An old Lorenz telegram machine that was at the heart of Hitler’s encryption effort has been discovered for sale on eBay.
The unusual listing was spotted last week by a National Museum of Computing volunteer. It was found to be an extremely rare, military-issue Lorenz teleprinter that formed a core part of the Nazi war effort.
It turns out that the seller, described in The Guardian as a woman from Essex, was completely oblivious as to the true nature of the items. “I think it was described as a telegram machine, but we recognised it as a Lorenz teleprinter,” explains NMC volunteer engineer John Whetter.
Having driven down to see the item, “The person took us down the garden to the shed and in the shed was the Lorenz teleprinter in its original carrying case,” explains Whetter.
The winning bid that secured this unique piece of war memorabilia: £9.50.
If that sounds a little deceptive, it was only when they got the teleprinter back to Bletchley Park (home of Alan Turing’s Enigma machine) and cleaned it up that that the NWC team realised exactly what they had.
There they found confirmation that it was indeed used by the German military during the war, thanks to the presence of a swastika detailing. In fact, it went beyond that. A special key for the Waffen-SS insignia revealed it to be one of the machines used for encrypted communications between Hitler and his generals.
There has been an international international effort to assemble the complete Nazi encryption apparatus that was cracked by the Allies in World War II. Now, with a Lorenz SZ42 cipher machine loaned to them by the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, the NWC is close to completing its task.
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The team is now on the look out for a number of replacement components, particularly a drive motor. Brits are encouraged to look in their sheds and attics for a “small rugby ball with spindles poking out of either end”.
If you find such a component hanging around, whatever you do, don’t put it on eBay.
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Have you ever discovered any unexpected ancient tech in your family home? Let us know in the comments