Photograph of an Enigma machine in use
Photograph of an Enigma machine in use
Production date
c. 1941-1945
Additional Title information
A photograph of an Enigma machine in use by Waffen-SS personnel in Russia.
Photographic paper.
Photographic print
60 x 90 mm
Serial number(s)
Category / Subcategory (if applicable)
Main collection (Warwickshire, UK).
In storage
Purchased from a Belgian dealer.
Acquisition Date
Oct 2020
Associated object(S)
Record Last Updated
Sep 24, 2023
A photograph of an Enigma I machine operated by Waffen-SS personnel. The photograph was taken in Russia, dating it to post-1941 (the German invasion of the Soviet Union). The collar tab of the soldier in the middle shows the distinctive 'SS' runes, making this photograph the only known photograph of the Enigma machine in use by SS personnel. The soldiers are seated on a fallen tree, with the Enigma operator balancing the Enigma machine on his lap. The operator appears to be changing the rotor settings of the machine and there are soldiers either side of him to assist in writing down enciphered or deciphered messages. The photograph has scalloped edges, typical of photographs of the period.
Photographs of Enigma machines in use are very rare. During the War, it was strictly forbidden to take photographs of the Enigma machine and other cipher equipment. The Allgemeine Schlüsselregeln für die Wehrmacht (1944 edition) states: "IV. Geheimhaltung. 9. Das Photographieren von Schlüsseln, Schlüsselmitteln und Aufzeichnungen aller Art hierüber ist verboten. Beim Photographiern von Nachrichtenstellen oder Nachrichtentrupps ist Vorsorge zu treffen, daß rechtzeitig alle Gegenstände entfernt werden, die der Geheimhaltung unterliegen" (IV. Secrecy keeping. 9. Photographing keys, key tools and any kind of records related to this is prohibited. When photographing communications stations or communications troops, precautions must be taken to remove all objects that are subject to confidentiality in a timely manner). However, there were some people who did take some photographs, such as this example. Valuable information can be gained from these images, such as the number of personnel that operated the machine and how the machine and associated equipment were set up.
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