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Learning Cryptanalysis the Hard Way: A Study on German Culture of Cryptology in World War I

Ingo Niebel
Historian and journalist, Kasparstr. 10, 50670 Köln, FR Germany

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

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 149:14, s. 65-75

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Publicerad: 2018-06-13

ISBN: 978-91-7685-252-1

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

Abstract

The history of World War I is well documented, but a comprehensive study of German cryptology during that epoch is yet to be undertaken. Owing to the silence of German cryptologists and intelligence officers, this topic remains almost untouched to date. Hence, a perspective on the role of German cryptology in World War I comes mainly from British and US authors, but generally not from German sources. This paper provides an overview of an ongoing research, focused on the German culture of cryptology between 1871 and 1918. It is based on the assumption that a fixation on cryptography is the essential part of that cryptology culture of those times. From 1914 on, Germans had to learn cryptanalysis the hard way. Questions regarding who started this learning process, how it developed, the failures and successes it produced, and the structures that were involved in the process, are yet to be answered. This investigation links the current state of the art with data obtained from the archives. Connecting cryptology with intelligence and technology, it also evaluates its impact on decision-making. Finally, understanding the antecedent German culture of cryptology enables us to investigate that of its descendants – spanning the decades from World War II to the Cold War, as well as today’s "information security culture".

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