Stürzinger was born on 5 December 1920 in Winterthur-Töss (Switzerland)
and was educated in the early 1940s as an Electro-Engineer at
the ETH in Zürich. After his graduation he started working for inventor
Dr. Edgar Gretener, where he became
involved with the development of the
proprietary ETK-47 teleprinter
and a new cipher machine, the TKG-35,
that was jointly developed with Boris Hagelin
of AB Cryptoteknik in Sweden.
The cooperation between Gretener and Hagelin didn't last, and the latter
decided to move his business from Sweden to Zug in Switzerland.
In 1950, Hagelin – tired of the restrictive Swedish export regulations
and the high tax burden – founded a Swiss company,
Crypto AG, of which
the ownership was carefully hidden from view, by using a complex structure
of foundations in tax paradise Lichtenstein.
In 1952, he moved most of his Swedish business to the new
Crypto AG in Zug
(Switzerland) and persuaded Oskar Stürzinger to become his first employee.
Stürzinger accepted and would eventually become chief developer.
Stürzinger's wife, Emmy, was the second employee of Crypto AG and became
a scretary. Under plant manager Sture Nyberg, who had been the director
of the Stockholm factory, business was growing and new personnel kept
flowing in. In 1966, the company moved to a new premises in Steinhausen and
Stürzinger developed an random generator for the creation of random tapes.
During the 1950s and 60s he was arguably the most important engineer
at Crypto AG as he was able to converted Hagelin's mechanical designs and
ideas into practical products.
But by the late 1960s it became clear that the days of the mechanical
cipher machines were numbered and that the company soon had to make
the transition to electronic cipher machines that were based on
shift registers. In 1970, the company was sold and Boris Hagelin retired.
In the early 1980s, his wife Emmy died and a few years later he
retired as well. He moved to Monte Carlo but kept a holiday home in
Switzerland. In 1998, he lost his only
daughter in a plane crash in Halifax.
In 2008, Crypto Museum curators Marc Simons and Paul Reuvers had the honour
to meet mr. Stürzinger – then 88 years old – in person in Basel (Switzerland)
presentation of Domink Landwehr's book Mythos Enigma.
For the event, Stürzinger had brought
several items from his private collection and from the internal collection
of Crypto AG, and insisted on
making a presentation on the history of cipher machines and that of
Boris Hagelin in particular
In the evening we had the chance to have a private conversion with Oskar and we came
to speak about the recurring rumours that
Crypto AG equipment
was rigged so
that they were readable to western intelligence agencies. Stürzinger
confirmed that the company was frequently visited by foreign experts, who
influenced the cryptographic algorithms that were used in CAG equipment.
These visits started in the 1970s and continued until at least the mid-1980s,
when Sturzinger retired. Although he had no direct proof, he assumed that the
foreign experts – who presented them as
Intercom Associates employees –
were in fact specialists from the US
National Security Agency (NSA).
He appeared to be frustrated because he — the first Crypto AG employee
and for many years head of the development department — was not made
aware of the purpose of the expert visits.
To him, this confirmed that the company was under foreign control.
In February 2020, the German TV station ZDF and the American newspaper
Washington Post, revealed the true story behind
Crypto AG, the company
for which Stürzinger had given the best 30 years of his life .
In the program it was revealed that in 1970,
Boris Hagelin had sold
his company to a joint venture of the German
and the American
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
in a deal that is
called the intelligence coup of the century.
In a carefully plotted script that was known as
and CIA had created the legend that
was the actual
owner of the company, but that no one was supposed to known that.
But in reality, the BND
and CIA were the owners and controlled the
company through a complex web of companies and advisory boards .
CAG-personnel, including Stürzinger, was completely unwitting
of this. For the CIA – who gave him the codename SIGFRIED –
Stürzinger was no more than a fossil from a bygone era, and making
him witting would have been a security risk.
Nevertheless it is clear from surviving documents , that Stürzinger was
completely aware of the influence that NSA, CIA, BND and others had on the
company. As he was Hagelin's first employee in Switzerland, and head been
head of the development team for many years, it is likely that he had been
briefed by Hagelin at a very early stage. This is supported by the fact that
his name appears on the
minutes of a secret meeting
held at Motorola in August 1975, at which
NSA and CIA personnel was also present .
In 2011, Stürzinger passed away quietly in his house in Monte Carlo (Monaco)
at the age of 91. Swiss historian Dominik Landwehr wrote an affectionate
about him .
The video clip below shows Oskar Stürzinger demonstrating the
CD-57 pocket cipher machine
to a crypto lecture audience in Switzerland on 17 August 2002 .
- Dominik Landwehr, In Memoriam Oskar Stürzinger (1920-2011)
Retrieved August 2013.
- Crypto Museum, The Gentleman's Agreement
15 July 2015.
- Crypto Museum, Operation RUBICON
- Paul Reuvers & Marc Simons, Interview with Oskar Stürzinger
Basel (Switzerland), 7 November 2008.
- Diminik Landwehr, Über Kryptografie sprach man nicht - Oskar Stürzinger...
Sternenjäger, 15 February 2020 (German).
- Crypto Museum, Operation RUBICON
- Scott Shane & Tom Bowman, Spy sting: Few at the Swiss factory knew...
Baltimore Sun, 10 December 1995.
- Dominik Landwehr, 2002 - Oskar Stürzinger erklärt die Crypto CD-57
17 August 2002.
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