Four explosive attacks and a coded message

In 1894, anarchists planted several bombs in Belgium. A historian has discovered a coded message from this group in an archive. It has not yet been deciphered.

Deutsche Version

Encrypted postcards are a popular topic on Cipherbrain. This is also true for encrypted messages that are related to a crime. So it’s all the nicer that today I can present both at once: an encrypted postcard related to a crime.

Anarchists in Liège

The virtual journey that is always associated with a coded postcard takes us this time to Liège in Belgium. Via Google search, I came across an article (including a video) from 2020 about an anarchist group there that carried out several attacks in 1894.

According to the article, the leader of this terrorist group was Russian, and the other members were from Germany. In April 1994, the anarchists attempted to detonate a bomb in the theater in Liège. A similar attack on the same day was aimed at the house of Mayor Léo Gérard. Both terroactions failed.

In the weeks that followed, the anarchists first carried out an explosive attack on the Church of St. James, the most important place of worship in Liège. This action caused only minor damage.

Quelle/Source: Wikimedia Commons

On the night of May 3 to 4, 1894, the anarchists finally launched their fourth attempt. An explosive attack on the house of a Dr. Renson (presumably a doctor) seriously injured three people. It was to remain the group’s last act of terrorism.

The anarchists had stolen the explosives from a mine in the Ardennes on April 1, 1894. They mixed nails into the explosive charges to increase their effect.

The members of the anarchist group were arrested after this series of attacks. They were sentenced to many years in prison.

Unfortunately, I could not find any source on this terrorist group other than the article. I am also unaware of their goals. Since there were different currents of anarchism in the late 19th century, different motives are conceivable. Perhaps a reader knows more about this story.


The encrypted message

The historian Bernard Wilkin, mentioned in the article, has found in the State Archives in Liège a coded message that can be attributed to the said anarchists. Here it is:

Quelle/Source: Belgisches Staatsarchiv

The address page follows. It shows that the card was sent from Brussels to Liège on 16 May 1894 (i.e. after the attacks):

Quelle/Source: Belgisches Staatsarchiv

The cryptogram should not be easy to decipher. Some words are written in plain text (can a reader read them?), the rest consists of letters, symbols and small drawings. Presumably the latter each stand for a word or a whole sentence. A frequency analysis is of little use, since only a few of the characters are repeated.

Can a reader nevertheless glean something from this message? The aforementioned historian Bernard Wilkin would certainly be interested.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.
Further reading: Interview with Lyn Ulbricht, mother of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht


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