Deciphering German Diplomatic and Naval Attaché Messages from 1914-1915

George Lasry
University of Kassel, Germany

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Ingår i: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2018

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 149:13, s. 55-64

NEALT Proceedings Series 34:13, p. 55-64

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Publicerad: 2018-06-13

ISBN: 978-91-7685-252-1

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


In World War One (WW1), the German diplomatic services and the Imperial Navy employed codebooks as the primary means for encoding confidential communications over telegraph and radio channels. The Entente cryptographic services were able to reconstruct most of those codebooks, to obtain copies of others, and to overcome various enhancements introduced by the Germans. A collection of diplomatic and naval attaché cryptograms from and to the German consulate in Genoa, dating from the late 19th Century to 1915, has been preserved and is held in German archives. In this article, the author describes the process of identifying the encoding methods, of reconstructing the 18470 diplomatic codebook, and of recovering the superencipherment applied to the German Navy’s Verkehrsbuch. The vast majority of the messages can now be read in clear. Before the war, the com- munications are mainly about routine consular matters. From the summer of 1914, they reflect the sequence of events leading to war, including the declarations of war. The messages also describe the crucial role played by the German consulate in collecting naval intelligence, and in assisting the German warships Goeben and Breslau in their escape to the Dardanelles in August 1914.


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