World War II Enigma machine goes up for sale for £16,000

Rare Enigma machine that was buried by German soldiers near the end of World War II goes up for sale for £16,000 after it was found by a treasure hunter

  • The three-rotor Enigma I device was hidden in a 3ft hole 120 miles from Berlin
  • It will go under the hammer in Boston after it was found near village of Sülstorf 
  • Nazis used Enigma machines to send coded messages cracked at Bletchley Park 

A rare Enigma machine that was buried by German soldiers near the end of World War II has been uncovered and put up for sale for £16,000. 

The Enigma I device was hidden in a 3ft hole 120 miles from Berlin and remained there for decades until it was found by a treasure hunter near the village of Sülstorf. 

The three-rotor machine, which is thought to have belonged to the 3rd Panzer Army, was one of the devices which the Germans used to encode secret messages in a cipher which was cracked by Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park. 

The typewriter-like object is caked in rust and has long since stopped working, but is expected to attract substantial interest when it goes under the hammer in Boston tomorrow. 

Uncovered: This Enigma I machine which was buried by German soldiers near the end of World War II was found by a treasure hunter in Germany and is now on sale for £16,000

One of the rotors on the Enigma machine, which the Germans used to send coded messages that were cracked by Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park 

The 3rd Panzer Army is thought to have hidden its equipment from Allied forces after it was defeated at Stettin near what is now the Polish-German border in 1945. 

The army retreated to Sülstorf after trying to hold back Soviet forces in the defence of Berlin, where Hitler killed himself in his bunker on April 30 before Germany surrendered on May 8.   

Commander Hasso von Manteuffel negotiated with British generals, including Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, so that his 300,000 German soldiers would surrender to the British rather than the Soviet forces.   

Germany was subsequently carved up into four occupation zones, with Berlin separately divided into four sectors.  

A PR Auction spokesman said that fewer than one per cent of Enigma machines survived the war, partly because of German efforts to hide or destroy them.   

‘This is a truly historic relic, found on the battlefield and recovered from the ground,’ the spokesman said. 

‘It was discovered at the bottom of a 3ft hole and was buried by German soldiers who did not want their equipment to fall into the hands of the allies.

‘As German positions were overrun or preparing to surrender, the Enigma machines were be intentionally damaged to make them non-functional and then discarded into lakes, the ocean, or buried so they would not be found.

‘The intentional destruction of Enigma machines by the Germans as well as Churchill’s orders to destroy all captured Enigma machines is the reason that less than one percent of all Enigma machines survived the war.

‘Nearly all survivors now reside with museums, government intelligence agencies, or private collectors.’


The typewriter-like object is caked in rust and has long since stopped working, but is expected to attract substantial interest when it goes under the hammer in Boston

The Nazis had regarded Enigma as unbreakable because of the 103 sextillion possible settings which were made possible by its three rotors

The Allies decoded and intercepted the Enigma traffic at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where codebreakers had first set up camp in 1938

Another Enigma 1 machine changed hands for just €100 at a Romanian flea market after its owner mistook it for an old typewriter, before it was sold on for €45,000 at an online auction in 2017.   

The example currently up for sale still has its serial number – A20437 – visible on the reflector, indicating it was built in Berlin in 1944.

It was intended for use by new German divisions being formed from the remnants of their shattered predecessors.   

The Allies decoded and intercepted the Enigma traffic at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where codebreakers had first set up camp in 1938. 

The codebreakers including Alan Turing first cracked the code in January 1940 and their work is seen as vital to the eventual Allied victory. 

The Nazis had regarded Enigma as unbreakable because of the 103 sextillion possible settings which were made possible by its three rotors. 

Allied general and future US president Dwight Eisenhower said the breaking of the Enigma code had ‘saved thousands of British and American lives’. 

Turing went uncredited for his work and and instead was persecuted on charges of homosexuality, a crime in 1952, and died a broken man in 1954.

He was posthumously pardoned in 2013 and his work was celebrated by the 2014 movie The Imitation Game, in which he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  

The sale takes place tomorrow.   

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