Rare Nazi Enigma Machine Sold for Record Amount at Auction

Enigma machine
A World War II German Enigma cipher machine on display at the Top Secret spy museum in Oberhausen, Germany, on July 10, 2013. Ina Fassbender/Reuters

A rare, fully functioning German Enigma M4 machine was sold at auction for $365,000 in New York City on Wednesday, AFP reported.

The sale set a new world record for an Enigma machine sold at auction. In April of this year, Bonhams sold a fully operational M3 Enigma machine for $269,000. A spokeswoman from the auction house told AFP that the M4 machine, used during World War II in German naval submarines, was bought by a private collector.

The four-rotor M4 machine, which resembles a typewriter, is very rare. Built between 1943 and 1945, it was used by the Nazis to send coded messages about proposed attacks on the Allies.

German naval officer Admiral Karl Dönitz ordered the manufacture of the M4 machine after he feared that the three-rotor M3 Enigma machine had been compromised following the capture of a U-boat in August 1941. Dönitz was the commander of Germany's World War II U-boat fleet and briefly succeeded Adolf Hitler as German head of state in the last months of the war.

The machine that sold Wednesday is one of 150 to have survived the war from an estimated 1,500 that the Nazis built. According to the auction house, out of 50 Enigma machines on display in museums around the world, only seven are M4s taken from captured U-boats.

Bonham specialist Tom Lamb, who has been involved in 300 auctions during his 30 years at the auction house, told AFP, "The Enigma machine is an exceptional encryption device, one of the most sophisticated and complicated of its type."