Rare Nazi 'Enigma' code machine tops $143,000 at auction

The rare "Enigma" cipher machine comes with operating instructions and a case with an engraved Third Reich emblem. PHOTO: HERITAGEAUCTIONS.COM

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - A rare "Enigma" machine, used by Nazi Germany to create military communications code thought to be unbreakable, sold at auction for more than US$106,000 (S$143,000).

The 28.5-pound cipher machine went to an internet buyer on Saturday (Dec 14), according to Heritage Auctions.

It comes with operating instructions, a case with an engraved Third Reich emblem - and a rich lore including how British scientist Alan Turing helped crack the code.

One of the unit's 26 light bulbs is broken, according to the description.

It's not the first time a Nazi code creator has traded hands for such a sum.

In May, an Irish private collector swiped up a different encryption machine, known as the "Hitler mill" because of its hand crank, for €98,000 from a Munich auctioneer, according to the Telegraph.

As World War II drew to a close, Nazi Germany demolished the vast majority of machines used to send and receive encrypted messages to prevent the Allies from getting a hold of them.

Winston Churchill ordered all captured Enigma machines to be destroyed at the end of the war. Most of the remaining 250 machines rest in unknown watery graves, according to Heritage Auctions.

The three-cipher rotor design was considered unbreakable until the early 1940s. It could scramble letters into any one of 17,576 combinations, except the use of the original letter.

Human oversight - signing off each communication with "Heil Hitler," as dramatised in the movie "The Imitation Game"- allowed the Allies to deconstruct many of the cipher's coded communications.

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