In a 1932 police journal, an unsolved encrypted message is depicted. Can a reader solve it after nine decades?

Deutsche Version des Artikels (Beta)

Apart from my readers, Google has long been my best source for finding topics for my blog. When I search for expressions such as “encrypted” or “in code”, I often receive interesting results, especially when I perform my search in different languages.

This time, I found a fascinating website when I used my mother language, German. Via the search term “Geheimschrift” (“secret script”) Google led me to a site titled Museum Digital Sachsen, which represents 77 museums in the German state of Saxony (Sachsen). One of these 77 institutions is the Polizeihistorische Sammlung Dresden, a small museum that exhibits items related to police and crime history.


Secret messages in a museum collection

According to the Museum Digital Sachsen site, the Polizeihistorische Sammlung Dresden owns 27 items that are tagged “Geheimschrift”. Nearly all of these are highly interesting for a crypto history enthusiast like me. The collection includes cipher descriptions, encrypted messages, steganographic methods, and similar items, either used by criminals or by police instructors. As far as I can tell, all documents were created before the Second World War.

The following sheet decribes a typewriter cipher:

Here’s a cipher based on the cyrillic alphabet:

The following is a description of a “simple secret script”:


An unsolved cryptogram

Many of the Geheimschrift documents in the Polizeihistorische Sammlung Dresden are worth to be covered in a separate blog post. Today, I’m going to start with a sheet that shows an unsolved cryptogram:

As can be read in the caption of the image, this cryptogram is “an interesting secret script that has not been deciphered yet”. The source is a German journal named Kriminalistische Monats-Hefte (#11, November 1932, page 261). The website provides no information about the background of this message.

It goes without saying that this cipher mystery is a tough one. It consists of only about 20 symbols, some of which stand on top of each other. Frequency analysis is as good a useless, as no symbol appears more than three times. Guessing words appears to be difficult, too.

Can a reader solve this encrypted message anyway?

Further reading: Update: Information wanted about seven crime-related cryptograms


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Kommentare (5)

  1. #1 schorsch
    20. November 2020

    Off topic: Your method of searching for new topics sounds for me like roving around (‘herumstrolchen’ in german). Did you ever rove in It’s a giant and relative complete corpus of american newspapers from 1789 up to the 1920’s.

    I looked it up occasionally for certain cryptographic topics (specially in connection with the great war) but was not very successfull. But today I looked up ‘Geheimschrift’ and got at least 268 results – some of them might be interesting for you as well.

  2. #2 Richard Bean
    20. November 2020

    Someone could bring back Herbert Yardley from the dead, a la Joseph Curwen, and see if he recognizes the shorthand?

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    22. November 2020

    The Polizeihistorische Sammlung is now included in the Cryptologic Travel Guide:

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    24. November 2020

    > Did you ever rove in
    No, but sounds like a good idea.

  5. #5 dexter
    18. Dezember 2020

    😀 Russische Geheimschrift … damals wie heute, im Osten oder in den neuen Bundesländern nicht zu gebrauchen. 😉