Crypto collector Ralph Simpson is compiling a list of all Kryha machines that are known to exist. Can my readers support him?
Last Saturday, I gave a presentation on the life and the devices of Alexander von Kryha (1891–1955), a German-Ukrainian constructor of encryption machines. I was supported by Claus Taaks, who is currently the leading expert on Kryha’s biography.
Alexander von Kryha developed three encryption machines:
- The Kryha Standard
- The Kryha Liliput
- The Kryha Elektric
In my view, the Standard and the Liliput are two of the most beautiful encryption machines that were ever built.
It is the tragedy of Kryha’s life that he never realized that his devices were quite week from a cryptographic point of view. US codebreaker William Friedman (1891-1969) is known to have solved a Kryha Standard message within 2 hours and 41 minutes, only using paper and pencil. This would have been impossible with the Enigma, a major competitor of Kryha’s machines in the 1920s.
After two failed attempts to establish a successful business based on his encryption machines, Alexander von Kryha committed suicide in 1955.
A Kryha catalog
Today, Kryha machines are sought-after collectibles. The visual design and the dramatic background story make these devices very attractive for museums and private collectors. The following 2007 photograph shows me with a Kryha Standard owned by Austrian collector Günter Hütter.
A few years later, I published an article about Kryha in the Cryptologia. It was the seminal research paper about Kryha’s biography.
It is clear that today Kryha machines are much rarer than, say, Enigmas or M-209s, which were mass-produced for over a decade. In my webinar, I said that about 20 Standards and five Liliputs might have survived. To my knowledge, the Kryha Elektric is lost.
It soon became clear that my estimate with regard to the Liliputs was too pessimistic. After the talk, crypto collector Ralph Simpson …
… started to assemble a list of still-existing Kryha machines. Currently, this catalog contains 21 Standards and 13 Liliputs. Does a reader know of any Kryha machines not mentioned in the list? If so, Ralph and I would be interested to know.
On one of my presentation slides, I showed a picture of the green Kryha Standard I saw in the Science Museum in London last year:
It’s the only green Kryha machine on Ralph’s list. It’s completely unclear why this machine has a different color and what the purpose of this coloring was. If a reader has a clue, please leave a comment.
Further reading: Update: A complete (?) list of German cipher machines in World War 2