The Enigma Machine
The Enigma machine, invented by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, is an electromechanical rotor-based cipher machine that was initially produced for the commercial market. While its predecessor was not very successful, the later lamp-based model known today was used by Germany during the Second World War to encrypt its communications.
It has become the most well known cipher machine in the world due to the recent publicity surrounding the work of Allied codebreakers during the Second World War.
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This is the keyboard from an Enigma machine, discovered in an attic in Austria in 2016. Although Enigma machines are well known in museum collections, they do turn up in attics and at flea markets from time to time. When a key is pressed on the keyboard, the key shaft (which has a small piece of felt on the end), presses down on a part called the advance bar, which turns the rotors. This keyboard exhibits some damage, likely inflicted by German soldiers at the end of the war in order to deactivate the machine and prevent it from falling into the hands of Allied troops. Most of the keys are damaged and some are missing, suggesting that it was hit with a hard implement - likely the butt of a rifle such as the German K98k. Only two of the keys still have the majority of their glass key-top, but other than that, it is a very fine example of a deactivated keyboard of an Enigma machine. Many were thrown into pits in the ground or left in the open - leaving the machines open to deterioration over time. However, this keyboard still partially functions well and has little rust. The key shaft springs are still in an excellent, working condition. The keyboard has four 'legs' which attach it to the base of the machine. However, one of them in this example was found to actually be the guide pin for an Enigma reflector. It has therefore been suggested that this is an example of repairs made by German soldiers in the field to their Enigma machines.