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Manual slide ruler cipher system - under construction

Reihenschieber (English: series slide) was a manual cipher system developed in West-Germany (BRD) in 1957 for use by the German Army, the Bundeswehr. The device was manufactured by SGL Carbon AG Werk Ringsdorf in Bonn (Germany) and was used for the encryption of high-grade traffic until 1962. It is also known as NSN 5810-12-127-0897 and NSN 5810-12-127-6168.

The Reihenschieber (RS) consists of three parts: a frame, a set of 26 removable bars and a sliding window, similar to a mathematical slide ruler from the days before the pocket calculator. At any time, 10 of the 26 bars are installed on the ruler, with the black rectangular 'lock' at the left keeping them in position. Each bar has four sides, one of which is orientated upwards.

Furthermore, each bar can be installed in any of 10 positions, by fitting it onto the corresponding pin of the rectangular lock. There are 10 pins – one for each bar – allowing 10 different offsets.
Reihenschieber (here shown with two windows)

Reihenschieber was jointly developed in 1957 by the Zentralstelle für das Chiffrierwesen 1 (ZfChi), the Mehlem section of the Bundesnachrichtendienst 2 (BND) and the Fernmeldedienststelle der Bundeswehr 3 (FmDSt Bw) [1]. At the time (1958) Reihenschieber was approved for (German) national messages of all levels of classification and key material was supplied by the FmDSt Bw.

The system was declassified in 1992, exactly 30 years after its last use.

  1. ZfChi = Central Office for Cryptology. Started life as the Mehlem section of the BND, with former WWII OKW-Chi operatives like Dr. Erich Hüttenhain and Wilhelm Fenner.
  2. BND = Federal Intelligence Service.
  3. FmDSt Bw = Signal Office of the Bundeswehr.

Leather storage wallet Reihenschieber, additional bars and leather storage case Reihenschieber (here shown with two windows) Sliding window Locking mechanism Installing a bar on a pin at an offset
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Leather storage wallet
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Reihenschieber, additional bars and leather storage case
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Reihenschieber (here shown with two windows)
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Sliding window
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Locking mechanism
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Installing a bar on a pin at an offset


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Preparing a message
For encryption with the Reihenschieber, a message should consist of the letters (A-Z) and the numbers (0-9) only. The rules for preparing a plaintext message were nearly the same as those of WWII, and punctuation marks were encoded as per NATO standard (see below). The maximum length of a message was 1000 characters. Longer messages were sent in two or more parts. 1

Character Replaced by Remark
ä ae A-umlaut
Ö oe O-umlaut
ü ue U-umlaut
? QUES Question mark
- DASH  
: CLN Colon
(...) PAREN ... PAREN Parenthesis or brackets
. PD Point or full-stop
, CMM Comma
/ SLANT Slash
§ PARA Paragraph
"..." QUOTE ... UNQUOTE Text quotation
q k Plaintext 'q' is replaced by 'k'
0 ··· 9 q0 ··· 9q Numbers are bracketed by 'q'
BERLIN yBERLINy Names are bracketed by 'y'
  1. Longer messages are divided into two or more parts, each with a maximum size of 100 characters, according to Central Service Regulation 55/10 (ZDv 55/10), which is still classified.

  1. Anleitung zum Bundeswehr-Handschlüssel (Reihenschieberverfahren)
    Operating instructions for the Army hand cipher (German).
    ZDv 55/12, January 1958. - not in collection -

  2. Anleitung zum Bundeswehr-Handschlüssel (Reihenschieberverfahren)
    Operating instructions for the Army hand cipher (German).
    ZSV 55/512, March 1960. 23 pages. Secret. 1
  1. Declassified by Bundeswehr on 9 July 1992.

  1. Michael van der Meulen, Reihenschieber
    Cryptologia, Volume 20/2, 1996, pp. 141-154.

  2. John Savard, Reihenschieber
    Quadibloc website. Retrieved June 2016.

  3. Klaus Schmeh, Der gescheiterte Westentaschen-Zufallsgenerator
    Science Blogs website. 21 January 2014.

  4. Wikipedia, Reihenschieber
    Retrieved June 2016.

  5. Jerry Proc and contributors, Reihenschieber
    Retrieved June 2016.
Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Saturday 02 July 2016. Last changed: Friday, 23 February 2018 - 22:49 CET.
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