Click for homepage
← Enigma
Enigma Photographs
Original wartime photographs of an Enigma machine in operation are extremely rare because at the time it was strickly forbidden to make photographs of the Army-version of the machine. Nevertheless, there were some people who didn't know the rules, or who tried to bend them.

Below are several example of wartime or pre-war pictures of an Enigma machine in action. If you look carefully on auction sites such as eBay, you may be able to find some good quality originals, but beware of fakes, as some people appear to be selling re-enactment pictures instead.

Signals training 1938
The image below was taken in 1938, shortly before WWII, during a training session of radio and Enigma operators (Funker). The image is part of a series of four photographs, taken by Franz Oswald Wladimir Graf zu Münster, who himself was trained as a radio operator at the time. Using a Leica camera that he got from his friend Günther Leitz (Leica Werke) for his 18th birthday, he took a series of interesting high-quality images of his involuntary service in the German Army.

Enigma training in 1938. Copyright Gesine zu Münster [1].

Copyright notice - Please note that this image can not be reproduced freely as it is subject to copyright. For this reason it is watermarked and no hi-res version is available. The photograph is reproduced here with kind permission from Gesine zu Münster — daughter of the photographer — who holds the exclusive copyright.
In the image we see an Enigma machine, placed on a table, with some message forms and other paperwork to its left. Behind the machine is the cipher clerk who is entering a message, while two officers are watching over him. Note that a fourth person, probably a radio operator, is just visible through the window of the communications van behind the people in the foreground.

WWII Radio Vehicle
The photograph below shows an Enigma machine in operation, and was probably taken inside a radio van during WWII. The image was scanned from an extremely small 27 x 38 mm original and was processed digitally in order to improve its quality and remove dust and scratches.

At the bottom centre is an Enigma I with its lid open. Inside the lid is a message sheet, attached to a clip at the top. The man behind the machine is wearing a dirty overall, which suggests that the image was taken during the war. Behind the Enigma operator is the radio operator, who is wearing headphones. On the table behind him is the morse key. In the background are several German radio sets. At the far right is a third person, who appears to be writing a message.

Enigma in the field
The image below shows how a message was despatched in the field. The photo was either taken during WWII or during a training session shortly before the war, and shows several soldiers with helmets (Stahlhelm) in full uniform. The operator is encrypting a message on an Enigma I. The image was scanned from a small 52 x 52 mm original that had seriously faded and degraded over the years. It was digitally enhanced, cleaned and processed in order to improve its quality.

To the left of the operator is a soldier who is using a military field telephone, whilst a despatch rider is taking down the encrypted message at his right. The despatch rider can be recognized by the leather message wallet he is carrying at his waist belt, just below his right hand. At the far right is another soldier who is currently trying to start a power generator. At the front right are three steel helmets with rifles. At the right, behind the men, is a communications vehicle with antennas at the roof top. At the far left is a soldier with a radio set lying on the ground.

Westfeldzug 1940
The image below was taken in 1940 during the Westfeldzug (Western Campaign), when Germans troops were marching through The Netherlands, Belgium and France. It clearly shows an Enigma machine being used in the field. it is placed on a table with the operator sitting behind it and an officer at his side. Behind them is the communications vehicle. According to the compiler of the album, Leutenant Heinz Jünger, the photograph was taken in France and shows the Motorisierte Luftnachrichten-Abteilung (H) 7 (Motorised Air Intelligence Section).

To the left of the Enigma is a field phone with an operator writing down the message as it is being decoded with the Enigma. In the foreground is a soldier on a chair and at the right (behind the pole) is another one standing. If you look carefully, you can even see a 7th person inside the van. The people in the photograph all seem to be very relaxed and are not wearing helmets, suggesting that the picture was taken either very early in the war or far away from the battle field.

General Guderian
The image below shows General Heinz Guderian standing at the side of the road in the back of a military truck, watching over his radio operator and cipher clerk whilst dictating a message. The photograph was taken by Erich Borchert in May or June 1940, during a campaign in France. The image was part of a series of at least three similar wartime press or propaganda photographs.

General Heinz Guderian watching over an Enigma machine at the road side [2]

Note that this image has an interesting feature that is also present in the rest of the series (see the thumbnails below). Despite the fact that it was strickly forbidden to photograph the wartime Army Enigma machine, it is visible in the foreground. The Steckerbrett (plugboard) however, has been obscured by a white sheet of paper. This was probably done to hide its existence. The three men at the front are all involved in creating and sending an Enigma message.

General Heinz Guderian with Enigma #1 [2]
General Heinz Guderian with Enigma #2 [2]
General Heinz Guderian with Enigma #3 [2]
Close-up of Enigma with covered Steckerbrett
1 / 4
General Heinz Guderian with Enigma #1 [2]
2 / 4
General Heinz Guderian with Enigma #2 [2]
3 / 4
General Heinz Guderian with Enigma #3 [2]
4 / 4
Close-up of Enigma with covered Steckerbrett

  1. Franz Oswald Wladimir Graf zu Münster, Image of radio operators during training session
    1938. Copyright Gesine zu Münster. Retrieved June 2013. 1

  2. Erich Borchert, Bild 101I-769-0229-10A, 11A and 12A
    May -June 1940. Copyright Bundesarchiv (German National Archives).
    Retrieved June 2013. 2
  1. Photograph reproduced here with kind permission. Available for purchase.
  2. Photograph via Wikipedia.

Further information
Any links shown in red are currently unavailable. If you like the information on this website, why not make a donation?
© Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 18 June 2013. Last changed: Saturday, 02 September 2023 - 15:05 CET.
Click for homepage