ENIGMA 2000 Newsletter - Issue 34

May 2006
Articles, newsreports and Items of interest :enigma2000-owner@yahoogroups.com

Morse stations | Voice stations | Oddities | Polytones
German branch | Numbers predictions
E03 & E03a prediction charts | E06 & S06 schedules
Cubans schedules | G06 schedules over a year | E11 schedules over a year
If it had not been for 15 minutes (3/6)
HJH's watch | News Items | Web sites | Contribution deadlines
Index | E2K NL Home

ENIGMA 2000 Article - If it had not been for 15 minutes (3/6)

We continue with Thomas Wagner’s most interesting true story, with his full permission. Thanks Thomas,


If it had not been for 15 minutes (3/6)

A park in BerlinThe instructions that Herbert had memorized described the dead letter box. It described how to get there in several different ways, how to recognize the location if found, even the compass direction and approximate distance from a known point in a Berlin Park.

On July 10th, two days after the visit, Mr. Ritter once again showed up at my uncles house. "We need you to write a letter to your sister" he said. The letter contained a cryptic message : "The planned vacation that we had discussed can take place on July 25th. All participants agree with that date.."

Stiller is on vacation with his wife and kids, unbeknownst to my mom who thinks he is in Budapest Hungary on business. He phones her on July 19th and gets the news. Cutting his part of the vacation short, he returns on July 24th the East Berlin.

Mom travelled to Berlin and met Werner. On July 25th both went to a specific park looking for whatever is to be found at the location that had been memorized earlier.

"That was very suspenseful" said mom "I was thinking that finally we are getting somewhere. Finally there is progress".

Werner and mother walked a certain distance from a statue toward a notable tree. When the distance had been covered they were to look under a pile of leaves in a bit of a natural looking depression in the ground. The place was marked with two small bricks. The message didn't specify what they should look for or what would be sent.

It had begun. From this point forward there was no turning back.

Mother and Werner were asked to go to certain park in Berlin, specifically they had been given certain landmarks within the park but no further details as to what might be found there. Mom promptly caught a train and went to meet with Werner. Together they made their way to the park and The wood had a secret compartmentcarefully followed the BND's instructions.

A small nondescript piece of wood

There was the statue.... and a certain number of steps away from it was....nothing! Nothing except a pile of leaves. A pile like any other that had been swept into a small mount by the wind. Werner bent down and riffled through the leaves. He felt something hard. Quickly brushing off the top coat of loose leaves he found an old piece of weathered wood. A branch or a piece from a nearby shed. It was dark, wet, and looked as though it had been there a hundred years. Werner slowly pulled the wood from its leafy bed and flipped it over. There it was! The bottom of the small plank contained a rectangular cutout that was closed with a tiny metal latch. Werner hid the wood in his overcoat and together they returned to a STASI safehouse, actually more of a "safe apartment' that both used for rendevouz's. How ironic - here they were all excited, their hands almost shaking, in a STASI apartment about to open a communique from the enemy.

Pre-written letters, invisible ink, encryption cyphersWerner opened the small latch and pulled a small bundle from the wooden plank. Tightly wrapped in plastic, to protect it form the elements, the bundle was approximately the size of a postcard and about 1/4 in thick. When the plastic was removed the package revealed several items.

It contained 10 pre-addressed envelopes, an equal number of pre-written letters, it also contained invisible ink cartridges and a one-time use pad of cyphers in the form of small mircrofilms.

Covering everything was a letter of introduction from the BND. Mom still remembers the friendly tone with which it was written. The letter contained instructions for the use of the cyphers, radio frequencies and other information.

The message as it was contained one big logistical problem. In order to listen to a short-wave radio broadcast on the frequency described in the letter, one needs a short wave radio that is capable of receiving the frequency of this broadcast. European radio frequencies are organized a little bit different from the US. For example, certain stations like the BBC in Great Britain or Deutsche Welle in Germany use short-wave and ultra-short wave frequencies, which allowed their transmissions to travel further across the world. There are several different spectra of short wave radio frequencies that can be used by commercial stations and other "transmitters", such as the various intelligence services operating in Europe. The most famous intelligence funded radio operation was Radio Free Europe. Yes I know the website very prominently states that this is a privately funded enterprise but everyone knows that a large part of its funding, if not currently then absolutely in the past, has come from the US government. By the way, there is nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately the small transistor receivers that one could purchase in East-Germany absolutely did not carry the band that was inidicated in the dead letter drop message (3,7 - 4 Megahertz).

