Here’s an encrypted postcard from the late 19th century. Can a reader decipher it?

Deutsche Version des Artikels (Beta)

Tobias Schrödel, known to my readers as a comedy hacker, crypto book expert, and collector of encrypted postcards, has once again provided me a nice piece from his marvellous collection:

Source: Schrödel

This postcard was sent to a certain Miss Ottilie Kalke, living in the Schwabstr. 16a in a place named “Hier”. As “Hier” is the German word for “here”, you might think that this is an unusual kind of encryption for the postman to solve, but this is not the case. As Tobias explained me, “Hier” was sometimes used as a part of a destination address, when the recipient of a card lived in the city where it was posted. This means that in this case, “Hier” stands for Stuttgart, today the state capital of Baden-Württemberg.

Miss Ottilie apparently was an unmarried woman. It seems that this card, like so many others of its kind, was sent by a young man to his spouse.

The encrypted part of the postcard can be seen on the picture side:

Source: Schrödel

As can be seen, the card is dated 8/9/[18]98, which means that it is older than most of this kind.

The alphabet the sender used consists of the numbers from 1 to 14 and a few letters. The expression 3/4 might refer to a time (in southern Germany, 3/4 means “a quarter to”). The word boundaries are not clear to me in most cases.

I tried the scheme A=1, B=2, C=3, which is encountered on many encrypted postcards, but this doesn’t work here. Still, I think that we are dealing with a simple substitution cipher.

Can a reader break this encryption?

Further reading: Who can decipher this postcard from 1909?


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Kommentare (5)

  1. #1 Gerry
    17. November 2020

    I startet with “Ich” and “_ _ iß” – the only word I know that fits is “weiß”, 2=E and 4=W. Filling gap by gap of the keyword and guessing words, I arrived at the solution:
    Ich weiß nicht was
    soll es bedeuten?
    Komme 3/8 Uhr
    tunnel wie
    Herzlichen Gruß
    und Kuß ddl Emil
    So the keyword interestingly is _ERWALTUNG_M_O, and of course it must start with a “V”, but 1, 11 and 13 are not used in the text.
    ddl may be “dein dich liebender”- “your loving”.

  2. #2 Peter Lichtenberger
    Hier und dort
    17. November 2020

    Kann ich bestätigen:
    2 e
    3 r
    4 w
    5 a
    6 l
    7 t
    8 u
    9 n
    10 g
    12 m
    14 o

    Ich weiss nicht was
    soll es bedeuten?
    Komme 3/4 8 Uhr
    Schwabstrassen =
    tunnel wie
    herzlichen gruss
    und kuss ddl (=dein dich liebender) emil

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    17. November 2020

    @Gerry, Peter: Thank you! Great job!

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    19. November 2020

    Richard SantaColoma via Facebook:
    Wow that was fast! If I don’t see them within a few minutes, they are solved already! I only have speed on my side…

  5. #5 Christof
    22. November 2020

    Grew up there, the tunnel still exists: