German divers find six Enigma machines in Baltic Sea

German divers accidentally found six Enigma encryption machines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, Hungarian news agency MTI reports.

The historical finds were discovered near the island of Schleimünde, announced the Archaeological Office of Schleswig-Holstein. Christian Hüttner, who discovered the devices, said they were looking for a lost propeller when they came across the Enigma machines. He added that the encoders were apparently partially rendered unusable before they were disposed of.

The Enigma encryption machines were used by the Nazis to encrypt messages during World War II. Polish mathematicians working for the Polish Cipher Bureau led by Marian Rejewski managed to crack the Enigma code in 1932, eventually sharing their knowledge with the British at the end of the decade. Cracking the Enigma code remains attributed to British mathematician Alan Turing, a member of the Bletchley Park coding team that could read encrypted messages from the Nazis.

The Allies were able to hide the fact that they cracked the Enigma code until the end of the war, and the top-secret messages often referring to troop movements and battle orders, significantly shortening the war and reduced the number of casualties.

Research divers had already found an Enigma in November last year when they were looking for abandoned fishing nets in the Baltic Sea. That machine is already being restored at the Archaeological Museum in Schleswig. Additional Enigmas discovered by Hüttner will also be restored and later exhibited. According to the German Archaeological Office, it is not clear how the machines got to the bottom of the sea. Archaeologists say many Enigmas have been sunk near German shores towards the end of the war.

Title image: Enigma machine in use in 1943. (source: Bundesarchiv)