A few minutes later, the tip of the axe was buried more than two inches into Trotsky’s skull, becoming arguably the world’s most infamous murder weapon.
The axe was fleetingly displayed at a police press conference, but then disappeared for more than six decades.
Next year, however, the bloodstained relic will go on public display at Washington’s International Spy Museum, which will reopen in a new building to accommodate thousands of other artefacts that have emerged from the shadows.
The story of the ice axe is a convoluted one, befitting the extraordinary and macabre story of the Trotsky assassination. After the 1940 press conference, it was stored in a Mexico City evidence room for several years until it was checked out by a secret police officer, Alfredo Salas, who argued he wanted to preserve it for posterity. He passed it on his daughter, Ana Alicia, who kept it under her bed for 40 years until deciding to put it up for sale in 2005.
Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, offered to give blood for a DNA test – but only on condition that Salas donated the weapon to the museum at Trotsky’s house, preserved intact from the time of the murder. Salas rejected the deal.
“I am looking for some financial benefit,” she told the Guardian at the time. “I think something as historically important at this should be worth something, no?”
Of course some rich white American bought and now it will be on display in the Spy Museum in DC instead of Trotsky’s house in Mexico City, where it should be. Nonetheless, I will now actually go to the Spy Museum. For that matter, I should visit Trotsky’s home again when I am in Mexico City next month.