WASHINGTON, September 15. /TASS/. An ice axe, which the Spanish Communist Ramon Mercader, who was also supposedly an agent of the Soviet NKVD secret police, killed Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940, is one of more than 5,000 new items that have augmented the collection of the International Spy Museum in Washington.
The impressive expansion of the collection has become possible thanks to the donation of businessman, author and historian H. Keith Melton, who has pledged to the museum of collection of artifacts related to espionage throughout history.
When the museum opens its new exhibition facility at L’Enfant Plaza in 2018, "[…] it will showcase a permanent collection of more than 7,000 unique artifacts - tripling its size - and offering visitors the opportunity to come face-to-face with a whole new slate of espionage gadgets and items," the museum said in a press release.
According to the information issued by the museum, the greater part of Melton’s collection consists of the items the general public have never seen before. Melton, a Florida-based businessman who has retired from business activity, says the value of his collection, which took more than 45 years to put together, exceeds $ 20 million.
He confessed in an interview with AP that he sometimes paid inconceivable money for certain items now constituting his collection. Sometimes he would establish later that they were fakes.
"Melton was in Berlin in 1989 soon after the Wall came down and traveled to Moscow in early 1992 just after the collapse of the Soviet Union," the press release said. "In both instances, he established contacts that made it possible to collect and preserve a wealth of items from the defunct Stasi (East German Ministry for State Security) and the Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security). Without his timely intervention, the artifacts would likely be lost to history."
The museum quoted the former CIA director George Tenet, who referred to Melton’s collection as a "national treasure."
"To me, the goal is not to see how many widgets I can get. It’s what can I learn. I love research. Every artifact I have is part of a detective search," Melton told AP. "You travel into strange places in the world and sometimes pay too much money, but you end up fascinated with the variety of things that you see."
The axe with which Mercader is thought to have killed Trotsky is one of the highlights of the collection. A person who operated a teaching museum within the Mexican Interior system checked the axe out from a police property depositary in the 1940’s. He received it as a retirement present in the 1960’s.
"He gave it to his daughter and it had been under her bed until 2008," Melton told AP. "She pulled it out. I made three trips to Mexico City and we were able to prove that it was the right axe."
The story of the axe, which put an end to the life of Leon Trotsky, a highly controversial leader of the Russian revolution, seems to be almost equally controversial.
As TASS reported earlier, a certain Ana Alicia Salas demonstrated an axe to Mexican reporters in April 2005, claiming it was precisely the one, with which Mercader had murdered the once-in-the-past man number two in the Bolshevik revolution.
Alicia Salas claimed that her grandfather, Alfred Salas, had substituted for the genuine axe with copy in the exposition of the Mexican museum of criminology. He did it to safeguard the axe for history.
She also maintained that the copy, which had a shortened handle, was stolen from the museum later but the genuine instrument of murder was kept in her family. Salas also said that the spots of Trotsky’s blood still remained on the axe.
The public in Mexico met with revelations with a big degree of skepticism. Seva Volkov, Trotsky’s grandson told TASS then he was against other people making business on his grandfather’s death.
"I don’t rule out the instrument of murder is genuine and has a definite historic value but it looks like the lady who owns it simply wants to make some money," he said. "I’m ready to give samples of my blood for a test to see how genuine the instrument is but only if it is handed free of charge to the museum of my grandfather in Mexico City.".