Grundi Short Wave ReceiverThat, in short was the nature of the logistical problem. We were not professional agents. We had no training and consequently neither my mother nor Werner knew that this was an indication of some of the bumbling keystone cop behavior that we could expect from the BND. In later years we were told that a professionally run operation would have known about the problem of East-German receivers and supplied an appropriately configured radio before sending any transmissions. Leaving us to fend for ourselves created an increased risk of exposure. Interestingly, by all accounts Werner was as dumbfounded by this situation as mother had been, which illustrates how much of a desk bound operative he really was.

The situation was quite stressful and perplexing. Time was running out and the day for the first scheduled transmission was approaching ever more quickly. Luckily my mother found a solution.

Our hometown had two Intershop's - small stores that sold Western goods for hard currency. She noticed that the Intershop just happen to sell a receiver of the type we needed. Mother used a portion of the tip money that she had received over the years in hard currency, took yet another train to Berlin and visited an Intershop in the county's capital to purchase a West German "Grundig" or "Telefunken" short wave receiver.The wood had a secret compartment

It is hard to blend into a crowd when a store does not have much traffic. Intershops drew many window shoppers but few actual customers. Nonetheless, Mom tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. And just as she was beginning to relax and feel a little bit confident about her purchase transaction, which was progressing quite fast and efficiently, the sales person turned to her and said: "We need to complete a registration form required for the purchase of this radio. Where do you live?". Mom's heart skipped a beat. She quickly tried to come up with an answer. Which address? Which address? Of course she couldn't give out our actual home address. It would seem logical and less suspicious if the item was bought by a Berliner. In the end the only address that came to mind was that of a family friend. Crossing her fingers in hopes that no one would bother to check it out, Mother proceeded to give out the incorrect information.

You know, radio waves have one really wonderful quality - they don't know what borders are. They have no concept of countries and are not hindered by walls, fences or guard towers with powerful spotlights. And the infamous automatic gun emplacments along the Eastern side of the border, designed to automatically fire a barrage of rounds right along the fence if tripped by a defector, were no problem for radio waves.

As a result, many folks in East-Germany would listen to West German radio stations and watch West German TV.

Having obtained the radio, mother waited patiently for the designated transmission day. She explains that the first few times were terribly hard. She had the radio under a pillow - no earphones were available. So here she was with a pillow over her head and over the radio, the frequency fading in and out - it took her a full five hours to get the first message down and deciphered. (The reason being that the transmission could fade out and if one small piece of it could not be heard you'd have to start all over again).

As mom explains it "Our code was 6-4-0. Twice a week, several times a day the same message was delivered."

You may ask what about this business of encoded messages? How is that done?

Each message that was transmitted by the West Germany included a note of when to expect the next message. It didn't matter if there was any actual content in a given message. If there was nothing to be passed on the announcer of the transmission would merely say "zero columns" and indicate when the next transmission was to happen.

The messages themselves consistet of columns of numbers. Usually five digits to one group or column. One aspect of this entire message business has always struck me as funny. When we first began moving the radio's station selector button across the short wave band it was very hard to figure out if the station that was transmitting at a given pint was actually the one we needed. For whatever reason, hardware related or perhaps signal strength related, the station would not exactly line up with its supposed location on the dial.

To make matter worse, there were 2 German espionage channels right next to one another. Both at similar signal strengths, both using women announcers and both transmitting a steady stream of numbers: "5,7,0,1,9 break 14,87, 23, 12, 78 break..."

I don't know why they were located in this manner. Perhaps it was someone's idea of a joke. So as the time for the first transmission drew near, Mother and I hunted up and down the dial in an attempt to isolate the correct station.

