German Enigma Machine: Rare WWII Antique Artifacts

Perhaps surprisingly for me, my favorite piece in our antique gallery is our Enigma Cipher machine. I have always been attracted to beauty, rarity and history; and although this wonderful machine rates an A plus on the Rarity and History fronts, it is without a doubt the least attractive object in our wonderful gallery!

These electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines were first developed and used in the mid-2oth century. German engineer, Arthur Scherbius, is credited with the invention, however there are others who were working on similar machines in different parts of the world.

During World War II, these machines played a significant role in encrypting the German Army’s military communications. While the British were able to decipher a majority of German Air Force and ground messages, it was the Naval messages and their superior German U-boats which the allied forces were struggling with. Alan Turing, an English computer scientist and famed member of the top-secret codebreaker team at Bletchley Park had a breakthrough in 1941 which allowed the Allied forces to decipher German Navy messages. His improvements to the bombe, an electro-mechanical device used to decipher German Enigma machines encrypted messages, was later depicted in the 2015 film, Imitation Games and played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

My father was in the Coast Guard that fought in WWII, and I have always been fascinated by our greatest generation. Owning an Enigma machine that most experts believe helped shorten the war by two years (and perhaps saved my father's life) gives me immense pleasure to own, even if we have it for only for a little while. It is perhaps one of the greatest mementoes of WWII that will ever come on the market.

View M.S. Rau Antiques' current selection of historical cipher machines

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