level was actually “KR”. Apparently, the message was especially urgent.
Before such a message can be attacked with an Enigma codebreaking program, it is necessary to find out which one of the many Enigma variants was used. It seems very likely that in this case it was a Wehrmacht Enigma (the most common Enigma type). Does a reader know more (I have to admit that I am not an expert of Enigma types)?
If you know something about the background of this message or if you can even solve it, please leave a comment.
Further reading: The machine that broke the Enigma