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Rare WWII German Enigma machine tops $400,000 at Sotheby’s


A highly rare, fully-working WWII German Enigma code machine has sold for more than $400,00 at Sotheby’s.
The machine was the leading lot of Sotheby’s recent History of Science and Technology sale in New York.

Offered from the estate of noted cryptology experts Dr David Hammer, the machine realized $435,000.

The four-rotor M4 machine was used by German U-boats to encrypt their messages, and is regarded as the rarest of all Enigma machines used by the Germans during WWII.

Following a number of unexplained losses in the early 1940s, Commander of the U-Boat fleet Admiral Karl Dönitz began to doubt the security of the existing Enigma machines.

Suspecting the Allies had cracked the codes set by standard three-rotor machines, he ordered that a four rotor M4 machine be secretly developed for use by the fleet.

These new machines were far more advanced, and it would take the codebreakers at Bletchley Park a further 10 months to crack the codes they produced.

Today, four rotor Enigma machines are far rarer than their earlier counterparts, as the majority were lost when German U-boats were sunk during the war.

Enigma operators were also under strict orders to ensure their machines were not captured by the enemy, and many were stripped of their parts and destroyed before they could fall into the hands of Allied forces.


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