On February 22, 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl, along with friend Christophe Probst, were beheaded in Berlin’s Plotzensee Prison for their involvement in peaceful resistance group, the White Rose.
Seventy years later, the gruesome tool that ended their lives, as well as the lives of over 1,000 Nazi dissidents, has been uncovered gathering dust in a museum storage space.
Officials from the Bavarian National Museum announced the provisional identification of the guillotine earlier this month, according to The New York Times.
For decades, the guillotine was believed to have been lost or destroyed. There were even rumors that the device had been dumped in the German Danube river at the end of World War II, Bavarian National Museum spokeswoman Helga Puhlmann told The Times.
While the exact origin of the guillotine is still unclear, “there are several indications” that the tool was used to execute the Scholls and others by infamous Nazi public executioner Johann Reichhart.
But the guillotine’s discovery has sparked a debate about if and how the killing machine should be displayed. Currently, opinion seems to be split on whether the guillotine should be put in a museum, or left in a dark corner somewhere to rot.
Hildegard Kronawitter, the chairman of the White Rose Foundation, said the foundation would be okay with the guillotine being displayed in a museum, as long as it is shown in the correct “historical context.”
“You can’t lock away such an artifact and pretend that it doesn’t exist,” Kronawitter said, according to YNet News.
However, Franz Josef Mueller, the last surviving member of the original White Rose resistance fighters, said the guillotine should not be made a spectacle of.
“No, this should not go on display,” Mueller said, according to YNet. “No entertainment must be made of their violent deaths. The memory of Sophie and Hans is deep within me. I think of them every day.”
The guillotine has also stirred up painful memories for those who knew its victims.
Elisabeth Hartnagel-Scholl is a 93-year-old widow and the last surviving sibling of the executed Hans and Sophie Scholl, now hailed as national heroes across Germany. Hartnagel-Scholl said she still remembers the day she learned of her siblings death by reading about them in a local newspaper.
“I wished there and then that I was insane so I did not have to comprehend this,” she told local media outlets, reports the Daily Mail. “I was just four days away from my own 23rd birthday and I felt that my entire world had been destroyed.”