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Bletchley finds Hitler plain text war machine on Ebay, buys for £10

Rubbish-covered relic found in Essex shed.

By Darren Pauli, 31 May 2016

A World War II teleprinter Hitler used in strategic communications with generals has been bought on eBay for £9.50.

The teleprinter more was noticed and snapped up by keen eyes at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.

The precious machine was languishing in a Southend, Essex shed covered in rubbish.

The plain-text teleprinter spawned commercial machines that were used for decades, yet the find is significant because all of Hitler's originals were thought destroyed.

Nazi brass would have fed text from the machine into a cipher machine such as the Lozenz SZ42.

Its discovery is a critical missing component of the Nazi encryption efforts, the breaking of which would be a critical juncture in the war.

The owner of the rare device advertised it as a telegram machine, selling it for £9.50.

The Museum paid £10, happily forfeiting the half quid.

But the value of the machine was understood after cleaning revealed the Swastika and a special Waffen-SS insignia key.

Paired with a Lorenz SZ42 machine on display in Bletchley and on loan from Norway, the two devices will be part of the complete story of how the allies broke Germany's encrypted communications.

Some 200 Lorenz SZ42 machines are said to have existed during World War II, of which only four are known to have survived.

The Museum says it has had some "intriguing" leads on the location of one of the motors that could see the SZ42 working

Lorenz will be housed alongside Colossus, the computer developed by British codebreakers to help crack the Lorenz cipher, and Tunny, which was configured based on wheel settings found by the former.

It will be displayed during a special event Friday. ®

Bootnote: Early stories confused the teleprinter with the Lorenz machine it's paired with, possibly starting with this piece from the BBC.

The correct description is in the BBC article:

"The teleprinter, which resembles a typewriter, would have been used to enter plain messages in German. These were then encrypted by a linked cipher machine, using 12 individual wheels with multiple settings on each, to make up the code".

It's not surprising that the confusion went worldwide: even the museum's social media manager helped things along before the correction above.

Considering the museum already has a Lorenz, it probably knows what one looks like. ®

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