Not everyone would be excited about finding a piece of Nazi memorabilia but museums treat these items like gold. Typically museums go through a long waiting and purchasing process before they are able to find items that will draw a crowd. You just don't’ expect to find them on Ebay.
Luckily for the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park has some pretty dedicated and thrifty volunteers. While John Wetter, one of the museum’s volunteers, was perusing Ebay, he came across an interesting item. He investigated the item’s owner and went to see the item for himself.
It was a codebreaking machine from World War II that was used by the German Nazi’s to send confidential messages to one another. The owner had priced it for sale for $13.89, a real bargain for such a rich piece of history.
When Wetter went to look at the machine, he said that it was covered in garbage in a shed in England and was in a horrible mess. Yet, all the parts seemed to be intact. He confirmed the price, handed over the cash and carried this relic off to be restored at the museum before the owner could realize what they had just sold for the price of a hamburger and fries.
The machine is called a Lorenz machine. British intelligence put a lot of time and effort into breaking this machine’s code, the members called boffins and Wrens. There are two parts to the machine- the Lorenz SZ42 cipher machine and a Lorenz teleprinter. Hitler and his men would feed normally written messages into the cipher that would then encrypt the message to make it unreadable to the human eye. It would then be fed through the teleprinter and reveal the message. This way if the messages were ever intercepted by the wrong hands, the message would remain a secret forever.
The museum was already in possession of a cipher (on loan from Norway’s Armed Forces Museum) but has been waiting to find its counterpart, until now. For the small fee of $13.89, the museum now has the ability to create their own cryptic messages and then decrypt the message with the same machines used in the days of Nazi Germany.
This was a rare find, indeed, because there are thought to be only four remaining Lorenz machines from the war. Even further coincidence, the cipher that already resided at the museum and the newly acquired telegraph have matching serial numbers. The only problem is that the telegraph is missing its motor. The museum is taking another stab at their luck and sending out a call for anyone that may know the location of the motor or one of another that may be hiding in another disheveled basement or shed.