If we missed the first couple of sentences in the transmission we would not know if it was addressed to us or someone else, and hence we might miss the entire thing along with the indicator of when the next message is to come. Talk about stress. Finally we thought we found it and just as we were getting ready to relax I noticed how the lady announcer pronounced the number five. In German it sounds something like "Fuenf". Short and to the point. However, this particular announcer called it "Fuennef" - drawing out the word and almost adding its own ending to it. This pronounciation was distinct to a dialect found in East Germany. Quickly in great panic we switched to the other German language station next to it - just in time to hear the announcer say "The next message is for our friend 8754. It consists of 35 groups of type Z. The message starts now: 87,34,12,13,30,12 break......." I don't recall the exact numbers.

Once the transmission had ended we would make a clean copy of all the number groups and break out the appropriate package of cypher keys on microfilm. The West German package that had been so skillfully hidden in the dead letter drop included several sets of cypher microfilms. Now mind you this was not one of those microfilms that you can commonly find in a library. The strips of film that had been sent to us were approximately .25 in tall and 3 in. wide.

This decyphering system itself was quite ingenious. The code combinations were "throw away" cyphers based on some algorithm that allowed for a large number of key combinations. A single "pack" of cyphers for each transmission consisted of 2 or 3 small lengthy strips of micro film.

With the clean set of number groupings in hand we looked for the appropriate key strip - for example "Z" and place it underneath the number columns. Starting at the left of the micro strip we would copy yet another set of numbers onto the pad. Next the numbers were added which gave us yet a third set of columns. At this point we placed the second microfilm underneath these groups to find letters that corresponded to the numbers. The whole thing when done looked something like this:

87 0 12 13 30 0 12 12 16 5 8 3 0 99 21 0 55 76
11 0 10 10 9 0 12 12 9 9 8 5 0 1 45 0 5 10

98 0 22 23 39 0 24 24 25 14 16 8 0 100 65 0 60 86

N E X T M E S S G N O V E M B E R 1

The beauty of a system of this type is the fact that both the first and second set of values can be changed by the crypto generator and only the combination of both will result in a legible message. At the same time as far as I recall, individual transmissions would rarely use the same code in successive messages.

Below is a picture of a Russian / East-German Air Traffic and Radio Monitoring Array located on top of the highest mountain in East-Germany (Brocken Moutain in the Harz range is 3,300 ft high). This array is the most likely tool used by the STASI to monitor the message traffic directed at agents working on behalf of West Germany and Western Europe.

For a bit of history, the Brocken is located about 10-20 miles East of the border with West Germany. It is the highest mountain in an area of several hundred square miles and therefore became a logical obervation post, first for the Soviet Army in 1948 and later for the East German government. At its busiest time this location was staffed with over 100 technicians

The first few messages that came across were more than anything designed to ferret out any sort of trap. The BND was very careful and wanted to make sure they weren't being set up by the Stasi. Hence the questions pertained to Werners identity, his job, his office his section of the department.Russian / East-German Air Traffic and Radio Monitoring Array located on top of the highest mountain in East-GermanyAll of this could be verified by the BND indepently.

Have you ever noticed that human beings can get used to the most absurd situations and in a relatively short period of time feel as though the most unusual circumstances are normal? Whenever you get a faster computer, pretty soon it seems normal or slow. Whenever you get a faster verhicle, it doesn't take long and you are used to it.

This seemed to be the case for us. Never mind the absolutely fantastic set of circumstances that we found ourselves in, it became something of a routine. If we had known that at any given point several dozen agents where combing the land for us, it certainly wouldn't have been routine. However, we lived in blissful ignorance.

Growing up in East-Germany, the people I knew fell into two rather large categories. Those who didn't believe the governments propaganda and generally knew, or suspected, that the entire country's political structure was one big mess, and those on the opposite end of the spectrum, who genuinely believed that the government was correct. As is the case everywhere in the world, like attracts like. The kids who came from households of Party officials or otherwise government connected parents would pretty much "tow the party" line. The rest of us went along with the dominant paradigm out of enlightend self-interest. That meant in front of the authorities we would pretend to be good citizens. Of course this pretense only went so far, considering we were trying to dress as Western as possible, listen only to West-German radio Alexanderplatz todayand watch only West German TV. I remember a funny incident that illustrates how different our little town in the mountains was from large parts of the rest of the country.

