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

R. A. Ratcliff


ADDRESS: 1046 Eden Bower Lane, Redwood City CA 94061 USA.

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...

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