From The German Enigma Cipher Machine: Beginnings, Success, and Ultimate Failure

R. A. Ratcliff

OVERVIEW

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ABSTRACT: Only in 1974 did German intelligence and cryptologists admit that the Enigma cipher machine was not, and had not been, a secure system. Throughout World War II, German experts relied on a theoretical statistical security that took neither wartime operational reality nor their opponents' years of attention and attack into account. They ignored the far more important operational weaknesses and human errors that actually provided enemy cryptanalysts with their most valuable entries into the cipher system.

KEYWORDS: World War II, Enigma, Ultra, signal intelligence, signal security, operational security, stastistics, German military intelligence, Wehrmacht, machine ciphers, cryptanalysis, cribs, key repeats, re-encodements.

"[W]e believe that the enigma cannot be solved... Enigma when used according to instructions is unbreakable. It might be broken if a vast Hollerith [punch card machine] complex is used but this is only slightly possible."

  • Dr. Erich H ttenhain, cryptologist, Cipher Bureau of the German High Command (Chi/OKW), in postwar interrogations. [1]

German intelligence officers ended World War II certain of one thing: Enigma machine ciphers had kept their communications secure. After the war, Allied officers interrogated German cipher machine operators, cipher experts and military officers in countless conversations and written homework. Over and over German intelligence officers and cryptologic experts repeated their confidence in the Enigma machine's security. They had, after all, conducted numerous investigations of their cipher systems' security. A quarter century later, Heinz Bonatz, wartime head of the Kreigsmarine

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Topics of Interest

Over the years Cryptologia has published many reviews related to Enigma material. We include a full set of these reviews. The running heading of the section under which the review ran is offered and...

Louis Kruh OVERVIEW ADDRESS: 17 Alfred Road W., Merrick NY 11566 USA. ABSTRACT: In 1942, Captain Lawrence F. Safford doubted that the German Enigma would be broken. This implied that he was unaware...

FROM THE ULTRA CONFERENCE Louis Kruh Rohwer, J rgen and E. J ckel. Die Funkaufklarung und ihre Rolle im Zweiten Weltkreig. Motorbuch Verlag, Postfach 1370, 7000 Stuttgart 1, WEST GERMANY 19/9. 406...

Patrick Beesly OVERVIEW ABSTRACT: The third Britisher who, in addition to Alastair Denniston and Dillwyn Knox, met the Poles near Pyry in 1939 to to receive a copy of the Enigma machine has been...

David Kahn ADDRESS: 120 Wooleys Lane, Great Neck NY 11023 USA. ABSTRACT: A list of important events in the making and breaking of the German Enigma cipher machine of World War II is given in the...