A Cipher Machine 41 (SG-41), Wanderer Werke, Chemnitz
German Historical Collectibles from 1919 onwards | A79r | Live auction | 787 Lots
Hammer price € 98,000Show related lots
Serial number 000352, manufacturer's code "cxo" (Wanderer Werke), built in 1944. Identification plate reads "Schl. Ger. 41 / 000352 cxo 44". Blue-green steel case, 26 keys, hinged document support with spring-loaded holder. Folding crank on the right hand side, hence the nickname "Hitler Mill". Crank numbered "21". Extractable carrying handle. Front door to insert two paper reels into a pull-out holder. Two paper reels inserted (might be postwar replacements), one to output the original, one for the encoded message. Removable inked wheel holder to colour the paper strip, its cover labelled "1" and "2". Two knurled wheels with 2 positions each, the left one marked "V" and "E", the right one marked "F" and "L". Left hand lever for paper transport, loose. The floor plate slightly dinged with some damage to the original paint and traces of surface rust. Sits on two wooden strips, the right one marked Eagle/HK above "WaA69" (for C. Verberne Berlin/Neukölln 1936, maker of switchboards). The two small rear screws to hold the top cover, and the protective cover of the entire machine missing. Dimensions 27 x 31 x 17 cm (WxDxH), weight 10,8 kg. The device appears to be fully intact and working and is surprisingly well preserved.
UPDATE, May 17: joined by Germany's leading expert on cypher machines, Klaus Kopacz, we have taken the Hitler Mill apart, inserted the paper strips, properly adjusted the cypher wheels and made a few coding/decoding tests. Matching results - the machine is working fine! It will need a puff of lubricating oil, the ink rolls for printing messages will need to be replaced or cleaned, as the printouts are barely legible, but else we are happy to say that everything works as it should. We also identified five missing parts: the left-hand counter set button, a spacer on the left-hand paper crank, a little spring to secure the top-mounted "Löschen" button, the original bolt to secure the right-hand crank (replaced by modern screw), and the metal disk separating the two paper reels. Minor parts, replaceable.
Germany's best known cipher machine, the legendary Enigma, had already been cracked in 1941 by a special team headed by the famous mathematician Alan Turing at Bletchley Park, home to the British Government's "Code and Cypher School". The "Schlüsselgerät 41", designed in 1941 by Fritz Menzer and built at the Wanderer Werke in Chemnitz, East Germany, makers of the famous "Continental" type writers, was meant to replace the ailing Enigma, to which it was far superior and extremely difficult to crack with the means of the time. While it uses a similar encoding principle, it strictly avoided the deficiencies of Enigma and employed six wheels rather than three (or four, as in later Enigma models). Similar to the C-series cipher machines of swedish inventor Hagelin it employs a pin-and-lug mechanism, but is neither a copy nor a simple improvement to Hagelin's C-36, thus the synonymous usage of the denomination "C-41" for the SG-41 is misleading. The SG-41 no longer uses lamps for the letters, but rather two reels of paper, one of which prints the original text, the other one the coded (resp. decoded) message.
In spite of the known flaws of the Enigma machine and the far superior capabilities of the SG-41 the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht OKW ordered the first 11.000 machines only in 1944. It cannot be said with certainty if this was due to problems in development and the ramp-up of mass production, the lack of light alloys such as aluminium and magnesium, or simply the fact that the head of the Army Communication Service ("Amtsgruppe Wehrmachtsnachrichtenverbindungen" AgWNV), Major General Thiele, had reduced the order to only 1,000 units, as he deemed SG-41, weighing in at 13 kilos, as too heavy for front line use. Only 500 units were ever built, and their shipment started at the end of 1944, when the "Abwehr" replaced their Enigma-G machines. At the end of the war almost all machines were destroyed, and only a handful is said to have survived. Would the Germans have deployed SG-41 earlier, the war would have lasted much longer. In recent years no sample of this ultra rare machine in an anywhere near as good condition has surfaced on the market!
Condition: II +