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Re: WWII cryptography: the dark side
From: Christian Leber <christian () leber de>
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 21:57:15 +0200

On Sun, Oct 10, 2004 at 07:52:20PM +0200, Feher Tamas wrote:
(in german only or bablefish, sorry):

I bablefished it and corrected the worst errors:

-------
Secret code TELWA cracked: Nazi decoder developed computer forerunner

23. September 2004

Hanover - the decoder Reinhold Weber decoded the US
secret code TELWA in the Second World War and built a decoding machine
to crack M-209-Nachrichten. This was now revealed by Klaus Schmeh, author
at the InterNet magazine Telepolis

That German decoding specialists decoded in the the Second World War
secret code of the allied was even not well known by experts until a few
years ago. According to report of the former president of the Federal
Office for security in the information technology (BSI), Dr Otto
Leiberichm the Germans in the Second World War cracked the US coding
machine M-209.  
These remarks served the Telepolis author Klaus Schmeh as
important source of information, when he worked on his book
'Die Welt der geheimen Zeichen - Die faszinierende Geschichte der Verschl├╝sselung'
('The world of the secret signs - the fascinating history of encryption).
When he published excerpts of this book with Telepolis first, this led to a
small sensation: A 84 year old man from Frankfurt contacted him and reported
that he was in WWII involved in the crackong of the mentioned US coding machine M-209.

The 1920 in Austria born Reinold Weber, which had spent six years of
his childhood in the USA, was drawn in 1941 to the armed forces. Due to
excellent knowledge of the english language he was first trained as a message
interpreter and later as decoder. Inserted in the decoding unit
FNAST5, he succeeded to decode the TELWA messages from US radiograms
and decipher also machine keys. In this time Weber and his
colleagues cracked the codes of the US coding machine M-209 and intercepted
explosive information. Thus there were again and again hints referring to
forthcoming bombardments of German cities, which were announced usually
about six to eight weeks before execution in radiograms. What counter
measures the German military did with the help of these information,
weber however never experienced.

In April 1944 Weber had the idea to build a machine which should
automate a part of the laborious deciphering computations. The company
Hollerith, late IBM, was positive in an evaluation, explained however
the building of such a machine takes about two years. Thus Weber with a
colleague made itself alone to the work. They created a machine, which
consisted of two boxes: one in the size of a desk, which contained the
relays and the four turning rollers, as well as a further box with 80 x
80 x 40 cm edge length. Latter box contained 26 times 16 bulb sockets,
with which by bulbs the letters of the relative attitude could be
copied. Thus Webers and his colleague wrote an interesting piece of
technology history, because their construction had already many thing in common
with a computer with their binary logic. The computer was still
not at all invented at this time, if one refrains from the British
machine Colossus likewise developed for decoding, which developed about
at the same time.

In the middle of September 1944 Weber could prove the strength of its computer
forerunner for the first time: During a night duty he
determined with his machine - without the support of his
colleagues - an M209 key. Which would have meant one week work without machine
assistance for a three-team at least, he created within approximately
seven hours. At the beginning of of 1945, weber had landed over several
detours in Salzburg, wanted to use his decoding machine again. However
the necessary radio engineering was missing. The equipment proved as
useless. Its superior instructed to destroy the machine. With pickel,
hatchet, hammer and stahlsaege Weber scrapped thereupon the equipment,
whose construction had employed him several months long.

Thus a historically extremely interesting computer forerunner
disappeared again from the scene. Until today this equipment in no
source of literature is mentioned to computer history.
-------

Here is the complete Telepolis article (german):
http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/inhalt/co/18371/1.html


Christian Leber

-- 
  "Omnis enim res, quae dando non deficit, dum habetur et non datur,
   nondum habetur, quomodo habenda est."       (Aurelius Augustinus)
  Translation: <http://gnuhh.org/work/fsf-europe/augustinus.html>

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