Because we had contact with Western tourists and businessmen, there was a very lively black market thriving in my little hometown. If you had the right connections you could get West German records, by paying 50-100 East German Marks. For the purpose of this disussion, without getting into details of exchange rates and Cost of Living Indices, it felt to us as the equivalent of $50.00-$100.00 might feel to an American. If you knew the right people you could get Levis jeans and jackets as well as other Western goodies. So one Saturday morning I was making my way across town, decked out in my usual jeans, Led Zeppelin T-shirt and jean jacket, when a young man who looked to be in his mid-20's approached me. I could tell he had just recently arrived in town on vacation. He asked for directions to one of the sights. As we walked along and discussed his intended hike for the day he stopped, turned to me and said: "You know this is going to sound odd but I will ask it anyways. Everywhere I turn, people are dressed in jeans. What do you guys do up here?" Perhaps he was from a smaller town or perhaps he hadn't been to East-Berlin which certainly rivaled my hometown in "westerly" dress.

Stasi Microfilm Setup - used to copy thousands of lettersHad I known about some of the statistics that caused the MfS (Stasi) to bring their bloodhounds onto our scent, I certainly would have been much more worried at this point. You may recall that I mentioned earlier one of the methods we communicated with the West was through the use of pre-written letters, in which we wrote our messages using invisible ink, yes thats right - good old invisible ink. Many kids learn how to make one form or another as part of experiments or as the result of reading books. I just recently found out that the Stasi district office in charge of the south-easterly portion of the country (which coincidentally was the area from which most of our letters were mailed), would literally open 1,500 -2,000 letters addressed to Western countries each and every day. That's about half a million letters - opened, read and most freqently micro-filmed for samples of handwriting. So the government broke its own postal law about 500,000 times a year.

If your relatives wanted to help and send some cash to you, the MfS would simply keep it. And to top it off, 3%-5% of all letters originating in the West would never make it to their addressee's.

Come to think of it, I got lucky in that respect as well. Just a year earlier, for the record breaking period of three whole letters, I had a pen-pal in the US. A friend of mine worked at the local post office in the summer and had written down an American return address he had seen on a package.

He wrote a letter to that address. Turns out the person who mailed the package from the US was a school teacher. She took the letter to her class and several kids wrote back asking to hear from East-German school kids. How cool was that ?!

I will never forget how hard I worked on producing 10 lines of poor broken English which earned me an answer letter from Nancy Julginity of Springfield PA. After much wrestling with the dictionary I deciphered that she was 16 years old, enjoyed school, loved Bruce Springsteen with a passion and could not understand how a system like the one I lived in could continue to exist.

I tried to explain it to her but was never able to get the words added up correctly in English. On the bright side, my very first record I bought in the West was a Bruce Springsteen Album released only in Europe called "Working Class Dog". It had a Pitbull dressed in a white shirt and red tie on it I think. I've been a Bruce fan ever since.

Remember how you felt as a kid when you couldn't wait for Christmas to come? Well, it was pretty much the same sort of expectation with which I was hoping that soon, very soon, we could leave for West Germany.

By the way, I think I mentioned before that East-Germany in the late seventies was in many regards similar to Western countries in the early sixties. Actually, come to think of it, there were some aspects that I really wish I had available for my daughter as she grows up in Los Angeles in this day and age. For example I could go hitch-hiking as a 16  year old teenager without worries of being accosted. Even more, as a young boy my friends and I would play in our neighborhood or across the entire town without fear of crime. The worst criminal behavior that we might see - if you call it that - would be a couple of drunk middle aged men, walking down the street arm in arm on Father's Day, singing bawdy drinking song. Or better yet, watch those same sloshed citizens loose all inhibition and jump into the town fountain for an impromptu bath.

Unbeknownst to us, this period entailed a great deal of hectic activity for the BND as well as an unforeseen player in this game - Lieutenant-General Guenther Kratsch. Chief of the "Spionageabwehr" (Counter Espionage) department of the Stasi.

Morse stations | Voice stations | Oddities | Polytones
German branch | Numbers predictions
E03 & E03a prediction charts | E06 & S06 schedules
Cubans schedules | G06 schedules over a year | E11 schedules over a year
If it had not been for 15 minutes (3/6)
HJH's watch | News Items | Web sites | Contribution deadlines
Index | E2K NL Home