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Arne Beurling and the Swedish Crypto Program during World War II

Bengt Beckman

260 pages, parution le 30/06/2003


One of the greatest accomplishments in the history of cryptography occurred in 1940 when a Swedish mathematician broke the German code used for strategic military communications. This story has all the elements of a classic thriller: a desperate wartime situation; a moody and secretive mathematical genius with a talent for cryptography; and a stunning mathematical feat, mysterious to this day. Arne Beurling, the man who inherited Einstein's office at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, was the figure who played this role at a crucial moment in world history.

Though the cracking of the code from the Geheimschreiber (G-Schreiber) device is every bit as impressive as the breaking of the Enigma code by the Poles and English, this secret has been kept for over 50 years! Through the eyes of a former head of Sweden's signal intelligence organization, Bengt Beckman, the reader will learn about the events leading up to the breakthrough and make the acquaintance of not only a remarkable mathematician, but also a remarkable human being.

Arne Beurling was a leading international figure who achieved beautiful results in mathematical analysis. By the arrival of World War II, he was one of the most powerful and original mathematicians in the world and widely considered a genius. During his military service, he demonstrated a flair for code and was well known within Swedish cryptology circles. The natural choice of the Swedish intelligence service was to place Beurling at the center of the group charged with breaking the G-Schreiber code. His single-handed effort "broke the unbreakable". Using only teleprinter tapes and cipher text, he deciphered the code that the Germans believed impossible to crack--in two weeks!

The feat, in a word, was astonishing. Many wonder how he did it. But Beurling took his secret to the grave, retorting when asked, "A magician does not reveal his secrets."

The author, Bengt Beckman, for many years was the head of the cryptanalysis department of the Swedish signal intelligence agency. In writing this book, he made extensive use of its archives. He also interviewed many people who participated in the Swedish wartime intelligence effort. He describes in detail Beurling's attack on the G-Schreiber system as well as attacks on several other wartime crypto systems, noting high points from the history of Swedish cryptology.

The book will appeal to a broad audience of readers, from historians and biography buffs to mathematicians to anyone with a passing interest in cryptology and cryptanalysis.

This English edition has been translated by Kjell-Ove Widman, Director of Sweden's Mittag-Leffler Insitute.


  • Part 1
    • An 18th century cipher
    • The world's first ciphering machine
    • Damm, Hagelin, and Gyldén
    • Radio signal interception and cryptanalysis before 1939
    • War
    • Enter Arne Beurling
    • The Russian Baltic Navy
    • Mysterious signals
    • Teleprinters
    • Beurling's Analysis
    • The G-Schreiber and the apps
    • Continued cryptanalysis
    • Exit Gyldén--but Beurling comes back
    • The double transposition
    • Operation Barbarossa
    • The work place
    • Contents
    • The birth of the FRA
    • Brilliant results--despite everything
    • Downturn and leakage
    • The Red Army and the Arctic Sea
    • The doubly enciphered Russian code
    • Stella Polaris
    • Gradual loss of German traffic
    • Borelius pays a visit to the Germans
    • Information--but of what value?
    • Norway
    • The last years of the war
    • The Swedes' own crypto systems
    • Arne Beurling 1943-1945
  • Part 2
    • Arne Beurling
    • Through the eyes of a woman
    • A magical friendship
    • Sources
    • Index of names

Caractéristiques techniques

Éditeur(s) Oxford University Press
Auteur(s) Bengt Beckman
Parution 30/06/2003
Nb. de pages 260
Format 18 x 26
Couverture Broché
Poids 710g
Intérieur Noir et Blanc
EAN13 9780821828892
ISBN13 978-0-8218-2889-2

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