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ZfCh   ZfChi
Zentralstelle für das Chiffrierwesen

The Zentralstelle für das Chiffrierwesen (ZfCh) 1 – Code Coordination Bureau – was the German Federal Cryptographic Authority, established in 1956 as an independent office for cryptographic affairs. In 1991, the ZfCh became the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI).

The history of ZfCh dates back to 1947 when, shortly after WWII, cryptologist Erich Hüttenhain – the former chief of cryptanalytical research of the Wehrmacht – assembled a group of military cryptologists at the US Army base near Oberursel (Hesse, Germany). This expert group, informally known as Society of Scientific Work, subsequently became part of the signals intelligence unit of Organisation Gehlen (OG) – the post war intelligence agency – and concentrated on Eastern Block military transmissions [2]. It was located in Mehlem (Bonn, Germany) and headed by Hüttenhain.

In 1956, when Organisation Gehlen (OG) was succeeded by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the Society of Scientific Work was renamed Zentralstelle für das Chiffrierwesen (ZfCh) and became an independent body under BND Directorate II. Hüttenhain remained head of the ZfCH until his retirement in 1970. He was succeeded by Wilhelm Göing who, after his untimely death in November 1972, was replaced by Otto Leiberich. In the spring of 1973, ZfCh came under control of Department IV of the German intelligence agency — the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) — the same department that handled for the joint BND/CIA secret Operation RUBICON.

In 1986 – still under control of BNDZfCh formed an internal task force that concentrated on the fast developing computer and information technology, which in 1989 became known as Zentral­stelle für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (ZSI) — the Central Office for Information Security. In 1991, ZSI became the independent Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informations­technik (BSI) — the German Federal Office for Information Security — and is no longer under BND control.

  1. In the past the abbreviation ZfCh has also been written as ZfChi.

  1. Leiberich stayed on as head of the BSI until 1993.

Operation RUBICON
Erich Hüttenhain, and from 1970 his successor Wilhelm Göing, were largely responsible for Operation THESAURUS (later: RUBICON) — the secret purchase of the Swiss crypto-manufacturer Crypto AG, by the German BND and the American CIA. They are regarded as the architects.

Göing unexpectedly died in November 1972 and was succeeded by Otto Leiberich [4]. But as Leiberich was less of a 'heavy weight' than Göing and Hüttenhain, it was decided – in the spring of 1973 – to place ZfCh under Department IV of the BND, which was also responsible for Operation RUBICON. It provided CIA with a single point of contact for matters related to the operation [3].

 More about Operation RUBICON


  1. Wikipedia, Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik
    Retrieved December 2019.  English version

  2. Jefferson Adams, Historical Dictionary of German Intelligence
    2009. ISBN 978-0-8108-5543-4, p. 517.

  3. Crypto Museum, Operation RUBICON
    February 2020.

  4. Friedrich L. Bauer, Historische Notizen zur Informatik
    2009, ISBN 978-3-540-85789-1. p. 388 (Erich Hüttenhain).
Further information
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 20 December 2019. Last changed: Saturday, 29 April 2023 - 08:02 CET.
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