Divers find Nazis’ Enigma code machine in Baltic Sea

BERLIN: German divers who recently fished an Enigma encryption machine out of the Baltic Sea, used by the Nazis to send coded messages during World War II, handed their rare find over to a museum for restoration on Friday.

This Handout photo made available by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on December 4, 2020 shows the Enigma encryption machine discovered on November 11, 2020 in the Bay of Gelting in the Baltic Sea, northern Germany. -AFP pic/WWF/Submaris/ Florian Huber
This Handout photo made available by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on December 4, 2020 shows the Enigma encryption machine discovered on November 11, 2020 in the Bay of Gelting in the Baltic Sea, northern Germany. -AFP pic/WWF/Submaris/ Florian Huber

The legendary code machine was discovered last month during a search for abandoned fishing nets in the Bay of Gelting in northeast Germany, by divers on assignment for environmental group WWF.

“A colleague swam up and said: there’s a net there with an old typewriter in it,” Florian Huber, the lead diver, told the DPA news agency.

The team quickly realised they had stumbled across a historic artefact and alerted the authorities.

Diver and underwater archaeologist Florian Huber touches a rare Enigma cipher machine used by the Nazi military during World War II, in Gelting Bay near Flensburg, Germany on Nov. 11, 2020. (Reuters Photo)
(L-R) Divers and underwater archaeologists Christian Howe, Florian Huber and Uli Kunz pose with a rare Enigma cipher machine they found on the seabed of Gelting Bay and it was used by the Nazi military during World War Two, near Flensburg, Germany November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Howe Reuters

Ulf Ickerodt, head of the state archaeological office in Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein region, said the machine would be restored by experts at the state’s archaeology museum.

The delicate process, including a thorough desalination process after seven decades in the Baltic seabed, “will take about a year”, he said.

After that, the Enigma will go on display at the museum.

The legendary code machine was discovered during a search for abandoned fishing nets in the Bay of Gelting
The newly discovered Enigma machine. Photo: DPA

Naval historian Jann Witt from the German Naval Association told DPA that he believes the machine, which has three rotors, was thrown overboard from a German warship in the final days of the war.

It is less likely that it came from a scuttled submarine, he said, because Adolf Hitler’s U-boats used the more complex four-rotor Enigma machines.

The Allied forces worked tirelessly to decrypt the codes produced by the Enigma machine, which were changed every 24 hours.

British mathematician Alan Turing, seen as the father of modern computing, spearheaded a team at Britain’s Bletchley Park that cracked the code in 1941.

The breakthrough helped the Allies decipher crucial radio messages about German military movements. Historians believe it shortened the war by about two years.

The story was turned into a 2014 movie called “The Imitation Game”, starring Oscar-nominated British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing.

AFP

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