Postcard enthusiast Günther Hunger from Oschatz has provided me a scan of an encrypted message from the early 20th century. Can a reader decipher it?

The postcard from Homberg (Ohm), Germany I introduced on Friday was, once again, solved by my readers within hours. Thanks to Thomas and Gerry for doing a great job.

On the same day, I recieved another query concerning an encrypted postcard. It came from Günther Hunger, a deltiologist (i.e., a postcard collector and scholar) from Oschatz in eastern Germany. Günther had already contacted me six years ago, when he had come across an encrypted postcard from Saxony. I blogged about it, and my readers Delia Huegel (Romania) and Armin Krauß (Germany) deciphered it.

Here’s the card Günther Hunger would like to have deciphered this time:

To my regret, the address side of the card is not available. So, we neither know the date of the stamp nor the recipient. If I’m not wrong, the date 1902-11-4 can be read on the dog.

As can be seen, the message includes a few passages that appear to be written in plaintext. I consulted my preferred expert for old writing (my father), but he couldn’t tell me what these unencrypted words mean. As it seems, they are neither German nor English nor French.

When I typed in a few of the cleartext words on Google, I found out that “ilyen” and “kapok” make sense in Hungarian. I suppose that this is the language the card is written in.

Can a reader find out more?

Further reading: Two unsolved encrypted postcards from London and Chicago


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Kommentare (12)

  1. #1 Gerry
    31. Mai 2020

    The cleartext words are Hungarian.

  2. #2 Veronika
    1. Juni 2020

    could the plaintext perhaps be: “mindig csak ilyen soro kapaok” – written in Hungarian language?
    Kind regards

  3. #3 Veronika
    1. Juni 2020

    Correction (forgot a word-part):
    Perhaps “mindig csak ilyen sorokat kapaok”, what means in German some like “Ich bekomme immer nur solche Zeilen”?

  4. #4 Norbert
    3. Juni 2020

    I decided to share the best result my own homophonic solver could achieve.

    It is definitely not the solution. Maybe it can serve as a starting point for someone else who speaks Hungarian better than I do (I don’t speak it at all).

    At least I could imagine that “tudtam” between the two commas in the second line is correct.

    I find it very difficult to distinguish the symbols from each other. So I could have made many mistakes already during transcription. In total I arrived at 43 different symbols.

    Apart from the punctuation marks, I did not try to separate the words.

    énédeseletlenem! megjöttl. fakod. ná
    mítottamrá, tudtam, holílfegnír
    ni! isteyemmárosrégóta (cleartext: mindig esak
    ilyen sorokat kapok.) kedigél
    asnitőled! fakásodrakis
    lomagsshivatalbaisl. m
    akment. megésktad? hátteg
    gej, miaenvenekedéseévan, ye
    kittfostonkistamiatt! mu
    káljikmariskát. bizopisten
    élfogym… areménnélelni, haele
    javinnehozza! ebbőlanemkontból
    fobbannergtném, haelsem… enye. igazá
    nosanezac. (cleartext: ného mineha az) enemgnye! kam
    enkodikerősen! kánivékém! lakmárelmehe
    t????… (illegible)

  5. #5 Norbert
    5. Juni 2020

    I have found that some symbols represent digraphs like “sz”, “zs” and “gy”. Based on this, I have revised the plain text:

    Énédesegyetlenem! Megjöttl. Napod. Szá
    mátottamrá, tudtam, hogyágyjegszár
    ni! Istenemmározsrégóté (cleartext: mindig esak
    ilyen sorokat kapok.) Pedigégy
    asnitőled! Nakásodrakis
    gyomagszshivatalbaisl. N
    apment. Megézsptad? Hátteg
    Gej, miaenveszekedéseévan, na
    kittjozstonpistamiatt! Mo
    káljikmariskát. Bizony isten
    égyjogom… araménszégyelni, haagye
    javiszszahozza! Ebbőlaszempontból
    jobbanszeretnémhaelsem… enne. Igazá
    nozsanaza P. (cleartext: ného mineha az) eszemenne! Kam
    aszkodikerősen! Pászivékém! Gyakmárelmehe
    t????… (illegible)

    Again, I didn’t dare to separate the words. Better to be done by a native speaker. However, a few attempts have shown very promising results with Google Translate:

    “Én édes egyetlenem!” – “My sweet only one!”
    “Ebből aszempontból jobban szeretném ha el sem …” – “From this point of view I’d rather not …”

    So it seems to me that this version is pretty close 🙂

  6. #6 Thomas
    6. Juni 2020


    Awesome, you’re certainly on the right track!

    Some more parsing/translation attempts:

    Megjöt I. Napod. Számátottam rá, tudtam hogy: I arrived. A day. I expected it, I knew that

    Pedig égy szeretnék már most is olvasni tőled! : And I want to read from you right now!

    Hat tegnapi levelem megérkezett? Did my letter arrive yesterday?

