Revealing of Enigma in the Park of Military History Pivka
A new museum exhibition titled “Enigma – The Mysterious Behind the Scenes of War” was opened today at the Park of Military History with a short ceremony. This is one of the largest exhibition projects in the Park’s history and the first broad museum treatment of this important historical topic in our region. Probably no device related to World War II, almost 80 years after its end, arouses as much interest and imagination as the German encryption machine Enigma. Countless books, professional and popular articles, documentaries, and feature films have been written about it. The German army guarded Enigma in great secrecy, as it was an important tool for carrying out the blitzkrieg strategy. German cryptologists were so convinced of Enigma’s security that they believed there was no theoretical possibility of breaking its code and compromising German communications.
On the other hand, one of the Allied side’s biggest secrets was that they had cracked the Enigma code and thus decoded most of the German messages. It was one of the greatest achievements of World War II, but it was a silent victory, wrapped in strict secrecy, which has only recently been presented to the broader public. Although it largely influenced the course of the war and, in a way, also contributed to its outcome, the names of those who deserved credit were not on the list of the honored, and their photos could not be found in special editions of war newspapers. Their work was as enigmatic as the name of the device whose power they had broken.
Although when Enigma is mentioned, we first think of the Battle of the Atlantic or the Battle of Britain, where the role of this German encryption machine and the breaking of its code are most researched and published, it appeared everywhere in World War II where German military units, ships, or submarines were present. Since German soldiers did everything by orders to prevent Enigma from falling into enemy hands, relatively few Enigmas have been preserved. Those of the M4 model, which the German Navy Kriegsmarine used, are extremely rare. But by a lucky coincidence, one was brought into the Park of Military History collection in 2021.
It is an Enigma from the German minesweeper R 15, which was sunk off the Istrian coast on the night of April 16-17, 1945. As a light minesweeper of the R 1 class of the German Kriegsmarine, it was launched in 1934 in Travemünde on the North Sea. In 1942, amid the war, it was transferred by inland waterways and land routes from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, where it first operated off the African coast. In January 1944, it was moved from Genoa to the Adriatic by land and on the river Po, where it was actively engaged until the fateful night when it was torpedoed by a British torpedo boat.
The sinking of the minesweeper R 15 left its cryptographic device hidden in the depths of the sea for four decades until experienced diver Zvone Kralj, along with several other objects, retrieved it from the sea in the 1980s. In 2020, he handed it over to his younger diving colleague, Danijel Germek, who gave it to the Park of Military History.
The Park of Military History recognized the exceptional historical significance of the underwater find. It turned out to be one of the rare surviving examples of the more complex naval version of the Enigma M4. At the same time as the challenging conservation process carried out by conservator Aleš Jelinčič of the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia, with the help of experts from the International Center for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar and the National Museum of Slovenia, preparations were also underway for its museum treatment.
The exhibition “Enigma – The Mysterious Behind the Scenes of War” was prepared by mag. Janko Boštjančič and Dr. Andrej Gaspari. The exhibition reveals the complex workings of the Enigma’s cryptographic wheel and, within the broader historical context, sheds light on the role of Enigma and the impact of revealing its code on the course of the Second World War. The museum presentation of the Enigma is complemented by a series of findings from the wreckage of R 15 and several other precious objects. A Croatian researcher of wartime events in the Adriatic, Danijel Frka, contributed significantly to the exhibition, which outlined the Second World War in the Adriatic.
The museum installation was designed and created with great attention to detail and a thematically rounded visual image by Barbara Sirk and Žiga Okorn from Uvid.si.
The exhibition was opened to the public by the Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Major General Robert Glavaš. In a brief address, he praised the authors for their successful museum interpretation of such an important military-historical exhibit. The exhibition was inaugurated by its authors, mag. Janko Boštjančič and Dr. Andrej Gaspari. They led an honorary tour of the exhibition, highlighting key thematic emphases and the course of its preparation.
Excellent performance of the Slovenian Armed Forces Orchestra brass quartet accompanied the ceremony.
The project was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia as part of the co-financing program of the Military History Park. We would also like to thank the sponsors – EM.TRONIC, COMARK, NEK, VALHALLA TURRETS companies, especially the project’s general sponsor and an important partner of our museum – GUARDIARIS company.