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    Original WWII German Navy (Kriegsmarine) 4-Rotor M4 Enigma Enciphering Machine Recovered From the Wreck of the German Submarine Tender Ammerland. The story of Germany's Enigma machine and the subsequent Allied efforts to break its code (Ultra) have been well documented in books and most recently on film with Benedict Cumberbatch's excellent portrayal of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014). The award-winning film has spurred new interest in these rare enciphering machines and their role in spawning the development of modern computing. Some sources have suggested that surviving examples might number no more than 120, most residing in a few museums or government store rooms. As such, examples of these elusive machines in any condition, rarely find their way to the collector market. Recent auction prices have yielded examples selling in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer this incredible part of history to the collector market.

    The Enigma story begins in WWI, when the British were intercepting and reading all the German Navy signals, which gave them a significant advantage at sea throughout the war. The Enigma was patented by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, but it was not until 1926 that the code-breaking of the WWI naval signals by the Western Allies was discovered by the German High Command and the Enigma chosen as the German enciphering machine for the military. The early Enigmas had 3 interchangeable rotors, which scrambled plain-text messages to produce a cipher text message, which was then sent via Morse code to a receiver machine with the same settings. Attempts to crack Enigma began in 1932 and much credit is due Polish cryptographers who passed their considerable and significant research on the codes to the British prior to the outbreak of the war. The British carried research forward with their program code named "Ultra". It was under this program that Alan Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park broke the Enigma code and in so doing effectively created one of the first computing machines. The breaking of the Enigma codes by the Allies was one of the most important breakthroughs of WWII, and may have shortened the war by at least two years.

    The M4 model Enigma, was ordered by German Admiral Karl Doenitz in late 1941, after he feared the security of the M3 three-rotor machine had been compromised with the capture of the German submarine U-570 in August, 1941. When the M4 became operational on February 1, 1942 it took Alan Turing and others at Bletchley Park over 9 months to crack the new code.

    The exact number of Enigma machines produced by the Germans is unknown, however the number of extant examples that have survived in any condition are quite small, especially the rarer M4 model.

    Our example is the rarer M4 four-rotor naval Enigma machine recovered by Swedish divers from the wreck of the German submarine tender Ammerland, circa 1990. The Ammerland was attached to Sicherungsflottille 9 operating in the Baltic Sea when it was sunk southwest of Liepaja, Latvia on February 10, 1945. The Ammerland appears to have been sunk as a result of a collision with the Russian submarine SC 318. This example, submerged for 45 years, is in as found condition and is preserved submerged in distilled water awaiting appropriate restoration. Given this example's current circumstances we will be unable to inspect the machine for serial numbers, maker's information or any other identification markings which are undoubtedly present.

    Condition: Complete, as recovered.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2017
    11th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,254

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

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