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Dr. Erich Hüttenhain

Dr. Erich Hüttenhain (26 January 1905 - 1 December 1990) was a German academic and crypto­grapher. During WWII, he was head of the cryptanalysis unit at OKW/Chi, the cipher department of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW). 1 He was considered a leading cryptanalist of the Third Reich [1]. After the war, he worked for the new US-established German intelligence service Organisation Gehlen (OG) and later also for its successor, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Erich Hüttenhain studied at the universities of Marburg, Frankfurt and Münster. At the latter he graduated in mathematics in 1933. In 1936 he began working for OKW/Chi, where he was tasked with setting up a cryptanalytic research unit. He eventually became Executive Council Head of Group IV Analytical Cryptanalysis [1].

During WWII, Hüttenhain and his staff enjoyed several successes. They managed to break the Japanese Purple machine, and also (temporarily) succeeded in breaking certain American rotor machines – like the M-138A and the M-209 – whilst these were being used in North Africa. Apparently, he had not been able to break the American high level cipher machine SIGABA.

After the war — being a high value target — the Americans took him to the USA for interrogation by the Target Intelligence Committee (TICOM).

Whilst in the US, he built a machine for breaking the Russian rotor machine encryption (which was also done by the Germans during WWII). In 1947, he returned to Germany where he worked under the pseudonym Erich Hammerschmidt, to establish the Society of Scientific Work within the new US-established German intelligence service — Organisation Gehlen (OG).

In 1656, OG became Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and the Society of Scientific Work became Zentralstelle für das Chiffrierwesen (ZfCh), today known as Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Infor­mationstechnik (BSI). Hüttenhain retired in January 1970 and was succeeded by Wilhelm Göing.

Operation RUBICON
Erich Hüttenhein is one of the architects of Operation RUBICON — the secret purchase in 1970 of the Swiss manufacturer of cryptographic equipment Crypto AG (Hagelin), by the German BND and the American CIA. From 1970, Crypto AG was jointly owned by BND and CIA, and from 1994 to 2018 solely by the CIA [3]. It enabled them to influence the cipher equipment by weaking the algorithms (i.e. create backdoors) in order to gain intelligence from more than 100 countries.

 Operation RUBICON

    OKW = Obercommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the German Armed Forces).

Mentions on this website
H-54 pin-wheel cipher machine (CX-52 clone)
TSEC/KL7 (Adonis, Pollux)
Enigma Z, the numbers-only Enigma
The Gentleman's Agreement between Boris Hagelin and NSA
Operation RUBICON (also: THESAURUS) -- the secret purchase of Crypto AG by BND and CIA
Dr. Erich Hüttenhain is mentioned on the above pages on this website.

  1. Wikipedia, Erich Hüttenhain
    Retrieved January 2019.  German version

  2. Wikipedia, TICOM
    Retrieved January 2019.

  3. Crypto Museum, Operation RUBICON
    February 2020.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 15 January 2018. Last changed: Sunday, 23 July 2023 - 11:05 CET.
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