  7. #7 Thomas
    6. Juni 2020


    Do you have a fitness function based on Hungarian n-grams?

  8. #8 Norbert
    6. Juni 2020

    @Thomas: The fitness function in my program is specifically geared towards homophonic ciphers.
    I used a corpus file from which my program calculated the n-gram statistics. Funnily enough, it is a translation of Orwell’s “1984” into Hungarian.
    Because of the many non-Ascii signs, a lot of manual work was required. I absolutely need to add UTF-8 support to my program …
    Today I will edit the corpus accordingly to treat “sz”, “zs”, “cs”, “gy”, “ny” and “ly” as individual characters. I’m curious whether my program can then improve a little more on the plain text.

  9. #9 Norbert
    8. Juni 2020

    With the first few lines I am now quite confident:

    Én édes egyetlenem! Megjöttl [megjött?] lapod. Számítottam rá, tudtam, hogy így fogsz írni! Istenem, már oly régóta (cleartext: mindig csak ilyen sorokat kapok.) Pedig égy [egy?] szeretnék már most is olvasni tőled!

    Translation (without guarantee):

    My sweet only one! Your card has arrived. I was expecting it, I knew you were going to write like that! God, I’ve always only got lines like this for so long. And I want to read one from you now too!

    There are still some difficulties with the rest. I have the impression that the text uses some loan words from the Austrian language: “gej” – “geh!” (approximately: look!), “baisl” – “Beisl” (pub), “pá” – “ba-ba” (bye). Only guesses so far…

  10. #10 Norbert
    9. Juni 2020


    Lakásodra kis csomag [i]s a hivatal baisl lap ment. Meg kaptad? Hát tegnapi levelem megérkezett? Gej, milyen veszekedések van, nyakitt [nyaggat? nyűg itt?] folyton Pista miatt!

    A small parcel went to your flat and a postcard to the office of the pub (Beisl), did you get them? And did my letter arrive yesterday? Look, what kind of wrangling is this: to pester always because of Pista (=István/Steven)!

    Again, the translation is without guarantee, as is the deciphering.

    As it seems, the eighth symbol of the top line sometimes represents “gy”, and sometimes “cs”. Both digraphs are pronounced somewhat alike, so this might be due to a writing weakness as well as by cipher design. (Of course, I could be completely wrong, too.)

    To be continued further…

  11. #11 Thomas
    9. Juni 2020


    Well done, after that you deserve a grade in Hungarian Linguistics!

  12. #12 Norbert
    12. Juli 2020

    This is my final attempt at deciphering this. I certainly do not deserve a diploma in Hungarian Linguistics :-/, but thankfully I found a native speaker who gave me valuable help.
    I have learned a lot, and have to correct myself in several points. The pub (“baisl”) does not exist in the text – in this case I just put the words together wrong. Another new insight: “…” does not mean “dot, dot, dot”, but is a cipher symbol standing for “m”!
    In the following, the lines correspond to the lines on the postcard again:

    Én édes egyetlenem! Megjött l.(*) lapod. Szá-
    mítottam rá, tudtam, hogy így fogsz ír-
    ni! Istenem, már oly régóta mindig csak
    ilyen sorokat kapok. Pedig úgy
    szeretnék már most is olv-
    asni tőled! Lakásodra kis
    csomag [é]s a hivatalba is l.(*) l-
    ap ment. Meg kaptad? Hát teg-
    napi levelem megérkezett?
    Gej, milyen veszekedések vanna-
    k itt folyton Pista miatt! Mo-
    st már a cseléddel egyetértve pisz-
    kálják Mariskát. Bizony isten
    úgy fogom magam én szégyelni, ha a gye-
    rek majd húsvétra hazamegy [é]s ha any-
    ja viszszahozza! Ebből a szempontból
    jobban szeretném, ha el sem menne. Igazá-
    n olyan aza P. néha mintha az esze menne! kam-
    aszkodik erősen! Pá szivikém! Csak már elmehe-
    t (illegible)

    A rough translation:
    My sweet only one! Your l.(*) card has arrived. I was expecting it because I knew you were going to write! God, I’ve always only got lines like this for so long. But I do want to read from you now! A small parcel went to your flat and a l.(*) postcard to the office. Did you get them? And did my letter arrive yesterday? Oh, there is always quarrel here about Pista (=Steven)! They bully Mariska (=Mary) with the maid’s consent. I will certainly be ashamed when the child goes home for Easter, and when the mother brings her back. From this point of view, I would prefer her not to go at all. Sometimes P. seems like crazy! Strongly adolescent! Bye sweetheart! (Rest unclear due to the illegible ending.)

    (*) It remains unclear what “l.” means. The dot after “l” is clearly to be seen in both occurrences on the card. “L.” could be a special code between the two lovers. I don’t know which Hungarian word starting with L could fit here, but imho it is also possible that “l.” stands for the English word “love” or its German equivalent “Liebe”.