In 1918, during the last months of the First World War, a woman living in Southern Germany received two encrypted postcards from her lover. Can a reader find out what he wrote?

Over the last six years, I have blogged about hundreds of encrypted postcards. Most of them were written in the early 19th century. In most cases, the sender was a young man who sent the card to his lover.


The postcards

The two postcards I am going to introduce today are probably of this kind, too. The recipient was an unmarried woman named Rosa Zwick living in Erbenschwang, a district of a smalll town named Ingenried in the German state of Bavaria. Ingenried is located near Schongau, about half-way between Munich and Lake Constance (Bodensee). The sender probably was her lover (one of the motives shows a bunch of roses).

These two postcards were provided to me (like many others) by comedy hacker and codebreaking expert Tobias Schrödel. By the way, on February 8, I met Tobias at the Gymnasium Ottobrunn near Munich where both of us gave talks. The following picture shows him together with teacher Felix Brüstle who organized this event.

What is unusual about these postcards is that they were sent during the last months of World War 1. One would expect that in this time people had other things to worry about than sending encrypted postcards. It would be interesting to know if the sender was a soldier and, if so, why he didn’t use the army postal service.


The first card

Here’s the picture side of the first card:

The text side shows that the card is dated 29 May 1918.

Parts of the text, including what might be a place and a signature, are written in the clear, but they are hard to read. If a reader can make sense of this writing, please let me know.


The second card

Here is the second card:.

This one was sent on 3 March 1918. No place is mentioned, and the signature appears to be encrypted.

The encryption system used is probably a letter substitution (MASC). As the spaces between the words are visible, it might be possible to guess words. Can a reader solve these cryptograms?

Further reading: Who can solve this encrypted postcard from Transylvania?


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Kommentare (12)

  1. #1 Thomas
    21. Februar 2019

    It is only a partial substitution:
    1 a
    2 e
    3 i
    4 o
    5 u
    6 l
    7 n
    8 m
    9 r
    0 s

  2. #2 Thomas
    21. Februar 2019

    The 2nd postcard:

    …, den 4. III. 1918
    Liebe Zenzi! Will dir heut ein Kärtlein schicken. Neues. Die Frau Streif von Bischofschwang ist gestorben. Sie ist in deinem Stuhl gestanden. Bei Mutter ist noch alles in Ruhe. Man hat sie noch nicht einge…ere. Die Brüder sind noch alle gesund. Die Rosa soll halt einmal auf Besuch kommen. ???? Auch viele Grüße an alle. Für alles nochmals besten Dank besonders v. Mutter. Herzlichen Gruß v. deiner (?) … …

  3. #3 Thomas
    21. Februar 2019

    The sender’s place seems to be “Roßhaupten” (Bavaria).
    Whereas the recipient of the 1st card was Rosa Zwick (“Landwirts-Tochter”), the 2nd card was sent to Zenzi Zwick (“Ackermanns-Tochter”)

  4. #4 Esme
    21. Februar 2019

    In der Tat, die eine Karte ist an Rosa Zwick adressiert, die andere an Zenzi Zwick.

  5. #5 Thomas
    22. Februar 2019

    The 1st card (help appreciated):

    Liebe Rosa!
    Deinen Brief erh. Besten Dank. Von Hanna(?) noch nichts bekomen. Jetzt gerade können wir kein Mehl brauchen. Denn wir fürchten noch Kontrol. Und wan man uns erwischen tät. ??? seid so gut. Vielleicht an Jakobi (= 25. Juli), gelt. Und jetzt grad haben wir schon noch Mehl. Wenn man uns erwischt können wir bis Neujahr keins mehr bekommen. Anfang (?) über das (?) schwer. ….eer gefahren. Ist auf ??? Ist gesund. Welche ??? Eine solche Karte kostet Euch Geld. Sind alle gesund. Gruß von Patin. Viele Grüße von Deiner Cousine. Gruß an Vetter u. Base.

    I wonder whether “Mehl” actually means “flour” in this case or maybe some sort of contraband.

  6. #6 Thomas
    22. Februar 2019

    Place and date of the 1st card:

    Roßhaupten, den 29.V.1918

  7. #7 S. Tomokiyo
    22. Februar 2019

    < What is unusual about these postcards is that they were sent during the last months of World War 1.

    I wonder whether encryption in post cards was allowed during the war.
    As for telegrams, encryption was restricted in many countries, as mentioned in ,e.g., my article.

  8. #8 Thomas
    22. Februar 2019

    The sender was the recipient’s (female) cousin “Reserl” which is a Bavarian form of “Therese”.

  9. #9 Thomas
    22. Februar 2019

    @ S. Tomokiyo
    Even M. Zwick (maybe a brother of Rosa and Zenzi) who served as a soldier and wrote to his parents in Erbenschwang by “Feldpost” (military postal service) in 1917 made use of the identical cipher, see another postcard presented by Tobias Schrödel, Hence there was a “Zwick family cipher” which passed even military censorship.

  10. #10 S. Tomokiyo
    22. Februar 2019

    I thought it was OK because this was domestic communication, but I’m surprised that even military censorship allowed cipher. Thank you for the information.

  11. #11 Karsten Hansky
    23. Februar 2019

    We discussed another WWI-postcard some time ago:

    That shows that cipher was allowed in “Feldpost”.

  12. #12 Klaus Schmeh
    3. März 2019

    Thanks to all! These postcards are apparently a lot more interesting than they seem.